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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:17 pm on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Lord Mandelson Lord Mandelson Labour 1:17 pm, 5th September 2019

Nor am I. I am not so sure that we should just push them all to one side as though they have absolutely no potential whatever. That is not my view. My view is that they are not realisable in the foreseeable future and that, in the meantime, we would put the Good Friday agreement and the peace process in Northern Ireland in great jeopardy in a way that would be unjustified and unforgivable. There is a very interesting discussion to be had about the future. It depends on certain modalities, technology and related approaches that have potential—I fully accept that—but they are not for now; in my view, they are for the future.

There is not only the obvious economic, business and commercial argument to be had concerning people’s jobs and livelihoods that are at stake; in my view, there is also a very strong democratic argument to which we should attach great importance in our consideration of this Bill. Quite simply, it is that there was no mandate from the 2016 referendum for a no-deal Brexit. I know that people will say that it was not explicitly ruled out, but to all intents and purposes it was ruled out by the fact that nobody referred to it, nobody explained it, nobody justified it and nobody set out the arguments for it. Not one of the advocates of the leave campaign ever entertained the idea that this would be the outcome of our leaving the European Union.

Such a possibility was almost literally airbrushed out of the picture by the promises that were made by the advocates of the leave campaign—that getting a deal would be “the easiest in history”. Plus, there was a later guarantee—I remember that “guarantee” was the word used by No. 10 in repeating what the then Brexit Secretary, David Davis, had said. The precise words used were that we would have the “exact same trade benefits” after we left the European Union. Not only has that promise of the easiest trade deal in history turned out to be wrong and unfulfillable but the exact same trade benefits will, as we know, be nothing of the kind. They cannot be anything of the kind. We will sustain frictionless trade that is exactly the same as the trade benefits that we have at the moment only if, at the very least, we stay in a customs union with the European Union and fully in the single market. That is the only way in which those promises that were made—that guarantee put forward by No. 10 —could possibly be redeemed, yet it is firmly, consistently and explicitly excluded by the Government.