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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:11 pm on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Conservative 1:11 pm, 5th September 2019

My Lords, as a woman I find it very difficult to get in in these sorts of debate, but I rise to speak on the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill and to contribute to the scrutiny. I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Deech. We should thank her for the excellent speech she made yesterday which helped us to move forward and to be here today to scrutinise the No. 6 Bill. I am also grateful for the midnight peace talks admirably led by the new Chief Whip. Thanks to him, we all had some beauty sleep.

My amendments were not reached yesterday, but I was horrified by the way the procedures of our House were being perverted. I knew a plot was afoot because on Tuesday I walked into the Moses Room by mistake. I was too well-behaved to eavesdrop or to tweet what was going on—I have a good convent education to thank for that. Scrutiny is at the heart of the work of this House, as I think we agreed yesterday. Today’s debate and tomorrow’s Committee and Report stages give us an opportunity to go through this Bill line by line, which is what I hope we will be able to do.

I believe there is growing evidence of the negative impact of Brexit on the economy and society. I am in business, and uncertainty has been rising. It is extremely difficult for all involved. Noble Lords will know that I am a remainer and have worked for most of my career on EU matters. However, I share the view of growing numbers of people in this country that we must get on with Brexit. Months, or even years, of delay to Brexit day, which I think this Bill accommodates, will make matters worse, not better. We cannot have another three years of going round in circles. I think that is a risk. We need an agreement.

However, as I have said on a number of occasions in this House, from my long experience in Brussels, we have to keep open the option of no deal; otherwise our negotiating position in the Brexit negotiations is undermined. Indeed, on the matter of no deal, I was glad to hear from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds, who asked us to look critically at the actual impact of no deal. I took some comfort from the Statement earlier this week by my noble friend Lord Callanan, and I know that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is heading up no-deal contingency planning with enormous drive and professionalism. I think the pace of transformation is at a completely different scale and rate from what we saw under the May premiership. That is just in case we cannot come up with the agreement that we want.