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My Lords, now there is no excuse for not approving the Prime Minister’s agreement. The new agreement is a big improvement on the previous one. For the first time, we have a deal that truly reflects the people’s vote of June 2016 to leave the European Union. It returns control of UK affairs to where it belongs: the British people. It also places Northern Ireland’s future where it belongs: in the hands of the people’s representatives in Northern Ireland. This is consent in action, a principle which has always been a cornerstone of the Good Friday agreement. Of course, the deal is not perfect for everybody. Each side has had to compromise, and red lines have disappeared—but that is negotiation, the price of an agreement.
The Opposition claim that the deal would result in the dilution of rights and standards in the United Kingdom. I have no idea which document they have read, but paragraph 77 of the revised political declaration says clearly that,
“the Parties should uphold the common high standards applicable in the Union and the United Kingdom”,
“maintain environmental, social and employment standards at the current high levels provided by the existing common standards”.
That should be good.
Meanwhile, beyond the Westminster bubble, voters boil with frustration at Parliament’s inability to get this thing done. This, as I have said before, is how revolutions start. Yet, inside the Westminster bubble, the Brexit Party’s success in the European elections is forgotten, as if it never happened. Talk about ostriches with their heads in the sand.
Certain Members of both Houses are once again trying to delay and derail Brexit when their duty lies in the opposite direction. They, including those demonstrating in central London today, lay claim to a phoney democratic legitimacy by demanding a second referendum. But, as long as the result of the first referendum remains unfulfilled, the case for a second does not have a moral leg to stand on. Add to that the cost, the aggravation of still further political division and the bitter argument over which question or questions should be asked, dividing friends against friends, family members against family members. Who in their right mind wants to go through that again? Under the camouflage of promoting a confirmatory vote lies the real agenda: to revoke Article 50 and reverse the referendum result. This is what it is all about. At least the Lib Dems have had the decency to come clean.
The fear of no deal at the end of 2020 is new and spurious. How can it be crashing out if the withdrawal agreement is already ratified? This is surely another delaying tactic. The surest way to avoid no deal is to agree to this deal. As my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford said, we should beware. Jean-Claude Juncker, President Macron and Prime Minister Varadkar have each already fired a shot across the bows of those who favour a further extension of Article 50. Remember that it takes only one member state out of 27 for an extension to be refused and to send us crashing out with no deal. This is the default position, whatever our Supreme Court may have ruled. Remember too that, while we are still members of the EU, EU law supersedes UK law.
We now at last have an agreement that justifies the name Brexit. It is our duty to honour it without any further delay. I pay my own tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. I completely agree that the only way forward is to come together and go for this deal.