35 Lord Lea of Crondall debates involving the Department for Exiting the European Union

Thu 16th Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords
Mon 13th Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Thu 5th Sep 2019
European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 13th Feb 2019

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Lord Lea of Crondall Excerpts
Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords
Thursday 16th January 2020

(4 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 16-III Third marshalled list for Committee - (15 Jan 2020)
Moved by
39: After Clause 37, insert the following new Clause—
“Future relationship: EEA alignment
It shall be an objective of the Government to secure an agreement with the EU that aligns as closely as possible with EEA member status, having regard to Article 184 of the withdrawal agreement (concerning ongoing commitment to the political declaration).”
Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, the President of the European Commission indicated last week that there was no way that the Government’s open-ended agenda—I stand to be corrected about the detail of the shopping list for the rest of this year—could be dealt with by the end of this year. Indeed, it is seen in Brussels as simple wishful thinking; Boris Johnson will think of another wheeze in time to keep the show on the road.

Instead of “Get Brexit done”, the real question is “Let’s get Brexit real”. At the moment, we assume that the starting point was something like the withdrawal agreement and political declaration of October 2019, but we would like to see a credible programme of what the Government will try to negotiate by the summer or autumn in order to meet the commitment made by the Prime Minister. It is in that connection that we could have something like EEA/EFTA as a point of reference—a tick-box, if you like—for many of the questions that will arise. We have just heard an interesting debate about Erasmus, but there are 20 or 30 such subjects, all of which will need decisions, including in many cases on their compatibility with free trade for the rest of the world—all that work has been done over many years since the Stockholm Convention of the late 1950s and Britain’s participation in EFTA and, eventually, the EEC in 1973-74. We have now therefore to set out where we want to be on the whole range of things where we have alignment at the moment.

The Government often say “We have alignment at the moment”, so why not say the next thing? If we are taking some comfort in the fact that we have alignment at the moment, is not the question surely why we want to move away from it? Do Her Majesty’s Government have some ideological reason for moving away from alignment? At the end of January, we will be putting out the flags to say Brexit is all done—it has hardly started, as we know.

The EFTA and EEA agreements have other consequences as well. I am not suggesting that we would enter into them, given the short title of this Bill, but they include the very important questions of jurisdiction of settlements of disputes, the arbitration panel and so on, all of which are important if we want to continue to attract foreign direct investment into Britain. As the Financial Times charts, this is going down very rapidly, partly because these rather straightforward decisions have yet to be made. If they are not made very soon, there will be an assumption that the Government have not thought through how these Brexit-related issues will be resolved.

To remind ourselves, the EEA agreement provides for a free trade area covering all the EEA states. It does not extend the customs union to the EEA/EFTA states. The free trade area also abolishes tariffs on trade between the parties, but there are still border procedures. This is a model that I hope the Government will not run away from simply because it was not their idea in the first place. To get Brexit real, these become very serious options for consideration, and I hope that the Minister will agree that we should look at all these questions on their merits and at having a framework for the compatibility of them all. Looking at each question one by one is not necessarily the most helpful way to see how a framework can be agreed. Surely, by the end of this year, the notion is not just that we will have a number of separate agreements on everything under the sun but that we will have some sort of framework, because there are consequences between the different silos in any framework. I hope the Minister appreciates that—I say it in a constructive spirit—because it is, unfortunately, against the background that we will have left the European Union, possibly to rejoin the EEA at a later point. That is another question, but it is not something that the Minister should balk at simply because it sounds like a stalking horse for rejoining the EU. It is a perfectly good shopping list for the Government. I would like to know when the Government’s framework concept for the negotiations in the next few months will be published, or will the Government just keep all their cards up their sleeve and not publish such a thing?

Take the question of jurisdiction: it is very odd indeed that we should now want to attach more importance to jurisdictions where we have no judge, as we do in the European Court of Justice at present. During the transition and under the future envisaged in the political declaration, does the Minister agree that we will have to accept that it will be for the ECJ, without a UK judge, to present the authoritative view in any imaginable case between the EU and the UK before the new arbitral tribunal?

We know that there are issues that do not necessarily fit within the framework that I have just described, such as the free movement of persons and mutual recognition of diplomacies. There are limits to how far one wants to go in putting everything in what we might call a framework agreement but, again, a lot of work was done in the EEA negotiations. If we are going to shadow anything to see what works and what does not, that would be an excellent place to start. It would be far more effective than a one-off set of negotiations on a whole range of things one at a time. I hope that, in that spirit, the Minister will agree that there could be value to the Government in looking at such a framework.

