EU: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Motions) DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Baroness Morgan of CotesMain Page: Baroness Morgan of Cotes (Conservative) - Loughborough)
Order. A five-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches must now apply with immediate effect.
The debate is proving to be thoughtful and considered. It is the debate that we should have had two years ago. There was an appetite from all parts of the House and from all different perspectives to have such a debate more than two years ago. There was also a spirit across the House—among those who voted leave and those who voted remain—to come together and find a way to make the process work. It is why so many Members from all parts of the House voted for article 50, but also put forward proposals through Select Committees and different debates, and wanted the chance to table amendments. That is why I called for a cross-party commission to oversee the negotiations from the very beginning. Sadly, that did not happen and the Prime Minister did not want to do things that way. That is why we are in this terrible mess and our constituents are tearing their hair out. Whether they voted leave or remain, people are feeling deeply frustrated and let down.
Just as our constituents—employers and trade unions, neighbours and friends, different parts of communities—come together to compromise and sort things out, it is our responsibility to do that now. The proposal to hold indicative votes was important. We will all have to compromise and vote for motions, parts of which we do not necessarily agree with. We might not agree with every single bit of a motion or an idea, but we might think there is the basis for finding some form of compromise.
When the CBI, which represents 190,000 British businesses, and the TUC, which represents 5.6 million British workers, come together to describe a national emergency, there is a responsibility on us to act. They spoke with other members of a national industrial coalition in Parliament this morning, in a meeting that the right hon. Member for Meriden (Dame Caroline Spelman) and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) called. They said that a plan B that protects workers, the economy and an open Irish border, commands a parliamentary majority, and is negotiable with the EU must be found. That is why I have put my name to the customs union motion. I have called for that from the beginning and I think it can be the basis of finding consensus and building agreement.
Businesses in our area—our big manufacturers, Burberry and Haribo; local retailers and distributors such as Asda and Teva; small businesses and traders, farmers and florists—have all warned that they need a deal that avoids border delays, tariffs or extra customs bureaucracy. It is why we heard from the motor manufacturers, the National Farmers Union and the aerospace sector in the meeting this morning. They all called for a customs union, which is at the heart of Labour motion (K) on an alternative Brexit approach. It is also why the TUC argued for the importance of the common market 2.0 approach.
In the motions and in points that Members of all parties have made, there is a range of options that we should consider and that mean we can continue to oppose the chaos of no deal, which would be deeply damaging to all our constituents. I keep very much in mind the words of a friend in Pontefract, who I talked to last week. He is waiting for radiotherapy but does not know whether the treatment will be delayed because no deal could put at risk the supply of the short-life isotopes that are needed for radiotherapy. In his interests and those of patients in all our constituencies, as well as constituents who could be hit by higher food, fuel and utilities prices in the event of a chaotic no deal, we must continue to argue against it.
I take a different approach from that suggested by motion (L), because I think that in those circumstances we should argue for more time with the European Union to try to get a resolution and, frankly, to sort things out.
Whatever the outcome today and on Monday, we are going to have to do two things that the Government have fundamentally failed to do—get clarity on what Brexit means and build consensus. We are talking about constitutional change, and nothing lasts without consensus. On Scottish and Welsh devolution, consensus was built and it lasted. On the Lisbon and Maastricht treaties, consensus was not built and support for them has not endured. The same is true in this situation. Unless clear consensus can be built, public consent or a public vote will be needed through a general election or referendum; otherwise it will not last. It is in all of our interests to build consensus, come together and do what we should have done two years ago.