My Lords, it is now over four months since we had Second Reading on this Bill. That is an unusually long gap, and one that I suspect the whole House thinks has been caused by the unwillingness of the Government to expose themselves to defeats on it. It certainly has not been because your Lordships’ House has been otherwise too busy.
Whatever the reason for the delay, during that time people might reasonably have expected two things to happen. The first is that, in line with the commitments made by the Secretary of State for International Trade in 2017, the Government would have negotiated the rollover of the 40 trade deals that the UK has with the EU. Instead, only one has been signed—as we have heard, of a slightly dubious nature—and very few are due to be signed in the near future. Why is that? According to Dr Fox, it is a combination of factors: some countries are unwilling to do so because they simply do not believe that a no-deal Brexit is going to occur; some are having elections; and some have, in his phrase, “no effective government”.