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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:05 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour 6:05 pm, 12th May 2020

My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, and his committee on this excellent report. It has taken a long time for it to see the light of debate. The report emphasises the important role of discussions and working together, both informally and formally, in what one can achieve when one is trying to ensure that our relationships with the rest of Europe remain as they should do. Years ago, I was on the European committee and, more recently, I have rejoined the goods committee, so this is of great interest to me as we go forward.

It was particularly interesting to see Michael Gove’s one-page statement, dated 28 April, about the progress of negotiations. It was good to see that trade and goods justified a couple of lines. Fisheries will be extremely difficult. Transport, aviation and road haulage were mentioned, along with passenger transport, but where was rail? Rail was not mentioned at all. Apparently, there is no interest in what the manufacturers might want in terms of services, safety and standards for passengers and freight. There has never been any mention of associate membership of the EU Agency for Railways, even though similar agencies for maritime and air have been accepted in part by the Government. Can the Minister explain this omission? Some time ago, I heard that the reason for omitting rail was because the European Union Agency for Railways mentioned Europe in the title.

We have to ask ourselves what the Government want, for what purpose and for whose benefit. Is it just dogma or is it wasting time? We have a long way to go before we can justify spending £60 billion on no deal while at the same time spending between £40 billion and £80 billion on the coronavirus this year. Is it all necessary?