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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:15 pm on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Defence) 12:15 pm, 5th September 2019

My Lords, I fear that I will disappoint the right reverend Prelate because I unashamedly believe that it is against the interests of the people of the UK that we should leave the EU. Throughout my political life, I have believed in two things: the union of the UK and the membership of the UK in the EU. In the next two or three years, I could see both struck down. I imagine that I will not be the only person in that position. Since I unashamedly and profoundly believe that our interest is best preserved by remaining—to answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, taken up quite legitimately by the noble Lord, Lord Howard—I shall use the time available to argue that case as fervently as I possibly can.

I turn to the question of Scotland. Would it not be a quite extraordinary outcome if a party describing itself as the “Conservative and Unionist Party” were to preside over the break-up of the United Kingdom? I do not know how often noble Lords go north of the border but it is worth doing that, if only for a couple of days, to understand the sense of injustice that so many people in Scotland feel about the attitude and policies of the present Prime Minister. That can only put wind in the sails of the Scottish National Party—and, God knows, it is adept at ensuring that any puff of wind in its direction is put to the best possible use. In my view, that would be damaging not just to Scotland but to the UK. For my part, I will not allow that to pass unless I am satisfied that I have done everything in my power to prevent it.

My second point is political. People often say, “All we joined was a customs union”, but it always was a political union, just as NATO, a defence union, was always was a political union. Why was it political? Because it was to try to avoid the fact that within 21 years two wars had taken place on the continent of Europe. If you are old enough to remember the Pathé newsreels of the devastation that had been caused to Europe, you will hardly find it surprising that the people whose countries had been invaded and occupied were determined to find an alternative way of living, and that has been remarkably successful. When the EU, in the shape of Mr Barnier and others, is reluctant to do anything that would detract from the EU’s economic integrity, that is as much about security as anything else because in economic integrity lies security integrity as well.

I hope that from time to time we look outside our own borders. We have a meddling Russia. As Russia’s economy goes further down Mr Putin has to keep meddling, trying to put the so-called West off its stride. The EU is a challenge to him, just as NATO is. His policies are the undermining of one and, if he can, the destabilisation of the other. We have an expansionist China, whose expansion is not just military but economic. Look at the extent of Chinese investment in this country and ask yourself whether that has had any impact upon the attitude expressed publicly by our Government in relation to the events in Hong Kong, to which, even if we have a declining legal obligation, we most certainly have a continuing moral obligation. Also, look at the White House. Can anyone ever remember a White House so uncertain and unpredictable? In this extraordinarily changed world, does it make sense to leave a political and economic union that has been so successful since its first creation?

Those are the reasons why I am a remainer. If the Bill is passed, I shall use every minute available to ensure that that case continues to be put to the people of the United Kingdom.