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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:16 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 6:16 pm, 12th May 2020

Many noble Lords have referred to the fact that the subtitle of the report is How to Win Friends and Influence People. How the world looks at us and how it treats us is important to our prosperity and well-being as is the opinion of potential international students, business people looking to do business with our companies, and diplomats. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, said we are increasingly seen as untrustworthy and our good faith is being called into question. That has global impacts. Two relevant recent studies about how we are being regarded around the world are the Good Country Index and the Reputation Index. The Good Country Index is based on the objective criteria of environmental impact and impacts on the well-being of people around the world, and the Reputation Index is a large-scale panel of G8 citizens. Interestingly, we are about the same on both of them: 15th and 13th. If we think about what might have impacted on that, history over decades, even centuries, will have had an impact. The military adventurism in Iraq and Afghanistan and our hideous colonial history of abuse and exploitation will have echoed through the decades and centuries. Currently, it is reasonable to say that our international aid, the maintenance of our GDP level and stepping in to chair COP 26 will have had a positive impact. How we deal with the Covid-19 pandemic will also have an impact. Does the Minister agree that how we handle the Brexit transition will affect the world’s view of us for decades to come? There is already irritation that we are forcing our European neighbours to focus on the Brexit transition when they would rather put the resources, time and energy into dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. There is real and growing fear of a crash out and its huge economic and social impact.

The noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, used the metaphor of water pent up behind a dam, and that might also be used for the amount of work related to Brexit stacking up in your Lordships’ House, but if we think about that metaphor, Europe and the world are now in the middle of a giant earthquake with Covid-19. If we then are to inflict the flood of Brexit crisis and chaos on them, they will not thank us and it will affect their view of us for decades, even centuries, to come.