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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:43 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Viscount Brookeborough Viscount Brookeborough Crossbench 5:43 pm, 12th May 2020

My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Boswell. The title of the report includes How to Win Friends and Influence People. Influencing people is made more probable by making better friends. That is because international co-operation is all about making friends between people and nations. Living on the border with the Republic of Ireland, we are aware of the importance of cross-border relations and friendships at every level. These links have been damaged by the Troubles, the lack of devolved government, and now Brexit at the government level. On VE Day 75 years ago, respect and friendship for this country were unsurpassed. Where has that skill in creating friendships gone? What of diplomacy?

We were slow to join the EU, and in joining it we lost many friends, especially in the Commonwealth, creating trade barriers and restricting immigration. The UK then became one of the most enthusiastic about EU expansion, allowing entry to countries such as Greece without it having fulfilled the financial criteria required. We were leaders in inviting the central European states to join. After all that, we are now the first to fight our way out of the EU. At present, we have angered our greatest friend, the US, through our dealings with Huawei.

During my 20 years of serving on various EU committees, I was always impressed by the friendship and welcome shown to us in Brussels and other European capitals. Our committees and their reports were always held in the highest esteem, mainly due to the leadership of chairmen such as the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull. In contrast, it seemed it was not quite the same in the Commons. Perhaps the other place did not place as much importance on the work of the EU. One eminent former MP described appointment to those committees as rather like being put in the sin bin.

It is not always a matter of what we do, but of how we do it, and that means winning friends and keeping them. I ask the Minister: how are the Government going to improve our working relationships, both within the EU and, most importantly, worldwide?