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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:37 pm on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Liddle Lord Liddle Labour 12:37 pm, 19th October 2019

My Lords, the deal on offer before us today is the very hardest of Brexits without actually being a no-deal Brexit. I want to follow up on the points made by my noble friends that this would be a disaster for manufacturing, for jobs in our country, for the region that I come from in the north, and indeed for the town that I represent on Cumbria County Council, which has a factory employing 950 people, with 60% of its product exported to the single market.

I would like the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, to confirm in his summing up that this is a much harder Brexit than anything that Mrs May proposed as Prime Minister. I draw his attention to pages 5 and 6 of the political declaration and ask him to compare them with the political declaration of Mrs May. Let us deal in the facts.

First, in Mrs May’s political declaration it was said that we wanted an ambitious trading relationship “as close as possible” to the EU. That has gone. Secondly, it was said that we wanted as much alignment as possible. Instead, in paragraph 22 is the fact that we are not going to have alignment. Therefore, there is a new reference to,

“appropriate and modern accompanying rules of origin”— necessary checks at the border that would not have been necessary if that alignment had been in place. Thirdly, the May deal had an objective of frictionless trade. Will the Minister confirm that that is no longer the Government’s objective? That is clear from paragraph 26 of the political declaration, which says that,

“customs and regulatory cooperation would be taken into account in the application of related checks and controls”.

In other words, checks and controls are a certainty at the border in this agreement, whereas they were not under Mrs May’s objectives.

Noble Lords have spoken about the importance of certainty; the noble Baroness, Lady Harding, and the noble Lord, Lord Howard, who is not in his place now, made very good speeches on certainty. However, the certainty that is proposed in this type of economic arrangement is a drying up of foreign inward investment in manufacturing in Britain. That has very serious consequences for our people—consequences that cannot lightly be brushed aside.

The other certainty is the loss of competitiveness that this agreement will bring for British industry. Whatever the Government’s preferences—I do not believe that all Conservatives are evil and want to lower workers’ standards, destroy environmental standards and all the rest of it—if we lose competitive strength in the way that the deal intends, they will find that they are driven to lower taxes on business, and that will mean less money for the health service and for one-nation policies. We will be driven to have lower standards than the European Union, because that is the only way we will be able to compete. I think that is a disaster.

The Prime Minister tells us that this is the greatest ever restoration of national sovereignty. Actually, the referendum promise was to “take back control”, but control in the modern world is something very different from sovereignty. Brexit gives us no control over how we, as 3% of the world economy, are going to negotiate preferential trade deals with other parts of the world, or how we are going to face up to the big challenges of climate change, migration, development and security on our own. To have control, we need to remain part of an organisation such as the European Union, and that is why this proposed deal has to go to a referendum as the only way forward.