All 3 Baroness Deech contributions to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017

Read Bill Ministerial Extracts

Tue 21st Feb 2017
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Mon 27th Feb 2017
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 7th Mar 2017
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage (Hansard - continued): House of Lords

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Department for Exiting the European Union

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

Baroness Deech Excerpts
2nd reading (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Tuesday 21st February 2017

(7 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 103(h) Amendment for Committee (PDF, 52KB) - (21 Feb 2017)
Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I have no interest to declare, save that I have waited for 25 years for this moment. The decisions about Brexit did not start last summer. There are a number of reasons why this House will not bring credit upon itself by obstructing the Article 50 process. The first is the continuing failure to appreciate that people knew what they were voting for. The disdain shown for leave voters is unprecedented. They do not want to be patronised. Many voted to leave precisely because they were being treated as ignorant.

Over the years, leavers have seen, sadly, that tolerance, the rule of law, judicial integrity and freedom of the press have all failed in various countries of the EU; that it is dysfunctional; that a number of EU states are low in the league table of world corruption; that some eastern European states are sliding backwards, with leaders who espouse the same attitudes as President Trump to barriers and to rejecting migrants on religious grounds. The UK has been unable to stop this happening. This country should not be part of a union, let alone have laws determined by it, if it has such failings.

Leavers have seen the damage that the institution has wrought through, for example, state aid rules and the imposition of the euro; the lack of effective foreign policy and accountability; the failures to deal with migrants and the rise of the extreme right wing; and even diesel. The economic benefits that membership may bring are outweighed in my mind by the EU’s weaknesses over principles of rights and proper governance which are far more vital to us in the long run. I am not prepared to compromise my values on an altar of tariffs and I am optimistic that things will work out. Another reason is that a significant number of noble Lords have close ties to the EU: the perception will be that this affects their judgment.

It is for the House to determine the question of relevance, but in ordinary parlance the amendments do not seem to me to be within the scope of the Bill, which is about giving notice to withdraw under Article 50. There is no scope within Article 50 itself for embellishments. The negotiations and agreements come later. In considering our negotiation aims, where is the equivalent of our White Paper from the 27 other members, setting out their position and their goals? All we have heard from the EU since the referendum is a desire for punishment and self-protection. There has been no rallying call, no conciliation and no plans for a better future—only fear and a desire for revenge and money, rather like a bad divorce where mediation has failed. I would not want to be a member of a club that will not let me leave even though I am disliked.

The time for seeking agreements—for example, about the residence rights of EU nationals living here and UK citizens living abroad—is later, but in relation to residence rights the UK is now, and will stay for the foreseeable future, a party to the European Convention on Human Rights. The call for immediate guarantees on residence is, in fact, a red herring: it is impossible to imagine that any EU national living here could suffer an arbitrary reduction in benefits or threats to family life, let alone mass expulsion, without recourse to the Human Rights Act, with every prospect of success. To embed rights for residents now is to force Her Majesty’s Government into a position without the real need to do so and to hamper the Government in their negotiations.

So far as a second referendum is hypothetically concerned, why would it be any more binding than the first? Losing it would be as unacceptable to the losing side as the June referendum was. Would there have to be a third referendum—the best of three? It would plunge negotiations into chaos at the moment of conclusion and leave us in limbo. Clauses that might be added to the Bill now could, of course, be repealed by the Government, like the provisions of any other Act. One can envisage the Government coming back in two years and saying, “We have to repeal this addition because it does not fit in our negotiations”. If they have a majority, that is what they will achieve. Only after the two-year process is over does Parliament get its sovereignty back.

The House of Lords, although it may disagree, always concedes to the Commons that which is promised in the manifesto of the party that won the election. I quote:

“We will let you decide whether to stay in or leave the EU … We will honour the result of the referendum, whatever the outcome”.


Some 65% of the electorate did not vote to remain. There has been a strong undemocratic attack on the referendum result, and some of these amendments are plainly designed to undermine Brexit or to make it meaningless. It is impossible to imagine that had a political party with a radical manifesto won a general election by 2% or 3% the losing side would chip away at and more or less refuse to accept the result in a way reminiscent of those tin-pot dictators in some parts of the world who refuse to accept defeat. The nature of the push-back is summed up by the mission of the former Prime Minister whose judgment on another international situation led directly to the Chilcot inquiry. As for voting with one’s conscience, even if one believes that Brexit would turn out badly, that prerogative belongs to the Cross-Bench Peers. Every day in this House, Peers belonging to political parties troop into the lobby to vote in a particular way as mandated by their party—because democracy in our system is tied to party discipline—and so it should be today. The duty of the House is to give this Bill a fair wind as it stands.

