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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:30 pm on 14th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch UKIP 8:30 pm, 14th January 2019

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for his generous comments. I refer students of the Brexit saga to what I said in your Lordships’ House on 30 January, 16 May and 20 November last year, and indeed on many occasions over the past 25 years. The burden of my recent song has been that our politicians and bureaucrats have never done a commercial deal in their lives, so do not understand the strength of our hand in Brussels or how to play it. I have recently come to see that our political media suffers from the same disability, so all three are now joined together in a lengthy cacophony with which our real people are getting very frustrated and angry.

Much of this noise is now directed against the supposed horrors of leaving the EU on 29 March without a deal, but I should have thought that the speech here today from the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, and the paper he published via Global Britain and Labour Leave on 7 January entitled 30 Truths about Leaving on WTO Terms, together with yesterday’s paper from Economists for Free Trade, No Deal is the Best Deal for Britain, should comprehensively close all that nonsense down. If those who, in truth, want to reverse the referendum result do not agree with those papers, perhaps they would publish a rebuttal, point by point, author by author. I look forward to reading it—not very hopefully, because they cannot.

No deal is fine but I come back to a concept which is even cleaner and simpler: the Government should accept that they will never get a deal out of the Commission which respects our referendum result, because the Commission’s main aim in life is to keep its project of European integration afloat, and if we break free and make a success of our restored independence, that aim will be even more damaged than it is already. So we should resile from clauses 2 to 5 of Article 50, cease dealing with the Commission and make a generous offer to the real people of Europe, through the Council of Ministers. Those real people are, after all, our friends, whereas the Commission is not.

We should offer them reciprocal residence for a period to be agreed, our continuing security support from GCHQ and our membership of Five Eyes, and continuing free trade together but under the WTO rather than the Luxembourg court. That offer would be generous because there are some 3.5 million EU citizens living here and only some 1.2 million of our people living there, and because if our offer of continuing free trade is not accepted and we are forced to trade on normal WTO terms, their exporters will pay us some £13.5 billion in new tariffs and our exporters will pay Brussels some £5.5 billion, a profit to us of some £8 billion—those figures were confirmed by Civitas this morning. The WTO would allow us to subsidise any of our exporters hit by the £5.5 billion out of their £8 billion profit. If our offer is accepted, we go on in free trade with our customers in the EU just as we do now: nothing changes and the vastly inflated problem of the Irish border disappears.

Your Lordships will be aware that I have floated the suggestion several times in the last year, but the Government have always replied that they cannot follow it, because “we are a law-abiding nation”—by which they meant that we cannot resile from clauses 2 to 5 of Article 50, because that would be breaking the EU treaty. However, the Luxembourg court has now confirmed that we can indeed resile from Article 50 unilaterally if we want to. That was agreed with me and my advisers. I also received a helpful Written Answer from the Government on 27 November, saying that:

The UK has unilaterally withdrawn from 52 treaties since 1 January 1988. All of these have been multilateral treaties”.

So why not this one? Of course, if our offer is not accepted by the Council on behalf of its people, we should not pay any money at all to Brussels after 29 March—as indeed we should not under no deal. If it is accepted, we can be generous about that too.

I do not know whether the Government are taking advice from businessmen who know how to do deals and understand the EU, but I fear not. If they did, those businessmen would tell them that the most obvious madness in the Government’s approach to these negotiations has been to allow the Eurocrats to put the question of any leaving payment up front, instead of taking it last. When the Minister replies, will he say whether “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” still applies in this respect?

I will end by underlining the warning from several noble Lords that, if the referendum result is not respected, thanks to the obvious and bewildering incompetence of our political and bureaucratic class, we may sow the seeds of civil unrest. Already, many of our white working class are simmering with anger at the way those in authority have turned a blind eye to the grooming gang scandal. It would be foolish to provoke them further in this sorry matter. The deal is not a deal at all: it is an abject capitulation. If it is voted down in the Commons tomorrow, I invite the Government to at least consider my proposal. If they have not the vision or political will to do that—and I fear that they may not—then let us embrace no deal and the WTO, and go forth into the world with good cheer.