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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:03 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Noakes Baroness Noakes Conservative 6:03 pm, 12th May 2020

My Lords, I was a member of the EU Committee when this report was published and pay tribute, as other noble Lords have, to the leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, when he chaired the committee. The report was published last year against the backdrop of the previous Prime Minister struggling and failing to get Parliament to approve her withdrawal agreement. Parliament was working against us leaving the EU.

Last December the British people gave the Government a very clear mandate to get Brexit done. We now have a strong Prime Minister and a Parliament, at least in the other place, committed to delivering the will of the people. Inevitably, some of the committee’s recommendations have not stood the test of time.

We have now left the EU. The Government are working at speed on the long-term relationship with the EU, including a free trade agreement. They are committed to bringing this to a conclusion by the end of the year, and I was glad to hear my noble friend Lord True confirm last week that the Government have no intention of extending the transition period. There is clearly no time to spare in these negotiations.

This is the new context for parliamentary scrutiny. Parliament must of course still undertake its constitutional role of holding the Government to account, but in this new timescale it cannot realistically expect to be involved in the detailed negotiations of our long-term relationship with the EU. To that extent I regard the EU Committee’s proposals—for example, on its desired involvement in the workings of the joint committee—as time-expired. Let us focus on holding the Government to account on what they achieve in practice, rather than on the detailed steps for getting there.