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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:34 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of The Earl of Sandwich The Earl of Sandwich Crossbench 5:34 pm, 12th May 2020

My Lords, I agree. The VE Day anniversary reminded us yet again how closely knit our history is with that of our European neighbours. We all lost family members in the last war; we must strain every sinew to ensure that we continue to build a peaceful Europe from now on. Europe is looking to us for some real leadership in the negotiations and today’s debate provides a new occasion for Europe to meet all its old friends in this virtual Chamber. The battles have ended; Euroscepticism in our Parliament is, I believe, becoming out of date.

As others have said, we must revive the political declaration during this transition year to retain the very best elements of our relationship. Look at what has happened during the pandemic and how we have compared our results daily with those of our European friends. We have not come out particularly well in the comparison, but we needed to situate ourselves within Europe, not in some land mass out in the Atlantic. I congratulate the Government on weathering the pandemic and on apparently entering the EU negotiations with good will.

There has not been a lot of progress but we are at least fielding a strong team and we must get on with it. Does the Minister remember the violence of the cod war? Does he think, for example, that we are making enough effort to find an agreement in fisheries? From now on, our EU committees will also have an enormous job in the scrutiny of treaties. The recent Parliament and Brexit report from UCL and many others states plainly that Parliament is not yet adequate to the task of scrutinising the increasing number of treaties. This is primarily a matter for this House—I declare an interest as a member of the new treaties sub-committee—but the Government must also show some restraint; indeed, their close co-operation with both Houses will be the best way to achieve this scrutiny. I hope we can live up to the legacy of the noble Lord, Lord Boswell.