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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:16 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union) 9:16 pm, 2nd October 2019

My Lords, once again this has been an extremely wide-ranging debate and it has given us the opportunity to take account of the significant recent developments in the EU exit process. That is very much in keeping with this House’s overall record of providing considered and insightful contributions throughout the process of the UK leaving the EU. Of course, I have listened to the debate carefully and I recognise that many noble Lords have alternative views, to put it mildly, on what this Government should be doing. Nevertheless, our commitment to delivering on the outcome of the 2016 referendum and the instruction of 17.4 million UK citizens has not waivered. I agree once again with my noble friend Lady Meyer when she says that it is time to move on and get Brexit done.

Let me do my best to address as many of the key points arising from the debate as I can in my closing remarks. A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, asked about the continuing negotiations and the proposals that we have shared today. The Government are clear that our focus remains on getting a deal at the October European Council and leaving on 31 October. Let me reiterate to noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, that substantial discussions around possible approaches to securing a deal are ongoing and that, in our view, we have made good progress in these discussions. We will continue to work closely with the EU to achieve a deal so that we can leave on 31 October under an agreed framework. Let me say to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, that I have no doubt that my noble friend the Chief Whip and his colleagues in the usual channels want to agree a way forward, to give us sufficient time to debate any legislation that has been agreed by the House of Commons. I say to the noble Baroness that for her, as a Liberal Democrat, to start her speech by saying she wants to speak about democracy was one of the many ironies of this debate. That was a bit rich, given that the Liberal Democrats want to overturn the biggest democratic exercise we have ever had in this country.

As I noted earlier, we have shared with the EU the proposals that were made public shortly before the debate began. We have begun to engage with the EU on those proposals and, so far, the reaction seems to be fairly positive. I know that noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, asked me whether this is a take it or leave it proposal. Clearly, we hope that Brussels will work with us over the next 10 days. If they do, then we will leave with a new deal. If they do not want to talk on the basis of these proposals then, as I have said, we are prepared to leave without a deal.

The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, referred to doublespeak in politics, which helpfully reminded me of my favourite moment in the whole of the European Parliament election campaign, when he told us that Labour respects the result of the referendum—and then immediately spent the rest of the campaign campaigning against it. If that was not doublespeak, I do not know what was.

The noble Lords, Lord Adonis and Lord Campbell, asked for further information on the proposals. We will have an opportunity to discuss these tomorrow but let me give a further brief summation for noble Lords. Many noble Lords asked how they are reconciled with Section 10(2)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. I assure the House that our proposals do not breach that section because they avoid checks, controls and physical infrastructure at the border.

I know that noble Lords have questions about what the proposals mean for that infrastructure. Under no circumstances would we put in place infrastructure, checks or controls at the border. We are proposing that all the customs processes needed to ensure compliance with UK and EU customs regimes should take place on a decentralised basis, with paperwork being conducted electronically as goods move between the two countries, and with the very small number of physical checks needed being conducted at traders’ premises or at other points in the supply chain. We hope that these proposals will now provide the basis for rapid negotiations towards a solution, together with the finalisation of necessary changes—