As the debate over the entire Brexit situation has come and gone in the past few weeks, there has been growing concern across the business community in Northern Ireland about the hidden implications of what we are debating. They will affect every strand of the Northern Ireland business community, which is finding itself thrust on to the knife edge of Brexit.
The whole border question has obvious but also hidden implications. The noble Lord, Lord Hain, rightly referred to the Belfast agreement. While it is all too easy to raise the worry about an increase in violence and the breakdown of relationships—and to overplay that card—it is equally dangerous not to mention it. The subtlety of that situation is such that, with the words of this amendment, we are not only strengthening the spirit of the Belfast agreement but recognising that it is an integral part of the whole vista of trade.
Across the border counties, the links between the Republic of Ireland and the Province of Northern Ireland, there are numerous small businesses which are absolutely identifiable as Irish, in a sense. They are small and may not employ many people, but they are the absolute breath of the local community. Those businesses—as well as the major BMWs of this world, if the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, will forgive me—are not only the heartbeat of our community but are indicative of why Northern Ireland will probably be the greatest sufferer if what we fear in the light of yesterday’s events down the Corridor comes to pass.
So I urge noble Lords to take seriously the thinking behind this amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Hain, is ideally placed to speak about the situation from his years of experience in dealing with us in Northern Ireland and seeing something of what makes that community tick. While I am introducing an element that is not about detailed trade negotiations or principles, I believe that it is a genuine, real reason why this amendment must be passed.