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My Lords, I apologise for my slip. The word “egregious” derives from the Latin “e grege”—outside the flock; in other words, it means abnormal, out of the ordinary. “Shocking” is the wrong translation.
The elaborate piece of theatre that the Government staged last night in Strasbourg and the opinion of the Attorney-General have been designed to ensure that we do not stay in the customs union. As the Minister himself acknowledged, staying in a customs union would be greatly in the national interest. The Government’s policy in this matter is 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Industry and commerce are crying out for the opportunity to stay in the customs union. If we did find that opportunity, I hope we would grasp it. It is much more likely to come to us not from bad faith on the part of the Commission or the Irish but simply because the whole idea of establishing a frontier that is not a frontier proves to be hocus-pocus, as my noble friend Lord Bassam has shown. No such technology is even under study at present. Anyone who knows anything about venture capital knows that the chance of a blue-sky idea becoming viable and generating money is, at best, one in 20.