European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:57 am on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Conservative 11:57 am, 5th September 2019

My Lords, this Bill will of course go through, but any idea that it will solve all our problems can dismissed here and now. We have already heard of some of the dilemmas ahead and they will be not only for my party and the Government but for the Labour Party, as the morning newspapers and broadcasts make clear. There are some difficult questions for Labour to resolve, which it has not yet done.

In the light of this difficulty for all the parties, there is, possibly, a way out that begins to have some light in it for remainers and remoaners, leavers and believers—in fact, for all of us. That could occur on or around 17 October, with the possibility, at present dismissed by almost everybody, of an amended withdrawal agreement with—using the words of Monsieur Macron, Angela Merkel and, although perhaps not the Taoiseach himself, many people in the Republic of Ireland—the “unnecessary” backstop modified or removed.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, eloquently and again and again, says there is no hint of alternatives. There are massive alternatives that have been worked out with huge authority by a vast range of people—by consulting border operations throughout the world, by taking examples everywhere, by drawing back into the history of the Northern Ireland border in immense detail, by analysing precisely the kind of traffic going across every day and by taking into account that we remain, with the Republic, in the common travel area and outside Schengen. These details exist. It suits everybody involved at the moment to say that there are no details. It suits Monsieur Barnier to say that there is no hint of an alternative. He is quite wrong. He is bound to say it for the moment, but there are massive volumes containing immense detail, which could provide the alternative to the backstop. The date is 17 October.