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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:23 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Conservative 6:23 pm, 12th May 2020

My Lords, I am the first to acknowledge the excellent work of our EU committees and their reports, under both my noble friend Lord Boswell and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull. However, in the case of this report and as we come to the end of this debate—it is not really a debate at all, but a series of statements—I have to register my profound disappointment. The strong commitment in the report for scrutiny both during the transformation period and in the future is admirable, but my disappointment can be summed up in a single sentence. Neither the Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union nor this report takes any account whatever of the fast-changing events and trends on the other side of the channel, within the EU and its institutions.

Everyone acknowledges that Brexit will profoundly reshape the EU, and many European leaders and thinkers accept that the EU needs fundamental reform, having been created in the pre-digital age. Many also see that these changes are going on fast anyway, regardless of whether officials in Brussels recognise them. Treating the EU as an unchanging monolith, as a hierarchy, will take our future relations straight into a brick wall. This is over and above the major effects on the EU of the current pandemic crisis, which themselves will have considerable long-term impact on the whole EU structure and the relations between member states and the central authorities.

These enormous forces of change in Europe long predate this crisis and will continue long after it has subsided. My question to the Minister is: when are we really going to address them?