My Lords, it is an honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, with his unique insight into the processes which have been going on. However, I hope his drastic solution will not have to come about.
I have spared your Lordships a speech in our two most recent Brexit debates, so my last contribution was in our debate on
One important influence which prevents many people from seeing the EU as an idea which has failed is the BBC. Here I must declare an interest as the secretary of a cross-party group of Eurosceptic MPs, which has been sponsoring research into the BBC’s EU coverage by the News-watch media monitor. An almost unbelievable statistic to emerge from this work is that there appears to have been only one programme since the referendum which has examined the opportunities of Brexit—not promoted those opportunities, but just examined them. The BBC cannot point us to any others.
Since the referendum, the ratio of BBC interviewees has never been less than two against Brexit to one for, and sometimes up to six to one. Going further back, of the 4,275 guests talking about the EU on Radio 4’s flagship Today programme between 2005 and 2015, only 132, or 3.2%, were supporters of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, yet British public opinion in favour of withdrawal hovered around 40% to 50% for the whole of that period.
I suppose we have to accept that the BBC is the Guardian newspaper of the airwaves. That is a pity, because it should be dispassionately helping the British people to see through the mess that our politicians and bureaucrats are making of Brexit. However, it is not; it is batting for the remain side.
Coming to that mess, there remains a very simple and speedy way out of it, which I have mentioned before and with which every leading businessman who understands Europe and with whom I have discussed it agrees. Businessmen know how to do deals, but the Government clearly do not. So I will try again. We should sidestep the Commission and make a public offer to the people of Europe, via COREPER and the Council. We should offer them continuing reciprocal residence for, say, two years. This is more in their interests than ours, because there are some 4 million of them living here and only 1.2 million of us living there.
We should also offer to continue our present free trade together after
Of course, the sticking point for the Commission and Brussels will be allowing EU exporters to continue in free trade with us under the WTO, rather than the Luxembourg court. However, leaving the EU should end that court’s jurisdiction anyway, so why not do it now? Why are the Government so reluctant to ignore paragraphs 2 to 5 of Article 50, which force us to deal through the Commission, when we have resiled from 52 multilateral treaties since 1998—see the Government’s Answer to me on
I would be grateful if the Minister would reply to this concept when he comes to wind up. I ask him not to repeat what his colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, has said in the past to the effect that we cannot break with Article 50 because we are a law-abiding country and Article 50 says that we have to negotiate with the Commission. Surely the Government can see that we will never get a sensible or honest deal out of the Commission because its only aim in life is to stop us making a success of Brexit and therefore prolong its unfortunate project. Why do we not just do it? Incidentally, why should it take more than a fortnight?