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Brexit: Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration - Motion to Take Note (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:53 pm on 6th December 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Wheatcroft Baroness Wheatcroft Conservative 1:53 pm, 6th December 2018

My Lords, I was disappointed to see that the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, would not be taking part in this debate. I was hoping that we would hear how his maiden aunts are faring. Noble Lords may remember that his two maiden aunts had decided to go to the movies. They had in mind “The Sound of Music” or “It’s a Wonderful Life”, but instead found their choice was between “Reservoir Dogs” and some dreadful guns-type movie. I fear for the noble Lord’s aunts now. “Brexit the Movie” has run for two years: it has proven to be X-rated; the blood has been flowing; the horror stories have got worse; and still there is no end in sight.

I commend the Prime Minister for the deal that she has got. She has persevered and persevered. I believe it was probably the only deal that she could get. But it remains a rotten deal. It will impoverish the country, endanger our security and limit opportunities for our children. We have already heard so many arguments against this deal. We have heard very little of the miraculous trade deals which were driven in front of us two years ago—the mirage is fading. The current Governor of the Bank of England and his predecessor have both condemned this deal, albeit coming at it from very different places. Unlike others, I absolutely respect the duty of the Governor of the Bank of England to try and warn us of what he thinks lies in store if we continue to pursue this course.

In its hundreds of pages, the withdrawal agreement barely mentions financial services. And yet, financial services contribute about 12% of the GDP of this country. It has been calculated that there is one word about the financial services sector for every £1 billion that the sector generates. That seems to me a little on the skimpy side.

We have heard the horror stories of what Brexit will bring—jammed-up motorways and ferries brought in on emergency contracts for bringing the medicines that we need. We have heard the even gorier stories of what a no-deal Brexit might mean in the future, of how our GDP could fall by as much as 7%.

The withdrawal agreement is far from perfect, but the political declaration is even worse. It is a list of what we would like to happen. As we know from the process that has taken us from a deal that was going to be every bit as good as we have to what we see in the withdrawal agreement, the political declaration promises to be little more than a fairy story. We have heard about the wishes of those who would take us out of the EU without a deal to rediscover the great Britain that this country once was. They are deluded.

We are already hearing about horrors taking place. We heard yesterday from the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, about what is happening to science. The money we get, a net 50% more than we put into science funding in the EU, is now jeopardised. The scientists are leaving. The Francis Crick Institute is worried about losing some of the best brains they have. The Wellcome Foundation is already seeing people leave. We do not need scare stories about what the future will hold—it is happening now. People can see in shops that prices are rising. They can see that doctors and nurses are leaving the NHS. The nirvana that was promised is already going—far from taking back control, we are losing it. That is why we need a people’s vote.

Here I have to declare an interest. I am a director of the People’s Vote media hub, and I am not going to stop trying to campaign for what I believe will be right. This country voted two years ago. Now this country knows a great deal more than it did then. It seems to me only right and democratic that we should put it to the people. This is what is on offer; is it what they really want?

I do not believe that this will lead to rioting in the street. Britain is not that sort of country. There may be a few people who decide to get really unpleasant, don the equivalent of a yellow jacket and go out there and throw a few things. That is not what the majority of Britain wants. In particular, that is not what our young people want. They want the chance to have a say, and it is only right that, now we know what is on offer, we should have the opportunity to give informed consent. That is not undemocratic but perfectly sensible. It is what the EU would understand, and I have no doubt that it would extend the Article 50 process so that we could have a referendum.

We have had the privilege of seven minutes each to try to do what we can to save this country, which we love. But there are millions of people in the country who want the chance to try to save the country by voting, and they deserve that opportunity.