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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:15 pm on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of The Earl of Devon The Earl of Devon Crossbench 2:15 pm, 5th September 2019

My Lords, I have never spoken on Brexit before and I hope to provide at least a fresh voice and maybe a few fresh thoughts. This debate sounds rather like almost every Brexit debate of the past three years and is a slightly despondent dance upon the head of a pin to some rather miserable mood music.

I will speak for my contemporaries: parents with young children, young workers just establishing a career, entrepreneurs establishing their businesses, and those just getting by. I increasingly hear that they just do not care and do not identify as remainers or leavers. They just want us to get on with it. Let us do that and give ourselves and our children a certain future. As the right reverend Prelate said, the question now must not be whether we leave, but how we leave. I have a suggestion. While the Bill purports to take no deal off the table, perhaps in the spirit of new compromise we could equally consider taking remain off the table. We could focus all our considerable skill, erudition and efforts on leaving, leaving well and healing all these bickerous divisions. We owe it to our children. It was my kids’ first day back at school yesterday and I spent the day in much more childish play than they did.

I was once a remainer. Indeed, as a Burgundian family that set up shop in Devon over 800 years ago, we have done rather well out of a previous European union. But now I am firmly a post-Brexiteer. We have to look to the future. We have left Europe before many times and we have rejoined Europe before. Remember Crécy, Poitiers, Agincourt, the Field of the Cloth of Gold, the Reformation and the Glorious Revolution. I hope, having had family members proudly active in all those engagements, that my presence here can remind your Lordships that a negotiated departure from the current European Union does not preclude us from an active and leading role in our continent, or indeed perhaps rejoining it at some point, whether sooner or later.

I support the Bill if it allows us to move on and finally to get on with our national life. I also support the brave efforts to prevent the current Government herding us like lemmings off the no-deal cliff, with the parade of Yellowhammer horribles that would follow us. For farmers, fishermen, families, Ireland and the whole future of our United Kingdom, I really support the Bill.