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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:07 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Oates Lord Oates Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change) 6:07 pm, 12th May 2020

My Lords, I regret the derisively short time available to address the important points in the report. This is a consequence of decisions made by the Lords Commission that have allowed technology to dictate function, arbitrarily curtailed the length of time for debates and created perverse speaking incentives, resulting in absurdly short speaking times on critical issues. Far from protecting the reputation of the House of Lords, these decisions make a mockery of our constitutional duty to hold the Executive to account and must be revisited. Our scrutiny role is needed now more than ever.

In the short time that I have, I want to focus on the position of Northern Ireland. In their response to the Select Committee’s report, the Government state that they will ensure that the views of business in Northern Ireland

“are represented in discussions and will inform the implementation of the protocol.”

However, when the Select Committee visited Northern Ireland recently, it found that, far from that being the case, businesses were deeply frustrated at the UK Government’s lack of engagement with their concerns. These concerns include a lack of knowledge of how the protocol will work, a lack of time to prepare for it to become operational, a default position that goods passing from GB to NI will be deemed at risk of passing to the single market, and the lack of clarity over unfettered access for NI goods to GB. People told the committee that the requirements for GB-NI movements were far beyond what seems plausible as a business model.

It is time for the Government to stop indulging in ideological obsessions and start listening to businesses and providing answers to their increasingly urgent questions—particularly at this time of great pressure on them from the Covid economic crisis.