Amendment 2

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 10:30 am on 6th September 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Falkner of Margravine Baroness Falkner of Margravine Liberal Democrat 10:30 am, 6th September 2019

My Lords, I might be able to assist the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, because this is very much the subject of my amendment. If the Committee is willing to hear from me now, I will not need to move it later.

On 11 April 2019, when responding to Mrs May’s request for an extension of Article 50, the European Council’s concluding statement took the form of a decision. I returned from Brussels just yesterday; I would have spoken in the debate yesterday, but I was unable to, as I missed the beginning. In Brussels yesterday, I was told that the decision of the European Council of 11 April 2019 stands as law. That European Council took note of the duty of sincere co-operation. That duty exists in all treaties and the United Kingdom has been bound by it. In particular, it referred to the conduct of the UK as applied to its relations with the EU as a withdrawing member state. Moreover, in that decision, it added a further caveat, saying:

“To this effect, the United Kingdom shall facilitate the achievement of the Union’s tasks and shall refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives, in particular when participating in the decision-making processes of the Union”.

What provoked me to try to intervene yesterday was that this is a clear curtailment of the decision-making process of the Union. I think the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, said, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, just asserted, that the United Kingdom retains all rights. It does not, because that 11 April European Council decision, in granting the extension, imposed a new condition to say that the attainment of the Europeans’ objectives in particular was not defined in law. When participating, the United Kingdom has to exercise restraint and refrain—the word is “refrain”—from jeopardising the attainment of the Union’s objectives in its decision-making process. I would be extremely grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, would address this when he responds on this amendment; I have indicated to the Committee that I will not move my amendment if he gives me this response.

In Brussels, I heard that if an extension was offered, it was liable to be offered for long enough for the UK either to change its Government or to have a new referendum, giving us time to do that and then come back and renegotiate, or do whatever the Labour Party wishes to do. What I heard in Brussels yesterday was that the United Kingdom was likely to get a very long extension. Let us say that the extension goes up to December 2020. The European Parliament has not engaged with any of this House’s European Union Select Committees since the triggering of Article 50 in March 2017, there is no access to the Commission, which is a new Commission with a very activist work programme, and we are not allowed to jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives, which we have some idea about but do not know because the new Commission is not appointed. Given that, could the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, explain whether that would imperil the United Kingdom’s interests for a period which, in reality, started from when the Parliament and its committees stopped engaging with us, or—taking the minimalist view of this—from 29 March 2019, when the United Kingdom was due to withdraw and this condition started to apply? This is a new condition and it applies from 11 April 2019. The United Kingdom could potentially be in a position where its interests would not be adequately safeguarded or represented for 18 months or so.