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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:59 am on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour 11:59 am, 19th October 2019

My Lords, with respect to the noble and learned Lord, I do not have an answer. The fact is that the House was under the Prorogation guillotine, and that Bill could not take a change because it would not have been possible to swap down the other end and get it back. We were under the guillotine of the illegal Prorogation presided over by the Leader of the House.

A good line is always worth repeating. This deal is no good, because any deal is worse than membership of the European Union. Under current EU rules, we already have control—if we wish to exercise it—of our laws, borders and money. That is a fact. We should look not at next week, next month or next year, but a decade ahead. Brexit fatigue makes it tempting for some people to grab what they think is a comforting end, but it is not. What looks okay in the short term can look very negative in the long term. If the Government are so certain, put the deal to the people to obtain a fresher consent instead of relying on the stale and somewhat smelly consent from 2016. If the people choose this deal, so be it.

As has been said many times this morning, this deal puts the union at high risk of being dissolved. I well understand. If this goes through, I will find it incredibly difficult to vote against the border poll both on the island of Ireland and in England and Scotland when the requests come.

Yesterday, Tony Blair—still Labour’s best election winner—pointed out the inherent contradiction between paragraphs 22 and 77 of the political declaration regarding trade. I am referring to the document we had last week—not the one this morning, which might have changed. There is an inherent contradiction between those two paragraphs regarding trade.

Removing the annexes to the Northern Ireland protocol from the original withdrawal agreement was not necessary following the removal of the Northern Ireland protocol itself. There were 10 annexes that were not really connected to Northern Ireland, and Annexe 4 of the legal document dealt with taxation, environmental protection, labour and social standards, including agreements and monitoring. The Government could have allowed those annexes to remain part of the legal part of the withdrawal agreement. The Government therefore knowingly want lower standards, in order to obtain free trade agreements.

Lower standards of protection will lead to consequences. The push for a free trade agreement with America—the food poisoning capital of the West, where food poisoning rates are 10 times those of the UK per head of population—will have consequences. I realise that this is a minor point of detail, but research published in the UK only last year by the Microbiology Society proves that chlorine-washing food does not kill all the bugs. Given that more than 400 people a year die of Salmonella in the United States of America, compared with none here, it seems we are heading for very serious life-and-death consequences. Questions will be asked in due course as to the level of Brexit-related deaths the Tory Government are prepared to accept. I realise that it is stark, but those questions will be asked in due course as standards get diminished.

I am not a lawyer, but I maintain that the UK is a sovereign nation today. I also maintain that we will be less sovereign outside the EU.