My Lords, I nearly did not put my name down to speak in this debate: I was under considerable domestic pressure not to come, and I understand why, although I just say to my noble friend who is going to reply—and even more importantly to my noble friend who is going to make a Statement shortly after—that while, in common with many of my age, I am happy to be advised and encouraged, I do not want to be dictated to. I draw the attention of noble Lords to an absolutely splendid article in today’s Daily Mail by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett.
We are talking about our relations with Europe and I take as my text, as it were, the quotation the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, gave from John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind.” Here, to a degree I join company with the noble Lord who has just spoken. The facts have changed in a way that no one could have foreseen on
Before the election, the Prime Minister made it plain time and again that he wanted to have as close and constructive a relationship as possible with our European friends and neighbours once we had left the European Union. Of course, it cannot be the same but we have left, and I was one of those who from the very beginning accepted, with sadness, the result of the referendum. That is why I gave strong support to the deal that Prime Minister Theresa May drew up with the assistance of my noble friend Lord Barwell—I thought that it offered a way forward. However, all that is history.
We are out, but it is absolutely essential that we have a friendly and constructive relationship with nations with which we have shared a great deal of our history over the last 500 and more years. It is extremely sad that, where co-operation has worked, as in the European Medicines Agency, Europol and Euratom, it should just be discarded. I appeal to my noble friend on the Front Bench, Lord True, who was on the opposite side of the argument before Brexit, to recognise that we are now in a wholly different national and international situation.
We, and the Government in particular, owe the British people a great debt, and we have to satisfy that debt. The Prime Minister referred to the votes that he had been given on trust in what used to be known as the red wall. We owe a debt to those people who looked to our Government, having felt, for reasons that I completely understand—I always lamented the decline of a powerful Opposition—that they could not trust a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn. Our debt is manifest and manifold, and it is to ensure that they do not suffer any more than is absolutely necessary with this dreadful pestilence raging around us. Therefore, I say to my noble friend Lord True: please, there is nothing sacrosanct about the date
I was born just shortly before the Second World War. My memories of it are those of an infant, but this country has not faced any crisis as potentially difficult and dire as this one since that war. It is crucial that we recognise this and, above all, it is crucial that the Government who have responsibility for this country and the Prime Minister who leads this country recognise that fully and properly. If they do not, they will be letting down those who created that majority on