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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:56 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Bruce of Bennachie Lord Bruce of Bennachie Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland) 5:56 pm, 12th May 2020

My Lords, I do not believe that any rational person should want anything but a friendly, influential relationship with our neighbours. However, we have a Government who are ideologically committed to a hard Brexit, pushing for UK exceptionalism just as nationalists everywhere do.

We are now engulfed with Covid-19 matters. This can be neither a cover nor a scapegoat for a destructive version of Brexit. The EU has produced a negotiating proposal of 440 pages, but we have no idea what our Government’s response is. We now need practical steps for future engagement.

The agreed Northern Ireland protocol requires customs declarations for exports to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. Having denied this—the Prime Minister in particular—will the Government now acknowledge it and provide help and support to Northern Ireland businesses to help them handle the extra bureaucracy this will require?

The crunch of Brexit may be on the island of Ireland, but the rest of the UK is looking for positive answers on many other areas. For example, it has been mentioned that there is scope for continuing engagement in Horizon and Erasmus, involving contribution and access to funding. However, researchers and students want to know now what the Government propose. Will the Minister be able to tell us?

Our financial services have lost passporting rights, but they want optimal equivalence and a long-term understanding of how our financial services can still engage with EU customers. Can the Government give us any guidance on that? Professional and business services providers want to know if their qualifications will be recognised. A Joint Committee along the lines recommended by the committee has been established, but it is by no means clear how active or engaged it will be, or whether it will continue or transform after agreement is reached—assuming agreement is reached.

We need constructive relations between our Parliament, the European Parliament and the national Parliaments of the EU. Will the Government support the establishment of a parliamentary joint committee, as recommended by the EU Committee? The EU has said that it is prepared to include the UK in future meetings of COSAC. Do the Government support that? Please can we have some answers?