Brexit: Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration - Motion to Take Note (Continued) (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:50 pm on 14th January 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Manningham-Buller Baroness Manningham-Buller Crossbench 8:50 pm, 14th January 2019

My Lords, I was never very good at maths, but I think I am speaker 237 on this subject, if we take the debates before Christmas into account. Therefore, the chances that I can say anything original, or something which has not been better put by someone else, are slight. There are, however, three things that I want to say.

The first is about science, amplifying what my noble friend Lord Stern said earlier this afternoon. I declare an interest as chair of the Wellcome Trust. Science done in the UK—note that I do not say UK science—is critical for our economy. It delivers 25% profit in perpetuity on every pound invested. It is key, as my noble friend Lord Krebs said before Christmas, for addressing our medical, societal, environmental and other problems. It is a fundamental part of this Government’s industrial strategy. Science depends totally on international collaboration, and the easy movement of researchers is vital to that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, and my noble friend Lady Masham said.

I have visited many labs in the United Kingdom, and I am extremely excited by some of the science being done there. I have never been into a lab staffed only by British citizens. They are staffed by citizens from all over the world, but many from Europe are leaving. Others are not coming. At the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, which is probably at the moment—it may not go on being so—the world’s leading genomics institute, discovering genetic causes of disease on a weekly basis, there has been a 50% drop in those from Europe wanting to come and work there. Why? They feel unwelcome in the narrowly nationalistic country we risk becoming. I fear the gradual diminution and weakening of our science, and that concern is shared by all the scientists I have spoken to. That fear will increase in the event of no deal.

Wellcome currently spends about £1 billion a year, mainly here, on medical research. To that extent, we are a major supporter of science done in the UK—I should also add that we fund in 70 other countries—but that support is not unconditional. If the excellence of science here diminishes—and we will do our best to prevent that happening; it is not an outcome any of us would want—we shall invest elsewhere.

As noble Lords might expect, my next subject is security. The intelligence work of my former colleagues in MI5, MI6, GCHQ and comparable European organisations is outside the treaties, and will always remain so. No nation is willing to contemplate delegating such critical powers to the EU—indeed, suggestions that they should are usually rebuffed by our partners.

It has never been the case, as one current Cabinet Minister asserted in the run-up to the referendum, that the EU determines who we share intelligence with. That is a national decision. So this suggestion is nonsense. As is, I am afraid, the suggestion made last week that the withdrawal agreement and the political framework somehow jeopardise our national security by putting it under EU control. The words do not say that, and it would be completely against the tradition of the past 30 or 40 years.

Also nonsense is the suggestion that it will somehow upset the Five Eyes community. Let me remind the House that that in-house speak refers to the Americans, the Canadians, the New Zealanders, the Australians and ourselves—the English-speaking intelligence world. There are other groups, including the European and Commonwealth groups, and the Five Eyes community has always valued our link to the EU. The threats we face are global and we need the closest collaboration with all, not to have to choose between Five Eyes and Europe.

I wish to acknowledge here our gratitude over many decades to the security and intelligence services of Europe. They have given us unstinting help, saving British lives and working in close trust with us. We have always endeavoured to be generous in return, and I strongly endorse what my noble friend Lord Ricketts said on this subject before Christmas.

Security and intelligence are integrated increasingly with police work. Of real concern to me is what would happen in this area with no deal, as in science. The noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, laid out the issues, and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has been explicit about the dangers to our citizens if we leave the EU without a deal and without addressing the effects of rupturing the links that bind us on security—one example of which is the European arrest warrant, which others have mentioned. I also feel pretty queasy that Mr Putin is so much in favour of what we are trying to do.

Finally, I turn to language, which the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, mentioned. This matters, as it creates an impression that no fine sentiments or lofty aspirations can dispel. We all deplore the abuse hurled on College Green at a Member of the other place. However, I have not forgotten, and am deeply ashamed, that our previous Foreign Secretary compared the EU to Nazi Germany, while the current one chose instead the Soviet Union, thereby insulting our long-standing friends, many of whom are our closest allies in NATO, which was created after the collapse of Nazi Germany to address the threat from the Soviet Union.

I have run out of time. Whatever the outcome tomorrow, and from what follows, I hope we will listen to the most reverend Primate and try to heal our nation. To do that, let us stop abusing and stick to the arguments, the reality and the evidence, not the myths, the lies and the magic.