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Department for Exiting the European Union

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 27th February 2017

(7 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 103-II Second marshalled list for Committee - (27 Feb 2017)
Lord Blencathra Portrait Lord Blencathra (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, there are those who say that, since voting to leave the EU was the only question on the ballot paper, it is legitimate to argue that people did not vote to leave the single market or the customs union. They are wrong, but we will deal with that in the fourth group of amendments. Those same people also argue that we can join the EEA and benefit from it while still leaving the EU. I believe that that, too, is wrong and misguided. However, your Lordships should not take my word for it: I will quote from the EEA website. After it describes what the EEA is, who are the contracting parties and when it was agreed, it goes on to say in point 4:

“What is included in the EEA Agreement? The EEA Agreement provides for the inclusion of EU legislation in all policy areas of the Single Market. This covers the four freedoms, i.e. the free movement of goods, services, persons and capital, as well as competition and state aid rules, but also the following horizontal policies: consumer protection, company law, environment, social policy and statistics. In addition, the EEA Agreement provides for cooperation in several flanking policies such as research and technological development, education, training and youth, employment, tourism, culture, civil protection, enterprise, entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized companies. The EEA Agreement guarantees equal rights and obligations within the Single Market for citizens and economic operators in the EEA. Through Article 6 of the EEA Agreement, the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union is also of relevance to the EEA Agreement, as the provisions of the EEA Agreement shall be interpreted in conformity with the relevant rulings of the Court given prior to the date of signature, 2 May 1992”.


Therefore, if we join the EEA, we would, in effect, still be in the EU to all intents and purposes, with the exception of agriculture, fishing, justice and home affairs. All the rest of it we would have, lock, stock and barrel. We would not have control of our borders, our laws, our courts or much of our money. We would thus betray the people who voted to leave the EU, and that is why we should reject this amendment.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I will make four very brief points. Will the Minister assure the House that this amendment is actually within the scope of the Bill? The Bill is about notifying withdrawal: this seems to me, as with many other amendments, to be about something completely different. Secondly, it is not within our unilateral gift. Even if the Prime Minister is instructed to remain a member of the EEA on our behalf, she cannot necessarily achieve this on her own. Thirdly, it is not a good idea to tie her hands in that fashion, and fourthly, even if this amendment succeeded—and the same is true of many others—and it became a part of this Bill, as the two years unrolled, it might prove to be inconvenient and an obstacle. There would be nothing to stop the Government simply repealing, or bringing forward measures to repeal, this particular measure, were it to be added to the Bill.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom Portrait Lord Hamilton of Epsom (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, surely the problem with the EEA is that it is a waiting room for people who want to join the EU. It was never designed for people who wanted to leave it. I do not quite understand why we have to sit here saying that we must take one of the options on offer from the EU. We are the third-biggest economy in the EU. The EU sells 50% more to us than we do to it. Why can we not have a unique free trade agreement with the EU? Why do we have to go along with any of these things that are on offer from the EU?

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Department for Exiting the European Union

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Report stage (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Tuesday 7th March 2017

(7 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 108-I Marshalled list for Report (PDF, 67KB) - (3 Mar 2017)
It might be argued that all Parliament would be doing would be instructing the Government to go back to Brussels and accept whatever agreement, however bad, the 27 were prepared to offer. That is clearly unacceptable, and indeed constitutionally improper. The only practical effect of subsection (4) would be to create a political crisis, causing highly damaging uncertainty to business and the economy, which could in practice be resolved only by a dissolution of Parliament and a general election—something the Opposition can always try to achieve, if that is what they wish, without this clause, simply by moving and carrying a vote of no confidence in the Government. This mischievous proposed new clause, masquerading as an assertion of parliamentary sovereignty, deserves to be rejected out of hand.
Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords—

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am genuinely torn on how to vote on this amendment and turn to my noble and very able friend the Minister to guide me in this respect. I listened very carefully to all the speakers this afternoon, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, who I think comes at this with the same approach that I do. These amendments seem based to me on a very simple proposition, which is that rights given to British subjects by statute can be removed only by statute.

Of the two alternatives available, particularly in Amendment 3, which I am tempted and minded to support—a resolution to be passed by both Houses or a Bill to be passed by both Houses—the amendment neatly leaves it to the Government to determine the means to choose. I would like to know—and I seek guidance from the Minister and very powerful arguments against—why it would not be appropriate to include the amendment here on the face of the Bill. I say this because this is the last procedural stage before we embark on the substance. We are told that there will not be just the great repeal Bill but a number of substantive primary pieces of legislation as well as, no doubt, multiple pieces of secondary legislation to repeal some of the acquis that we might wish no longer to apply.

Why is it important to write it on the face of the Bill? It is for so many reasons: times change; politics change and personalities change. We are being asked to take an awful lot on trust here, both in terms of a commitment from the Government and in terms of a commitment given on the Floor of the House of Commons that Parliament and the Government would hope to follow through. Surely it is only right and proper that it should be put on the face of the Bill.

I remind the House that we spent about two hours and 30 minutes talking about the rights of EU nationals going forward. If the referendum had been held on the same terms as the European Parliament elections, all the EU nationals living here for the required length of time would have been able to vote. As I understand it from memory, an amendment passed in this House deprived those 1 million EU nationals living in this country of the right to vote. In fact, that 1 million number could have changed the outcome of the referendum overnight.

