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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:13 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Smith of Newnham Baroness Smith of Newnham Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence) 5:13 pm, 12th May 2020

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, for his chairmanship of your Lordships’ EU Select Committee. Through his personality and role, he was able to demonstrate how one can win friends and influence people. The role of individuals, as well as that of Parliaments, is important in co-operation and building relationships.

In its excellent report, the committee noted that the UK

“will need to adapt quickly, working harder and more strategically to make use of all available tools to maximise its voice in Brussels and beyond. This in turn requires a long-term commitment, of energy, time and financial and human resources.”

Does the Minister believe that Her Majesty’s Government are delivering on those requirements, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 crisis?

The Government’s report clearly says that

“changes have been made in Brussels.”

Can the Minister explain the nature of those changes? What advice have the Government sought on the best mission for a third country to have in Brussels? For example, have the Government taken advice from our friends in Iceland or Norway, who have extensive experience of being third countries?

Finally, do the Government accept that, to be influential, we need to go beyond the sterile debates that we have had so far—perhaps also beyond Pontignano and Königswinter? They do not contribute, on their own, to civil society. Will the Government commit to supporting exchange mechanisms and the continuation of schemes such as Erasmus?