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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:38 pm on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Lord James of Blackheath Lord James of Blackheath Conservative 1:38 pm, 19th October 2019

My Lords, I start from the point of view that I support the deal as offered and would vote for it in any straightforward circumstances, but I come today with two questions that I still have and want answers to. I know I will not get those answers here today, but I will use my time just to ask the questions to get them on the record.

The first derives from memories of my Scottish history master, who used to come to class wearing his service revolver and say he was going to shoot the first English boy who did not understand and respect the role of Scotland within the United Kingdom. He never shot any of us, but we were very polite. I have a question arising out of what he taught us then. I am trying to verify it by reading back through the Act of Union, and it looks as though he may still have a point, which would be a problem with what we have here. Is it still correct that the union itself requires there to be complete parity and similarity between all taxation imposed on each of the countries, and that any breach of those circumstances that led one country to be advantaged over another would result in the immediate termination of the whole union, and the union would be null and void? The arrangements that we are now proposing for Northern Ireland seem to leave open the possibility, for example, that the VAT rate could be reduced by 5%, outside our control at any time, and that would have the technical impact of breaking the union. That is a huge point and I want somebody to tell me that I am wrong. Some 40 noble Lords have spoken today and nobody has asked yet, so I probably am wrong, but I would like confirmation that there is no hazard in that point please.

My second question is: what are the known unknowns behind the deal? What do the Government know has been agreed privately—hands have been shaken on it and it is subject to some protocol somewhere—that is not set out in the information here for us to be told about? I provided a list of five names to Mr Gove, and asked him to research them and take them to the Prime Minister, of people who were sent by the Cabinet Office to undertake separate negotiations in Brussels on a range of subjects. I will not be mischievous by naming what those subjects are, although I have a fair idea. I want to know what private deals have been done that affect the future of our country and our sovereignty and which challenge all the things that we hold dear in this country. The Government may say that I am talking total rubbish and that there are none, so I want it certified that there are none and that the day we Brexit we cannot have Mrs von der Leyen on the phone saying, “By the way, we hold you responsible for all those deals that you signed up for, and we will implement them as of tomorrow”.

I want to know that there are none or I want to know what they are. I believe that there are at least five or six out there. I have provided the names of the people who I believe led those negotiations and I want those deals either identified to us or it confirmed that they will never apply. Then I will support this deal and I believe many noble Lords will join me in doing so.