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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:14 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Liberal Democrat 6:14 pm, 12th May 2020

My Lords, beyond the time when we must follow EU rules, engagement and influence remain important. That is common sense wherever we have large trading relationships, but there is nowhere in the world more open and organised for receiving input than the EU. Beyond committees and agencies, Brussels is awash with consultations, conferences and evidence sessions. Good speakers are sought from around the world, and a well-presented case can be very influential. It is serious work. My record was speaking at six such sessions in one day, and making several speeches in a week was common. Getting the tone and content right is of paramount importance, and claiming that we are best in the world is not it. “World’s best” is often claimed in this House. We do not always believe it, even if we want to, but I have also head it in Brussels from Ministers and officials in multinational settings, listening in horror as it jeopardised relationships and carefully crafted compromises. I am glad UKREP is getting bigger, but I query whether it is enough and hope that those appointed are recognised, not passed over, when returning to London.

Co-ordination with industry is also welcome. We do not have the government and industry solidarity on policy that some countries display, and I doubt we ever will, but collective strategic activity is very effective. Others have long done it and at a larger scale.

Finally, one effectiveness factor that should not be underestimated is transparency to Parliament and the public. There is nothing as persuasive to any argument as their endorsements genuinely obtained.