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

I know what I know and I know what I do not know, and I know that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is pushing things forward with an enormous amount of energy. No doubt after that exchange he will have been straight on to Defra, or whoever is responsible for these things, to talk further about the arrangements. Clearly, there are going to be problems from Brexit, whether with a deal or with no deal, and of course I know that food is a particularly difficult area. However, I am saying that we need to have proper management across the board, and I think we are seeing signs of that.

You have to look at both sides of the argument, but this debate has been very one-sided so far. I am interested in talking about the Bill rather than wider polemics or history, which I can help the House with less. My current inclination is to oppose the Bill and vote against it if I have the opportunity.

That brings me on to my questions, and I hope the noble Lords opposite—I see that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, is in his place—will be able to help me with a more detailed justification of the Bill’s provisions so that there will be more explanation and fewer polemics in the debate. The Bill as it stands—and I have read it—appears to force the Prime Minister’s hand. It seems that he would have to accept almost any deal that the EU offered up. I am also concerned that the Bill gives the EU too much power over timing. Clauses 3(1) to (3) seem to tie the Prime Minister’s hands quite tightly. I am not sure what Clause 3(4) does and whether it moderates any risk.

I am keen to assist with the scrutiny of the Bill, but I fear that we may come to regret some of its provisions, especially if we do not look very carefully at something that was pushed through at great speed under the guillotine culture of the other place, which we discussed yesterday. We need to find the right result for our economy and our people and to end this cloud of uncertainty that is a real problem for the country. I hope I am wrong and that this will help us, but I remain extremely unsure.