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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:52 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of The Duke of Montrose The Duke of Montrose Conservative 5:52 pm, 12th May 2020

My Lords, I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Boswell on securing this debate. We urgently need to complete the structures of our new relationship with the EU and a vital focus needs to be what kind of friendship and influence we are seeking. We have just celebrated VE Day. As a boy, I believed all the belligerent rhetoric of that war and revelled in the news of the destruction of our enemies. But VE Day is a reminder that, actually, at a time of great peril, Britain gave its all for Europe out of a friendship that wanted the best for others as well as for ourselves.

Later, it was a revelation for me to travel across France in 1946 with my family and see the devastation of the cities. In Paris, we caught the moment where, for the first night since the liberation, Notre Dame was fully floodlit. On that journey, I met people from other countries who had suffered intolerably, learning something of their hopes and intentions. I became aware of the gigantic leap of faith that was required as the likes of Adenauer, Schuman and De Gasperi began to draw together people who had regarded each other as enemies in a process that culminated in the Treaty of Rome.

For a number of years I was involved in a programme of reconciliation in Europe and elsewhere which gave me much more appreciation of the divide that had to be bridged. The coronavirus presents an equal challenge for us and our neighbours. I back the theme of other noble Lords, that Britain should try to ensure that Europe as a whole is working towards greater inclusion of the developing world. We still need to recognise that much of our original wealth came from these regions and they rightfully expect the creation of a just economic order.