European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:42 pm on 4th April 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bilimoria Lord Bilimoria Crossbench 9:42 pm, 4th April 2019

The noble Lord, with all his experience, has pre-empted what I was about to say next. The European Union has played a blinder. Recently, I gave a master class at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School, where I am chair of the advisory board, using Brexit as a case study in textbook negotiating techniques. We have made all the mistakes—including on process, which the European Union dictated.

The biggest reason we are in the position we are is that the 27 different, disparate countries of the EU had one very clear mandate and one negotiator. How many times have our negotiators changed? The position of Brexit Secretary is a revolving door. That is why the EU has done so well: it has negotiated brilliantly and with a clear mandate.

Michel Barnier, in his speech on 1 April in Brussels, said clearly that the EU would accept the current deal, a customs union, a relationship similar to that with Norway or no deal, for which it claims it is better prepared than we are, having taken protective measures—though it has not done so willingly. Lastly, Michel Barnier said the EU will accept an extension, but it will need strong justification. What will that justification be? He has been clear that there will be a painful “political cost” for this extension and, if we have not left by 23 May, we will have to take part in the European elections. He also made it very clear that a long extension is for,

“a member on its way out”.

The uncertainty is something the EU will hate.

This evening, I was meant to be giving a lecture for the London Business School about brands. I thought about the brands of Great Britain and the UK