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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:45 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Lord James of Blackheath Lord James of Blackheath Conservative 7:45 pm, 2nd October 2019

My Lords, I have a very tenuous connection to justify taking your time at this late hour of a long debate. On 6 September I participated in a debate in which I tried to run a small amendment to encourage a greater concentration on the issues of sovereignty in whatever we came to as a Brexit solution. I very quickly withdrew it, but somebody got hold of the video clip of it and put it out on the internet—not me, I hasten to add. Within three days I had had more than 3 million hits, nearly all favourable.

I did not know what to do with these, so I suggested on the places where this was occurring that we should put up a copy of a report I had written called the Black Vulture—the Black Vulture being the most obvious alternative I could think of to the Yellowhammer. Yellowhammer deals with the problems that come from a no-deal Brexit; Black Vulture is to deal with the problems that might come from not doing a no-deal Brexit and what would come if we got put into a remain situation instead. I set out 19 questions to which I did not give answers and asked people to consider them for themselves. I expected to get very little response, but I got a flood of mail through the letterbox as well, usually very deeply considered.

Whereas I would have had a bet that the first question they would have dealt with was, “What’s going to happen with defence? Tell us what the EDU is”, it was not. It was my fourth question, which asked, “What is your situation with regard to the possible imposition of the euro as an alternative to the pound if we remain and how do you think it will affect us?” The result on this one was almost unanimous: if this happens it will be a disgrace because they will use qualified majority voting to impose it on us and we will have no choice. This will mean that all our taxes in this country will be sucked in by Europe. We will not have anything left for our own defence forces, our schools, our education or our welfare. All this will be taken by Europe to fund bust European countries. We will not have it. That was certainly the number one point I was getting back.

The next point was, yes indeed, what do we do about the EDU? Are we really giving them our Army, our Navy and our Air Force? They have not had that one for me, but they have got it from a lot of very careless stuff coming out of the EU itself, in which it is pretty well saying that it is going to get so much co-operation from us post remain that they will effectively have control of our Armed Forces and our own security and intelligence services as well. If you ask around and say, “What’s the answer to this?”, the official answer from within government is, “It’s rubbish, of course it couldn’t happen. We shall still be in NATO and we have the protection of NATO”. But people out there have seen that one coming and they have an answer for it. “No”, they say, “if we go into it with NATO then Europe will say, ‘Goody, we’ve got NATO now’, but America will look across and say, ‘If you’re going in with the EU defence and taking your NATO connection with you, we’re out of NATO, and, by the way, we’re out of Five Eyes as well. You can’t do that on the side’”.

All of this would coincide with a lot of the stuff coming out from Madam von der Leyen and her successor in European defence. They ran a conference in Munich in the spring of this year at which they said, “Look, all of this started with the Maastricht treaty. We said we were going to do this and we said we’d have it done by 2019-20. We’re nearly there. Now we’re going to be able to do this once we’ve got past discussion with the UK and we shall go into 2019-20 with everything that we’ve ever wanted”. They are standing on a platform saying this and Mrs von der Leyen or her successor is saying, “And it’d be lovely to have two such beautiful aircraft carriers”. Oh yes, that will go down well with the British public. Then, who is standing beside her but a former Prime Minister of this country? He is not showing dissent, but he is not showing assent either, but what a presence to put on the platform at that time. This has a profound effect. The public out there want to know.

I have a big suggestion to make to the Government, whether they stay, go or whatever they are going to do. They should issue a definitive statement on these two contentious issues and say categorically whether, as the pubic clearly suspect, they have done a private deal with the European Commission to relinquish control of our Armed Forces and our intelligence services. If they have not, they should say categorically that they have not: there is no binding issue which could be triggered post Brexit or if staying on a remain basis or anything; it is simply not an issue. Otherwise, it is going to be a running sore which will disrupt and destroy anything that the Government were going to do on the subject.

I return to my original point about the need to restore our sovereignty. It is the one great unanimous issue. There is no longer a population out there saying, “We want to take back control”. They are saying, “We want our sovereignty back”. They are saying it in every nook and cranny in our national debate. We should not be in doubt: we cannot do anything—either Brexit or remain—without cracking those problems. I thank noble Lords for their time and wish them well in the rest of the debate.