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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:27 pm on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Deech Baroness Deech Crossbench 2:27 pm, 19th October 2019

My Lords, even if the worst were to happen and the Commons were to reject this new deal, the relationship between this country and the 27 of the EU can never be the same again. There is no going back, and the demonstrators calling for a second referendum have to realise that Humpty Dumpty cannot be put together again. There has been too much betrayal of trust on both sides. But now there is a potential new start, on a new footing. I believe it is a healthier one; finally, the EU representatives have realised that we are serious and that there is a life that we can manage outside the EU. Our own democratic processes can return to normal and, no matter how rocky the road ahead, with possibly years of negotiations to come to finalise our new relationship, the boil will have been lanced.

Despite the years of discussion, it is odd that the EU has never asked itself why people in this country voted to leave. Remainers see everything through a prism of economics, no matter how dodgy the forecasts. But given the figures that we have heard, the reduction that we would all suffer if the green agenda were to go ahead swiftly—which would be a good thing—is greater. The losses that we would all suffer were Mr Corbyn to come to power would be infinitely greater than any sums mentioned this afternoon.

Even this past week, the failings in the nature of the Union that have caused people like me to reject association with it have come to the forefront again. Brutal repression of the Catalonian independence fighters in Spain has met with no objection from the EU because it does not want to antagonise Spain. There is blackmail by Turkey, which knows that it can let loose its penned-up migrants and cause chaos on the continent, and the return by elections in Poland of an illiberal Government, who have pledged to defy Europe over migrants, free media, judicial independence and sexual choice. As a member of the EU, we failed to prevent this sort of result, which is inevitable in its empire-building. We have failed to prevent the rise of extremism and the march of violence across Europe, and I hope that in future our voice in the UN and NATO will be raised against those developments without any inhibitions.

I welcome this deal, although I am only too well aware that it contains provisions which cause me great concern, such as any continued jurisdiction of the Court of Justice, a court that is not impartially structured, as we understand courts in this country. I hope that a UK judge will be included in it if it ever has cause to adjudicate on matters concerning this country. The deal before us is the most viable of any, given the self-inflicted wound of the Benn Act, which, had it not existed, would have given the Prime Minister a stronger hand. The Benn Act is a stain on the reputation of draftsmanship, with its glaring errors, which the Opposition were almost proud to overlook in their haste to tie the hands of our negotiators.

The opposition of the DUP is hard to understand and self-destructive. It is Northern Ireland that has erected the hardest of borders between itself and the UK through its backward stance on civil liberties such as abortion and same-sex marriage, through its continuing violence and by trying to thwart this deal. It has always had a special, differentiated place in the constitution—that is nothing new—and, given that the majority of Northern Ireland voted to remain, it ought to be pleased about its new special closeness to Europe. We have to ignore the DUP, prominent only because the previous Prime Minister needed its votes after the last election. It cannot be right that 1.8 million people hold the rest of Europe to ransom. It is undemocratic that the DUP should insist on having a veto over any changes in the arrangements, where the withdrawal agreement stipulates only a simple majority of the Assembly to the continuation of the protocol.

What a warning this is to the proponents of Scottish independence. Have they considered what sort of border they would have in that case with England? Have they ever wondered whether the EU 27 would welcome another secessionist state, given the lack of support for Catalonia?

Another referendum would be even more divisive, ill informed, probably rigged and less decisive; once you have more than one referendum, none has any abiding validity. If leave won again, as I believe it would, we would be in the same position, and if remain won that result would be treated by leavers in the same way as the remainers treated the result of the 2016 referendum. We have the opportunity to move forward in good order and repair relationships with the 27. We must take it today.