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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:39 am on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top Labour 11:39 am, 19th October 2019

My Lords, I am fascinated to follow the noble Lord. I profoundly disagree with a range of things he said. He started by asking what the position would be if the referendum had gone the other way. That was made extremely clear to us. Nigel Farage said, “If this goes the wrong way, the campaign for the next stage will begin immediately and we will continue with that”. The reality is that we are in this position because the Tory party was frightened of Nigel Farage and the people in ERG; that is why we have ended up in this ridiculous mess.

However, I will start with the changed arrangements on regulatory alignment. The reason for them being changed can only be the glorious rhetorical pleasing of the ERG, because as soon as we move out of regulatory alignment, that will put our manufacturing industry—particularly where there is inward investment, with reliance on a complex supply chain and with most of the exports going to Europe—in real danger. That is my response to what the noble Lord, Lord Howard, said.

In my region, we have rebuilt from the loss of the pits, the shipyards and the steelworks. We have rebuilt our economy around inward investment and complex manufacturing programmes. Whether it is steam, the railways—tomorrow, I will be going on the new Azuma, built and constructed in Newton Aycliffe—or Nissan cars, the intricacy of the relationship between what regulatory alignment means and the ability to get the supply chain in the way it wants means that, yes, on the certainty of this deal, companies are now beginning to say, “We cannot progress and further invest if that is the road the UK is taking”. Have the Government done an impact assessment for the manufacturing industry, particularly for the sort of manufacturing industry that I have just described? I suspect that they have not.

I confess that I am bewildered by the arguments around taking back control and sovereignty. As my noble friend Lord Reid said, the only way that we can survive is by recognising and understanding the interconnectivity of this world. To say that we can go back to a glorious past where we can maintain relationships on our own is naive and, quite honestly, offensive to the way in which some of those other countries have tried to make accommodations—not from their hard-line, personal, individual positions but from trying to make partnerships and relationships because they recognise that, in such a complex and interconnected world, it is only through working with others very firmly that we will ever be able to make progress.

The other thing is that this is a con. I was very moved by the words of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds. This is about our culture. It is about who we are and our values. “Little England” does not describe it because, apparently, “Little England” does not include the north-east of England. It is also about what we mean by “democracy”. Over two years ago, I begged the Government to do more to consult properly and work with people, to make sure that they knew how people really felt and what they really wanted. I spend a lot of time with people from the citizens’ assembly that was conducted by, I think, King’s—either King’s or University College. People’s views changed—all of them—because they began to understand the different issues. We have never allowed that of the British people. We could have done it and we should have done it—and because we have not done it, we have an absolute responsibility and no option but to go back to them now, to let them see where the original referendum has led to and to give them the opportunity to ask, “Did we get it right? Did we not? Will this lead us to the sort of country that I want to live in?”