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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:04 pm on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Deech Baroness Deech Crossbench 1:04 pm, 5th September 2019

My Lords, I want to make two brief points, one of which is directly concerned with the Bill, from which we have been drifting somewhat. The speech by the noble Lord, Lord Hain, made a compelling case for the unification of Ireland—but that may be for another day—and that the effect of terrorism seems to have achieved what the terrorists wanted.

Turning to the Bill, it does not answer the question of what the situation will be if there is still no deal by the end of January. Will the extension be continued? Nothing in the Bill prevents the continuation of extensions, months after months, years after years—nothing at all. It is an eternal Bill, an ongoing loop of requests for extensions. It also does not answer the question of what our response will be if Europe grants an extension but subject to conditions. I am sure they will be tempted to add conditions to do with extra payments, losing votes, residence, immigration, tax and so on. There is no answer in the Bill at all.

The only bright thing I see in this Bill, which I regard otherwise as a moment of great national humiliation, is called the Kinnock amendment. I have not seen it in the Bill, but I have read that, somehow, an amendment put in by the MP Stephen Kinnock would allow Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement to return. I would put money on that agreement coming back, sooner or later, maybe with a tweak or two. In a fit, either of exhaustion or realism, that Bill will go through. It may be that history will say that there was a woman, St Theresa of Maidenhead, who laid down her political life to achieve an agreement. If that happens, much of the last three years will have been wasted. I am not the only one putting money on it coming back, as it may be the only solution.

The right reverend Prelate raised the notion of vision. People often talk about the vision of Britain after Brexit. I ask what the European vision is. If this had been put before the public three years ago, the outcome might have been different. I have been looking for a European vision for more than 25 years, since I decided that I did not want any part of it. The only answer has ever been more union, more Europe, marching on. Foreign policy has been raised. It has made us weaker. What is the European attitude towards Iran, Russia, China or the Middle East? We get division, hesitation and some countries that are beholden to Russia, one way or another, because of gas or their former existence under the Soviet shadow.