United Kingdom Internal Market Bill - Committee (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:30 pm on 9th November 2020.

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Photo of Lord Shinkwin Lord Shinkwin Conservative 8:30 pm, 9th November 2020

My Lords, may I begin by joining with the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, and other noble Lords in mourning the loss of our noble friend Lord Sacks?

I shall speak to Clauses 44 and 45. I may be being thick but, for me—and I think for millions of people who voted for the UK to leave the EU—these clauses go to the heart of why we felt there was no alternative. I did not vote to leave the EU almost four and a half years ago because I hate Europe or because I am xenophobic. I did so with a heavy heart because I believed that, unless and until we had left and the transition period had passed, British democracy would be inexorably undermined by a lack of transparency, accountability and control. I did so because I believe in a stronger, not an ever weaker, Parliament, in government that is more accountable, not less, and in a people that thus have more power, not less.

The idea that we should surrender in the final round makes no sense at all. For that is what we would be doing without this insurance policy. Whether we like it or not, it is an inescapable fact that, without it, the integrity and viability of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland could be at risk. Of course, who in your Lordships’ House does not hope that we achieve a favourable outcome through the Joint Committee process? However, this is not guaranteed by any means.

It is worth reflecting on the practical consequences of an unfavourable outcome. My noble friend Lord Lilley posed the key question: what would it mean for people’s lives and livelihoods in Northern Ireland? As the noble Lord, Lord Dodds of Duncairn, made clear, it would have a terrible impact.

Essentially, damaging defaults would come into effect, which would achieve the very opposite of what noble Lords, the Prime Minister, the Taoiseach, the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, and the President-elect of the United States all reject—the effective creation of a hard border in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If I may, I would like to take this opportunity to say how excited I am personally by the election of the first woman and person of colour as Vice-President of the United States. It must mark one of the most exciting milestones in my lifetime and is a testimony to the overwhelming, inevitable logic of equality.

If Michel Barnier or President-elect Biden want to protect Northern Ireland’s integrity and equality through the Good Friday agreement, surely they must accept that a hard border would not achieve that objective. It is therefore essential that we safeguard the gains that have been made and ensure there is a safety net in place to protect the people of Northern Ireland—their jobs, their livelihoods and their financial security—should the EU fail to agree reasonable solutions in the joint committee. As my noble friend Lady Noakes said, these clauses do that pragmatically. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey. If parliamentary sovereignty is to mean anything, these clauses must stand part of this Bill.