Further Developments in Discussions with the European Union under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union - Motion to Take Note (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:32 pm on 11th March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour 5:32 pm, 11th March 2019

My Lords, I invite the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, to take a trip around the external borders of the 27 EU member states and the EEA, and he will see what a hard border is like. They want to know what is coming in, where there is free movement of goods and services, if it is safe, undermining competition or fraud. That is a hard border, and so it is easy to work out what a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would be like.

I enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, but I am afraid it is about three years too late. The message was exactly there, but about three years too late. I last spoke in the December debate—the one the Prime Minister ran away from before withdrawing the motion in the Commons—so I look on tomorrow as, in reality, the third time she has asked the Commons to vote on her deal. She asked them in December and they went through a couple of days’ debate, as we did in this House, before she ran away from it. But you cannot ask the same question enough times for the Prime Minister—while denying the British people the chance for a first vote on her deal. That is the reality.

I missed only one speech. I regret it, but there is a crucial meeting to try to save the Labour Party going on in Committee Room 8 upstairs, chaired by Tom Watson, so I had to make my mark in it. I missed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, but nobody has mentioned the 15.8 million who have been dismissed and forgotten. There is a lot of talk about the 17.4 million. I know it is the bigger figure, but 15.8 million people have been given no consideration or shown no concern by the Government since 23 June 2016. There are still arguments about the way that result was achieved.

I accept it is a bad deal and, as I said in December, I have read part of every page of the deal and it is Brexit in name only. It stops a trade deal with the United States of America, which I think is a good thing at present, but we will become rule-takers. There is no question about that. We were told originally that the plan would be to leave knowing what the future relationship with the EU will be. That plan was torn up. The withdrawal agreement is the easy bit, because we are going to have two, three, four or maybe five years of negotiations to try to get a deal with the European Union. It will go on for ever, as far as the public are concerned. They will think it is all over if, this week, some arrangement is made. That is not true. The hard work starts then.

I want to raise one point today, which relates to young people. Their future is most affected by the decision to leave, and they should have a say. The Scottish independence referendum convinced me to support voting at 16. I had opposed it until then, but I would support it now. There should be a people’s vote on the deal and the voting age should be 16. By this summer, the earliest time for a review or vote, it will be three years since the EU referendum. Those too young to vote in 2016 will, even under the current rules, have the opportunity to vote and have their view on record. It will be around 2 million extra young people. I freely accept that the polls, from 2016 to those of today, indicate that an overwhelming majority of young people would vote to remain. Yesterday in the Guardian online, the results of a BMG poll carried out on behalf of some anti-Brexit youth groups showed 74% of those too young to vote in 2016 would back remain. This rises to 87% support among those who said they would definitely take part.