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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:17 pm on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative 12:17 pm, 19th October 2019

My Lords, the last time that this House sat on a Saturday there was an increasing sense of unity among those who spoke. Today, the sense of unity is shattered. The language has become more extreme. Some of the earlier speeches set a bad example to the rest of the country of how we should behave. There has been no attempt by people to move, from various sides.

When we spoke on Brexit about three years ago, I said that if there is to be a break it should be like an accident: the cleaner the break, the sooner it will mend. But this break has become a series of multiple fractures which will take an even longer time to heal and will be much worse, not just for this country but for our friends across the water in the EU.

What has happened over the last three years has followed a fairly predictable course. The negotiations have been much more difficult than we were told they would be—nobody read the House of Lords report where we indicated that negotiations would be immensely complicated and take more time. Several MPs who for a lot of their lives said how good their constituents were, supported them and spoke about what they wanted, now say that they are not quite so wise after all and that their own view is preferable to their constituents’.

A deal was negotiated at the 11th hour. It is typical within the EU that things take a long time to get negotiated. But the deal that was signed in good faith on both sides was not agreed by the House of Commons on three occasions. The fact that it did not ratify that deal has demeaned it in the public’s opinion. I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge: it has done the whole of politics a deal of harm. The Prime Minister had to ask for an extension, which was duly granted. The EU said that the deal was non-negotiable, but the EU always renegotiates. It has done in the past; it will do so in the future. Despite the deal being non-negotiable, our Prime Minister has indeed negotiated a different deal. If so many noble Lords opposite say that it is worse than the May deal, they should ask Members of Parliament why they did not vote for Theresa May’s deal. It was on the table. If it was going to be the deal, they should have voted for it and should not whinge about a different deal and say that it is worse.

The indecision in the other place is appalling; it has not helped at all. I hope that now, as noble Lords have said, we make a decision. I voted remain. I wish we were still in the EU, but the decision was taken that we should leave. We have a deal before us. It is time for this Parliament to act, to make a decision, and then we can get on because it is the indecision that is hurting our businesses and declining our economy. That has to be resolved. The only way it can be resolved is by accepting this deal and getting on.