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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:53 pm on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Lord Oates Lord Oates Liberal Democrat 3:53 pm, 5th September 2019

My Lords, the Bill should be unnecessary. If we had a Government we could trust and a Cabinet that took an interest in the real and devasting impact that no deal will have on people, it would be. The Government have no mandate for no deal, which is expressly opposed by the elected House, yet they appear determined to impose it on this country by hook or by crook—mainly by crook.

I will not detain the House for long. Some excellent speeches covering many areas have been made and have brought to light the full impact of no deal, whether on Northern Ireland and the peace process or on our farmers and businesses. I want to raise one issue: the British citizens currently living in the European Union. Leaving without a deal means that they are left with no framework under which to operate. It is causing huge fear and anxiety among British citizens across the European Union. The one thing that I find most astounding about the proponents of no deal is that they talk in such broad terms. They say, “We’ve got to get this done. We’ve got to get it finished”. It will not be finished. The misery will have only just started for millions of people.

I was particularly impressed by the speeches that addressed the detail of our leaving without a deal. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, outlined for us the impact on farmers. The noble Lords, Lord Hain, Lord Mandelson and Lord Patten, and others outlined its real impact on people in Northern Ireland. I want us not to forget the impact on British citizens in the European Union, many of whom are in absolute fear.

Recently, I received an email from a British citizen in France. He said:

“On 31 October, I will become a third country national with a lack of clarity about my rights. Worse, my ongoing healthcare provision looks decidedly dodgy. Basically, my life quite literally depends on the medication that I have to take every day, night and morning. If anything disrupts my ability to obtain the level of healthcare I currently enjoy, my life could be threatened”.

He went on:

“The Boris Johnson Government fills me with dread, as I witness a boost to the pull-up-the-drawbridge brigade in the Conservative Party”.

He finishes:

“I don’t know if you remember, but I worked for the Conservative Party for 30 years. I have considered myself a Conservative for 63 years—but no longer, as I now feel that my party has left me”.

If we leave on 31 October with no deal, we will plunge EU citizens like him, and many hundreds of thousands—indeed, millions—more, into a situation of fear and concern where they do not know whether they will be able to access health services, where the health services in EU countries will not know how they will be properly remunerated and where there will be a lot of confusion. I ask noble Lords, when considering no deal, always to consider the people. This is not an abstract concept; this is about the real impact on people’s lives. We should not allow no deal to go ahead in this underhand way. I therefore support the Bill.