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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Morris of Aberavon Lord Morris of Aberavon Labour 5:30 pm, 12th May 2020

My Lords, my first point is the issue of cost if the Government change their mind, inevitable as it seems, about leaving the EU in December for the transition period. We have been told that this is a matter not of ideology but of practicality. However, it is a political necessity as the Government’s credibility is at stake.

Mr Gove told the Commons Committee on 27 April that it would cost billions of pounds if we sought an extension. I have no doubt that if the past negotiating stance of the EU were repeated, it would demand its pound of flesh; it has a big black hole to fill in its future budgets. But what would “billions of pounds” mean if we sought an extension of up to one or two years? Have we asked the EU? All negotiations will be virtual. As I understand it, no physical presence is envisaged. Coronavirus has changed the whole atmosphere and political situation in Europe. It will not be easy to hold negotiations in the next year. I would like to know something more than what Mr Gove says. Merely trumpeting the phrase “billions of pounds” is not good enough.

My second point arises from what the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, said about the devolved Governments. Paragraph 96 of the report speaks of an “enhanced role” for the devolved Governments. What does this mean? Are they anything more than warm words to keep the devolved Governments quiet? The committee argued firmly that they should be involved at summit, ministerial and technical level, as envisaged in the political declaration. The Government in Cardiff would be interested, as would all the other devolved Administrations, in an explanation of what is envisaged by the Government by “enhanced role”.