Baroness Quin Portrait Baroness Quin (Lab)
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My Lords, I have not spoken on this Bill so far, because I was not able to attend the closing speeches at Second Reading, though I have followed most of the Bill proceedings. I added my name to the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Lea because I felt that it was a way of raising the issue of how close we manage to stay to the European market after Brexit. The amendment of course raises the importance of alignment. We have already heard several times from Ministers today that we are not leaving Europe even though we are leaving the EU, yet in so many ways we are putting obstacles in the way of our ongoing relationship with Europe. In terms of alignment, there is much emphasis on having freedom to make our own standards, but this seems quite an illusory freedom in many ways, which is probably not in our interests. Obviously, there may be some rules within the EU that we do not particularly like, but most of the rules we have agreed over the years are as part of the single market, which the United Kingdom very much pushed for in its early stages. Most of those standards and rules concern such things as consumer safety, environmental standards and sensible trading arrangements: we must not forget that as we move forward. In many ways, we actually made those rules: we were the prime mover in making those rules in the European market.

One of the arguments against being too close to EFTA was that that would make us rule-takers rather than rule-makers. Of course, that argument already concedes the fact that we have been rule-makers in the past. Within the EFTA arrangements, there are certainly ways in which we can influence the rules, which will not be the case if we do not follow any kind of close alignment after Brexit.

I have been struck in the course of our debates by how the issues I have been raising have been translated into vivid examples in different parts of the UK. I was very struck by the remarkable debate that took place quite late on Monday night about Northern Ireland, about the importance of the single market to Northern Ireland’s relationship with the Republic and how vital unfettered access to the UK market is to Northern Ireland. In particular, my noble friend Lord Hain made that point very powerfully, and there does not seem to be any easy answer. I cannot understand, and nobody has been able to explain it to me so far, why the arrangement consists of trying to assess whether goods that go into Northern Ireland from the UK may, or may be likely to, end up in the Republic of Ireland. I have no idea how that system of assessment is going to work. It seems unworkable and the debate in your Lordships’ House on Monday night underlined that point very strongly.

We also know that Scotland is very keen to keep as close to the European market as possible and is concerned about the Government’s trading stance. In my own part of the country, the north-east of England—the Minister will not be surprised that I mention it, because I always do—a higher proportion of our trade goes to the European market than any other region of the UK. When the Prime Minister visited the north-east recently, before election day, I was very much hoping that someone would ask him whether he accepts the figures of his own Government that the north-east is going to lose out in so many specific ways. He was never asked that but I would have liked to ask him whether he accepted those figures or, if he did not, what his own figures were. Perhaps the Minister will give us some clarification of that now. Certainly, our future trade arrangements will be vital to the future of the north-east economy.

There is a political point that needs to be made. We know that the referendum result in 2016 was narrow and that, despite the Government’s handsome majority of seats in the House of Commons now, none the less those people who voted for parties who either wanted a second vote or were in favour of remain comprised 53% as opposed to 47%. That is a contrary picture to that in 2016 and for that reason, while the Government have a mandate in terms of seats to go ahead with Brexit, they also have a responsibility to work towards a solution that will at least not seem totally antagonistic to what the other part of our population actually thinks. For that reason, a compromise would be to stay as close to the European market in as many constructive ways as we can.

We have just had a fascinating debate about Erasmus: that is a very good example of the kind of thing I am talking about. I urge the Government to look at this whole issue of alignment and staying close to the European market in a much more positive and constructive way than they have up to now.

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Lord Callanan Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Exiting the European Union (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who took part in the debate, but we have been very clear in the political declaration, and indeed in our election manifesto, on our vision for the UK’s future relationship with the EU, which is based on an ambitious free trade agreement.

As I always do, I enjoyed the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Quin. We share an interest in the north-east of England. She is an experienced former Minister, doing some aspects of the job that I do now, and I always listen very carefully to what she has to say because she speaks a great deal of sense. She asked about the impact on the north-east of England, something I am of course very interested in. The answer will depend on the future trading arrangements that we negotiate, so I say: come back and ask me again at the end of this year. We have been very clear that we want an ambitious free trade agreement. We want trade to be as free as possible and we will be negotiating hard to bring that happy state of affairs about.

