My Lords, the Government’s behaviour in the current talks is the antithesis of the approach recommended in the report. Just because the virus has eclipsed Brexit as an issue in the news does not mean that the problem has gone away. EU diplomats were very studied in their understatement when they summed up the negotiations as “disappointing”, but beneath that there is a realistic assessment that the UK Government are deliberately wasting time. Phil Hogan, the EU Trade Commissioner, stated that the UK Government believe that they can hide the Brexit economic fallout by blaming the virus for everything, and he is undoubtedly right.
A no-deal Brexit was always going to be an economic disaster, but as we face the deepest recession for 300 years, according to the Bank of England, it would be reckless in the extreme. As the Times put it yesterday, it would be “unhinged”. Already the Government have been forced to backtrack, for instance, on the attempt to go it alone on PPE. We need our international neighbours now more than ever. In the worst crisis for three-quarters of a century, the Prime Minister needs to realise that the best leaders are those who can adapt to circumstances. He needs the strength of character to acknowledge that it is wrong to cling to the idea of getting negotiations done by the end of this year. If the UK is to win friends and maintain our influence internationally, he must seek a two-year extension.