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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:41 pm on 14th January 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice) 9:41 pm, 14th January 2019

I think that noble Lords will find, if they check the timings, that I am within my time, but even if I am without, I am going to make an observation about the noble Baroness’s Motion.

May I turn to the Motion, in particular its third part? I remind noble Lords of the terms, because they are important. The Motion regrets that,

“withdrawal from the European Union on the terms set out in the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration laid before Parliament would damage the future economic prosperity, internal security and global influence of the United Kingdom”.

Of course, it has been most carefully drafted by the noble Baroness and the ambiguity inherent in it is no doubt deliberate.

We have a situation in which some noble Lords take that third part of the Motion and say, “I think the withdrawal agreement is less than it should be. I believe the withdrawal agreement is not perfect and therefore I can support this part of the Motion. But of course I believe that the withdrawal agreement should be approved in the other place because it is the sensible way for us to go forward and leave the European Union”. There are those of your Lordships who have indicated that that is their understanding of the third part of the Motion. Yet there are others—and I note that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, is one of them—who take that third part of the Motion to say, “The withdrawal agreement is damaging in the following ways and as a consequence I do not support the idea that the House of Commons should approve it”. So there is a clear ambiguity built into the third part of the Motion, when what we really want to send to the House of Commons is a view about what it should do with the withdrawal agreement, not the result of an ambiguous Motion, which would draw some people into approving it because they believe that the withdrawal agreement should not be approved, and others to say, “The withdrawal agreement is less than perfect but it should be approved”. I ask all noble Lords to consider whether they want to be party to such an ambiguous statement.

It is in these circumstances that I thank noble Lords for their attention and invite them to consider carefully whether they are prepared to approve the Motion that is about to be moved.

Motion agreed.