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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:21 pm on 14th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Chair, EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee 3:21 pm, 14th January 2019

My Lords, soon after the referendum, a number of my colleagues from across the House and the other place and I received a courteous and timely invitation to a lecture at the Norwegian embassy. Delivered by a young professor, it was about the lessons learned by Norway in negotiating with the European Union as a third party. The professor talked about around eight principles, but I remember this one best: he said very clearly that European Union member states were never unified on what they discussed and agreed among themselves, but when it came to dealing with third parties, there was always total unity, which never changed. Among many others, that seems a lesson that the Government should have learned during the past two years of negotiations.

A key lesson is that 16,141,241 people voted to remain but were written out of history and out of any interest from the Government almost immediately. Today, that is still the rhetoric of the Government. They have done absolutely nothing over the past two years to bring this country together. It required a private citizen and the Supreme Court, not Parliament, to get us all involved in the Article 50 process. We saw highly questionable ministerial appointments to the Foreign Office and DExEU, both individuals having now resigned and given up on the course on the way through. We know that when we used Article 50 to serve notice to the European Council, we had no plan whatever, just a number of red lines written down, which very much restricted future negotiations. We agreed immediately the schedule of proceedings for the agenda during that Article 50 period, which we are still in; without question, that put us at an immediate disadvantage. We still hear loose language, the most recent example of which described EU citizens of this country as “queue-jumpers”; I find that inexcusable and disgraceful. We have had two years of an elite EU team, as seen on the world stage, versus a shambles of amateurs. That is how this is seen across the globe. It gives me great grief as a proud European citizen of this country.

I want to get on to the question of where we go from here if this agreement is successful. We hear a great deal from industry about certainty. My unshakeable view is that, as we move into a transitional period—if we do so—there will be even greater uncertainty. We originally had 21 months, which the Government agreed with no question whatever, even though there is no chance of an agreement on that timescale—it could be 33 or 45 months under the withdrawal agreement. Let us remember: the Korean agreement took eight years; the Canadian agreement took eight years; the Japanese agreement started in 2013 and has still not been implemented; the United States deal could not be agreed. Only Greenland’s withdrawal from the EEC was agreed in a period of some three years, and was far less complex than anything we are going to enter into.

It will be complex because our agreements will include, I hope, services, security, data and a number of other areas not included in many of these deals. We also have a whole host of other issues that will be brought up by EU member states when we are a third country—not least by Spain on Gibraltar, which we have been warned about. There will be further issues around the Irish border and fisheries, which interests me particularly. It is certain that our fishermen and that industry will be sold out, as the European Union has made it quite clear that it will not agree trade terms of any sort—on fisheries and elsewhere—unless access and quota arrangements are maintained.

It is also clear that there will be the same red lines from the European Union on the single market and the four freedoms. We are certain that those issues will still be there. We also have to reach agreement with some 36 legislative Assemblies, not least the European Parliament, which will take considerable time.

This agreement seems to me not one that provides certainty to industry or to the political community, but one that provides another period of uncertainty where we do not know where we are going and where we cannot agree deals elsewhere in the globe until we know our relationship with Europe. What we do know is that there will be very few trade deals done until we resolve our relationship with Europe, that there will be no freedom of movement for British citizens within Europe, and that this country will be impoverished.