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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:01 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Empey Lord Empey UUP 6:01 pm, 12th May 2020

My Lords, the report talks about winning friends and influencing people. I believe one of the key requirements for that is a strong and growing diplomatic push by the United Kingdom throughout the world. From 2017-18, even after the EU referendum, the United Kingdom started to cut back the resources it was putting into our Diplomatic Service. In fact, the Foreign Office was one of the few departments getting hit really hard by the budgets. Can the Minister assure the House that adequate efforts will be made to build up our diplomatic capability, once the best in the world? We are now confronted with the fact that we need it even more, but I believe it has been starved of resources.

Many Members have already mentioned the position in Ireland. I never thought I would see a Conservative and Unionist Government agree to a border in the Irish Sea. To try to pretend that our position in the rest of the United Kingdom is not altered by the contents of the protocol is misleading—it makes a huge change—but by using and adapting the existing structures of the Good Friday agreement, as my noble friend Lord Caine said earlier in the debate, we have at our disposal a mechanism by which we can find a way of resolving these matters without damaging the union. Whatever the United Kingdom does, it must ensure that its international diplomatic capability is reinforced, not cut back.