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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:33 pm on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 1:33 pm, 19th October 2019

My Lords, it is my pleasure to follow the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, and I admire his work for the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Having just checked the Brexit timer, I see that it is now 12 days, 10 hours and 27 minutes until we will still remain at risk of a crash-out Brexit. I want to begin by acknowledging the suffering that this is causing millions of people: EU 27 citizens living here in the UK; UK citizens living in other parts of the EU; and small businesspeople who are being scolded by the Government for not preparing for Brexit when they do not have the time, the money or the energy to face these continually shifting scenarios. We should acknowledge the damage being done by the Brexit chaos as well as the individual suffering.

However, that is not an argument for voting for Boris Johnson’s deal. The fact is that the best possible deal we can have is the deal we have now—remaining in the EU. That is particularly true for those EU 27 citizens along with their friends, neighbours and colleagues, because otherwise they will face Theresa May’s legacy, that of a hostile environment in the Home Office. It is something that we really need to face up to once we have cleared this Brexit chaos.

As a new Member, perhaps it is appropriate for me, in my brief time, to reflect on what some Members have already said in this debate and—as you may see me doing often in future—go a little or a lot further. The noble Lord, Lord Cashman, said young people would suffer from the loss of freedom of movement. I really want to highlight that fact, because I believe young people should not have fewer freedoms and opportunities than their parents and grandparents had. They should be able to go anywhere in our own country and 27 other EU countries to live, love, work and study—to move freely. That is something we must not take away from our young people. We know that they overwhelmingly do not want Brexit to happen.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds, my almost neighbour in Sheffield, said that we are just on the starting blocks of Brexit. This is a crucial point that has been utterly undermade, and one I will come back to.

I also pick up on the crucial point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, about what has happened in the last 1,200 days and how confidence in our constitution has been shattered. He focused on the negative risks there—the fact that this could open the path to authoritarianism. I want to be the voice of optimism, as I often will be, so in focusing on this I say that it could be the path to making the UK a democracy as it now is not. The people who voted leave had a strong point when they said they wanted to take back control. People whose votes do not count in safe seats up and down the land, and people who live in local authority areas continually overruled again and again by the overpowerful Westminster, are not in control of their own lives. Let us make this a path to democracy, looking at the great work of Make Votes Matter, the Electoral Reform Society and others.

The noble Lord, Lord Reid, referred to the power of multinational companies in the modern world. We can look at the power of one of those, the website Amazon. If we are to make Amazon and companies like it pay their taxes and pay their workers fairly, we need to be united as part of the peoples of Europe, together standing up to those multinational companies and creating a different kind of economy.

I conclude where I started with the Brexit chaos and the Brexit fatigue, which I dare suggest affects nearly every Briton. “Can we just stop talking about Brexit?”, is a sentiment that I am sure many in your Lordships’ House share. Well, yes, we can—but not by allowing Boris Johnson’s deal through. The only way to stop talking about Brexit is to stop Brexit, otherwise we face years of trying to negotiate our new relationship with our neighbours and the rest of the world. That is not something I believe the country or your Lordships’ House want to do.