European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Lord Brooke of AlverthorpeMain Page: Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Labour - Life peer)
If that is the case, why would we leave the European Union? If the noble Lord is arguing that the referendum results in us staying in the customs union and the single market, I do not see what the point of leaving is because the whole rationale is different. It is all right saying that here, but we must not forget that the coalition Government brought this legislation into Parliament in the first place. We must remember that everybody has had their hands on this issue, and not always with distinction. Let us focus on solutions that can work.
I am sorry. I thought the noble Lord was intervening and was giving way. Perhaps the noble Lord is giving me a hint. I have not quite broken the record of some distinguished noble colleagues in making the 20-minute mark, but I urge colleagues that we need to be prepared to open our minds. We do not want a disorderly departure or to have the can continuously kicked down the road or to retain the uncertainties that not having a solution brings. I think that, despite what people say about their negotiating tactics, with what has been said by Chancellor Merkel and President Macron, the time has come for Her Majesty’s Government to put some solid things on the table, and then we can get to grips and have a proper negotiation. Once things are on the table, people will have to say why they reject them and if they cavalierly dismiss them, they will be weakening their case in public opinion.
My Lords, I speak as a remain voter, but one who is convinced that the referendum result must be respected. I want to focus today on the central issue of trust. There have been some really good points made on trust between this place and the Government—particularly those made by the noble Lords, Lord Hayward, Lord O’Donnell and Lord Kerr. I entirely concur with those points, but there is another angle to trust: the trust between Parliament and the people. That is the point I want to focus on today.
It was Confucius, I believe, who said that,
“three things are needed for government: weapons, food and trust. If a ruler can’t hold on to all three, he should give up the weapons first and the food next. Trust should be guarded to the end: ‘without trust we cannot stand’”.
I think that is absolutely right. During the referendum campaign, the people were repeatedly told by the Government that if we voted for leave, that is exactly what would happen. If, for whatever reason, we do not leave, or even continue for many years with the current paralysis—following what was, we must remember, the biggest democratic exercise in British history—it would be fatal for trust in politics, which has already been much damaged by the events of the past three years. Many already feel the gulf between the so-called Westminster elites and the people, which will only be widened by that continuing. The extremist politics we have seen on the rise in the UK in recent years could pale into insignificance against what could be unleashed if the vote is not respected.
So what has that to do with this Bill? It is a Bill that rules out the United Kingdom leaving the EU without a deal. I understand the reasons of those noble Lords who do not wish to leave without a deal. Many excellent points have been raised today about the difficulties of no deal. There would be much hardship, at least in the short term. But I work in business, as do many noble Lords, and, to pick up a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, I believe that it is essential to hold no deal on the table—to keep it as an option—to ensure that we can get and maintain that leverage with the EU in our negotiations that will result in a better deal for the UK.
In the end, this issue will be resolved via an election, but I believe that no deal must be maintained as an option to get the best deal for the UK and ensure that we do indeed leave and get the democratic will of the people seen through that vote.
Break in Debate
I am saying that it seems blindingly obvious to me that the EU has no possible incentive to negotiate anything because the two options that would then remain on the table would be either revoking or the existing withdrawal agreement, both of which the EU is perfectly happy with. Why would it negotiate anything else once we have removed the option of no deal from the equation?
Lots of negotiations are predicated in the political agreement. There are also arrangements within the existing withdrawal agreements for exploration of alternative arrangements, but the problem is that, in the meantime, we would have to legislate for the backstop, which then gives us no option unilaterally to withdraw from it.
I am struggling to see the point that the noble Lord is making. Europe’s offer is effectively the withdrawal agreement, which personally I thought was an acceptable compromise, but it is a fact that the House of Commons rejected it. His party and the Liberal Democrats voted against it. Presumably there is something wrong with the withdrawal agreement, then.