Amendment 1

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 7th September 2020.

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Photo of Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Crossbench 3:30 pm, 7th September 2020

My Lords, I strongly support what was said so authoritatively about Amendment 3 by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Beith, and the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes. We need to hear what our Constitution Committee has said, and I hope the Minister will tell us that the Government will do this.

My purpose is to say a few brief words on Amendment 61 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Before I do so, I want to say a quick word on the wider context. Admirable though the quality of this debate is, I cannot help feeling that we are fiddling while Rome burns. In Downing Street, it seems that the Government are planning to take powers in the internal market Bill to override certain provisions of the withdrawal agreement—in particular, Articles 5 and 10 of the Irish protocol. Tearing up ratified treaties is what rogue states do; sanctions usually follow. If such a proposal were put to us, I would expect us to examine it particularly stringently. I cannot recall any precedent in UK diplomatic history. What we are doing today is important, but what we might have to do then would be historic.

Turning to Amendment 61, it seems to me that it is either completely unnecessary or absolutely essential. I hope the Minister will be able to assure us that it is unnecessary because the Government have no intention of making our closest neighbours stand in a queue at the frontier. If she cannot make this assurance, we must surely ask the Government to think again.

It seems highly likely that, for the next few years, the relationship with the EU will become damagingly rebarbative. That would, of course, become a racing certainty if we tore up the withdrawal agreement, but even if we do not, the disruption, the economic damage and the inevitable frontier friction—deal or no deal—is likely to drip poison into the relationship for some time to come. So we should be careful about choosing to add insult to injury. We have left the EU, but we do not need to leave Europe. If the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is right to detect a risk, we would be right to support her Amendment 61.