Amendment 1

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 1:15 pm on 6th September 2019.

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Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative 1:15 pm, 6th September 2019

This amendment proposing to delete what is in the Bill strikes me as rather unnecessary, apart from the fact that we have difficulty with time. In my view, the amendment proposed by Mr Stephen Kinnock—a distinguished member of a distinguished family—was perfectly in order. The fact that, though the procedures of the House of Commons, it went into the Bill and is in the Bill we read for a second time, passed in Committee and are now considering on Report strikes me as perfectly in order. It makes the important distinction, which I tried to make yesterday, between the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration.

It has always seemed to me that the Irish backstop has the character of a future relationship. What is objected to is the fact that it is said to be permanent and so on. That is part of the future relationship, and therefore I have always felt that the backstop itself is not an objection to the withdrawal agreement as such. There may be other objections but, so far as the backstop is concerned, the aspect of it to which objection has been taken is as part of the future relationship. I would therefore welcome the idea of the House of Commons having a discussion separating out these two, which the Kinnock amendment does with complete accuracy. I do not for a minute believe that it does not make sense; it is perfectly readable and understandable, even for lawyers. In my view, therefore, this should stay in.

My noble friend says he expected the Government to object to it. The Government are not for the whole of this Bill. The whole thing is a Private Member’s Bill by a group that was not part of the Government as such. It may have included Members who were previously in the Government, but at any rate it is not a government Bill. The Government therefore do not care for it at all, so I do not know why they should have to propose an amendment to part of it. It is perfectly right that they had not done so. I understand they have been advised that it is meaningless. I do not agree with that, and I do not think anybody who reads it will think it is meaningless; it is perfectly clear what is wanted. It is the basis on which an extension is asked for.

According to the formulation of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, no conditions are attached. However, if you apply for an extension the European Union will require a reason—which seems to be common sense—and, if you give a reason, good faith suggests that that is the reason, and therefore it promotes the likelihood that something may suddenly emerge which distinguishes between the political formulation and the withdrawal agreement, which is the vital thing to get through in time.