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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:19 pm on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Haskel Lord Haskel Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 1:19 pm, 19th October 2019

My Lords, I did not recognise the picture painted by the Leader of the House in her opening words. Our membership of the EU has made us better off, it has been flexible and it has kept the peace. Yet many noble Lords tempt us to end the uncertainty by accepting this deal. That is wrong because of the damage that this deal will do both socially and economically.

Yes, ending uncertainty may produce a temporary pick-up but, as others have told us, in the medium and long term, we will be worse off; the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, explained that it will be somewhere between the 5.5% loss of GDP under the May agreement and the 8.7% loss of GDP under WTO no-deal arrangements. That is obviously why the Treasury has been so silent. Is it worth the impact on our standard of living, at a cost far greater than our net contribution to the EU, for which we get something in return? Still to come, as many noble Lords have said, is the long and complex negotiation of future trade agreements, negotiations in a world of increasing trade conflict, less growth and increasing doubts about fair dealing.

The political declaration sees us leaving the customs union. That is a key requirement of business, and of the unions. Yes, there is some temporary alignment for manufacturing, but there is silence on services. All this is bound to worsen the fiscal framework for the promised spending on the NHS, education, infrastructure and the green economy. What about the loss of inward investment? Nobody voted for this.

Above all, there is the danger to the union. We must repair the strained relationship between us and the devolved Governments. All were opposed to leaving the EU, and somehow they must have a say. We know that this agreement is a damaging act of self-harm. Is this what the people want for their children and their grandchildren? Thousands of people are demonstrating outside—including my wife—saying that this is not their vision. It would be irresponsible and reckless to agree this with a sigh of relief just to get it over. I see no alternative to putting this to a public vote with, for the sake of the union, the alternative being to remain.