I refer to the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, in summing up on Second Reading. He expressed to the Government, in a helpful way, that the Supreme Court’s decision in Miller went further than just this Bill before us today, which embarks on the negotiation procedure. A majority of the House would not wish to stand in the way of the triggering of the process. By the same token, the noble and learned Lord went on to say, in respect to not writing into the face of the Bill—I do not want to press him too hard, but I think that the noble and learned Lord was saying the same—that,

“obtaining approval by resolution in Parliament is not the same thing as being given statutory authority”.

That is why he cautioned the Government against thinking that this Bill before the House today,

“on its own will give them all the authority they need, or that obtaining approval for an agreement by resolution is the same thing as being given statutory authority to conclude that agreement”.—[Official Report, 20/2/17; col. 23.]

I will refer also to an article written by five eminent QCs, including three knights, who gave their opinion on the matter and stated:

“Meaningful Parliamentary decision-making cannot be achieved by Parliament authorising exit from the European Union, two years in advance, on as yet unknown terms. Equally, it cannot be achieved by a single ‘take it or leave it’ vote at the end of the process”.


The article argues very straightforwardly:

“The constitutional requirements for a decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union include the enactment of primary legislation consenting to give legal effect to the terms of a withdrawal agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union”.


Therefore, rather than being a wrecking amendment, I see this amendment as being potentially helpful to the Government, responding to a situation that we found ourselves in, having now lost three to six months through a court case and then an appeal, by writing on to the face of the Bill that Parliament—these two Houses —will have the final say. It will be of the Government’s choosing what the mechanism will be—whether a resolution of both Houses or an Act of Parliament. Otherwise, there will be a complete lack of clarity over what remaining rights already extended to British subjects can continue to be relied on. I will go further and say that, when we come to the great repeal Bill, there will be a complete lack of clarity over the court on which we should rely to make sure that those outstanding rights can be enforced.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech
- Hansard - -

My Lords—

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Taylor of Holbeach Portrait Lord Taylor of Holbeach
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I think we will hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, then from the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, and then from my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I wish to say a few, brief words about sovereignty and the likely outcome if Parliament disapproves a deal at the end of the negotiations in two years’ time. The sad fact is that because of the construction of Article 50, we will not recover our parliamentary sovereignty in European matters until the whole process is over. If we contemplate what might happen in two years’ time, we see only too clearly that sovereignty lies with Europe. If this House or the other House were to reject the deal, we would end up as puppets in their hands. Can it honestly be imagined that if one or other House, whether through approval or an Act of Parliament, goes back to Europe in just under two years’ time and says, “We don’t like the deal”, the other 27 will say, “Oh dear. Here is a much better one”, or, “Let us, all 27, now agree to extend the negotiation time”? I do not think so.

The noble Lord, Lord Oates, indicated that he did not trust the Prime Minister. I am sorry to say that I do not trust the other 27 members of the European Union to give us a good deal, or indeed to care very much about what happens to us or our nationals, because their only declared intent since last June has been: “You must be punished. The Union must survive, no matter what the cost. We will not accommodate you, we will not be kind to you”. There is no vision. There is no mission.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can the noble Baroness give us chapter and verse on who said that?

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I read it in the papers every day.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick Portrait Lord Lamont of Lerwick (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Perhaps the noble Baroness would quote to the noble Lord, Lord Lea, exactly what President Hollande said: “There has to be a price. There has to be a threat. There has to be a cost”.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech
- Hansard - -

Thank you.

Much of our argument turns on whether Article 50 is revocable or not. The Supreme Court judgment in Miller did not go that far. The judgment was based on the fact that triggering Article 50 would be the no turning back moment at which the two years would start and inevitably run their course. Indeed, I know that there has been a legal opinion from three knights that Article 50 is revocable, but I know from my dealings with lawyers that you can find another three knights who will tell you something quite different. Although I have heard it said that the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, drafted the article, so he knows what it is about, in our system, it is not the draftsman who in the end declares what the article means.

If parliamentary approval were needed at the end of the deal, what might it look like? Some parts of it might very well deal with European nationals. Only a few days ago, we were expressing our shock and dismay that the position of European nationals might not be taken care of. Would we be throwing them all into disarray in two years’ time if, among probably thousands of pages of deal, there was something about European nationals?

I am sorry to say that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has departed from his usual clarity in legal matters. He has tied himself and the House in knots. On the one hand, he says that we always defer in the end to the Commons. I wonder whether we will hear that this evening or next week if there is a head-on clash between our decision, if we approve the amendment, and what the House of Commons says. On the other hand, he has also said that approval is better than having an Act of Parliament: it leaves it open to the Prime Minister to decide what to do. But with an Act of Parliament expressing what is in the amendment, the Commons would prevail because of the Parliament Act. You cannot really have it both ways. The only other possible outcome at the end is no deal. The two-year shutter comes down and we are off the cliff—that is the general outcome. Others know just as well how difficult that would be.

Our lack of sovereignty means that if at the end of two years the rest of the European Union does not give us what we want and either House rejects that deal, the European Union will, for sure, not welcome us back with open arms, will not necessarily accept a revocation of Article 50 and not necessarily give us a better deal. That is the reality of the situation. We will have to take what comes our way in two years’ time.