Beyond Brexit (European Union Committee Report) - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:01 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Baroness D'Souza Baroness D'Souza Non-affiliated 5:01 pm, 12th May 2020

My Lords, in the last few weeks, Ministers in both Houses have repeatedly been asked a series of straightforward questions about the ongoing EU-UK negotiations. They most often include: transparency, specifically of draft legal texts; the establishment of proper inter-parliamentary channels between the UK and the European Parliament; the role of Covid-19 in hampering the progress of negotiations, and the wisdom of delaying the end date of 31 December in the interests of reaching a mutually satisfactory free trade agreement; and adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights and the rulings of the European Court. Apart from the last issue, the three other questions have been met with obfuscation, half-answers and non-answers. The Government’s aim, constantly reiterated, is to finalise departure by the end of this year by any means and at any cost.

The distance between the time available to reach a satisfactory FTA and the need to abide by the legal requirement to allow Parliament to scrutinise draft agreements is absurdly short, so much so that it appears that, despite the UK Government’s statement to the contrary, a no-deal agreement on World Trade Organization terms is anticipated. That would be a disaster. The Government’s own model and that of independent experts predict that leaving without a trade deal would cost between 6% and 9% of GDP—approximately £2,500 per UK citizen. The cost to the Treasury would be in the region of £60 billion, which is one and half times our spending on defence.

May I ask the Minister three simple and direct questions? Will Parliament be allowed full access to the details of current negotiations, including draft legal texts, and when? If there is no agreement in sight by the end of July 2020, will the Government be content to reach December without an FTA? Finally, have the Government, following Operation Yellowhammer, updated arrangements in the event of a no-deal final exit from the EU?