The election has clearly shown, in my view, that the public support the vision that we put forward. It was extensively debated in the election campaign and we won our majority on that basis. To answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Lea, directly, I say that it is only by leaving the single market that the UK will be able to obtain an ambitious free trade agreement and to strike new trade deals with new and existing global partners. Attempts to remain in the EEA agreement beyond exit is by no means a simple as many noble Lords would have us believe. The EEA is an arrangement that exists at the moment between the EU and a number of EFTA countries—

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall
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I emphasise for the third time that this amendment is not about rejoining or staying in: it is, as my noble friend Lady Quin said, about alignment. Indeed, it is, if I may use the phrase, shadowing some of the rules that we have at the moment. Will the Minister comment on the fact that he has said many times that we are beginning from alignment? Why leave alignment, as a theological requirement?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I do not think that I said that. However, the noble Lord is right—although I did not say it on this occasion—that of course we are starting from a position of alignment. I do not have his amendment in front of me, but I think it refers to the EEA: it is the purpose of the amendment he has tabled, which is why I was exploring the issue.

The point I was going to go on to make is that the EEA is an agreement between the European Union member states and a number of EFTA states, and it is not open to the UK just to be able to join that agreement. We will leave it when we leave the EU part of that agreement, but the EU would almost certainly want to renegotiate it, because it was never designed for a country the size of the UK. That is if we did want to join it, but as I will shortly set out, I do not think it is desirable that we should. It is not a simple case, even if we wanted to, of happily trotting off and joining the EEA agreement: there are a number of other countries which are in at the moment that would no doubt have some observations on that.

My point is that attempts to remain in the EEA agreement beyond exit would not deliver control of our borders or our laws—two of the main three pillars of our argument for why we need to leave the EU. On borders, it would mean having to continue to accept all four freedoms of the single market—I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lea, that we could perhaps pick and choose which ones we wanted to abide by or align with, but I suspect that the EU might have something to say about that. However, we would of course have to accept free movement of people. On laws, it would mean that we would have to implement all new EU legislation—as the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, said, we would be rule-takers. The noble Baroness was not in her place last night, but I quoted Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, who said how dangerous it would be, as we seek to manage one of the largest and most complex financial markets in the world, to turn ourselves into rule-takers, whereby the rules were set by another jurisdiction. Despite Mark Carney’s views on EU exit, which are well known, he made it clear that he thinks that it would be an unacceptable state of affairs for us to proceed with. It would mean that the UK would have to implement all new EU legislation for the whole of the economy, including services, digital and financial services.

We do not believe that that would deliver on the British people’s desire as expressed in the referendum to have more direct control over decisions that affect their daily lives. Rules would be set in the EU that we would then have to abide by. The public want the Government to get on with negotiating this future relationship, which was set out in the political declaration, without any further unnecessary hurdles, and that is what the Government will do.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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The amendment refers to the EEA, and the noble Lord, Lord Lea, indicated earlier that he would be in favour of joining it, so I was making the arguments against that. However, we have also explored the arguments on alignment at different times in the past, and it may well be as a result of the negotiations that there are some areas of EU legislation that we may wish to align with or put in place an equivalence procedure. That is all for the future negotiations.

As we have said on many other amendments, we do not believe that it is a sensible tactic to set out our negotiating objectives in statute, or that setting a negotiating objective along the lines of that advocated in the amendment would be what the public voted for in the general election or in the original EU referendum. Our manifesto at the election was explicit about the Government’s intention and determination to keep the UK out of the single market. On that basis, although I suspect that I have probably not satisfied the noble Lord, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall
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I thank the Minister for that reply, although I think that whoever wrote his speech had not read the terms of the amendment. Over the course of the next four years, even if the Government do not want to set out a blueprint—

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I have a copy of the amendment and it says:

“aligns as closely as possible with EEA member status”.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall
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To align is something that we can do unilaterally or with agreement, but the amendment does not say “join”. I am sorry—I am not trying to be pedantic; we both know where we are, but that is what the amendment says.

To conclude, I hope that the Minister and the Government will generally reflect on the fact that, if they want to get Brexit real rather than just saying “Get Brexit done” as a slogan, they will have to see how a framework can be approached which will have certain common principles that will then be understood by the President of the European Commission. At the moment, she is baffled about whether the Government know what they are doing when they say that we can get all these things done one by one—scores of them all done and dusted by the end of this year. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 39 withdrawn.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Lord Lea of Crondall Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading (Hansard)
Monday 13th January 2020

(4 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Viscount Ridley Portrait Viscount Ridley (Con)
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My Lords, I think I have spotted an issue on which absolutely everybody in this House will agree, and that is that a can of WD-40 should be acquired to deal with that hinge which keeps making a noise like a wounded heifer from that end of the Chamber.

The noble Lords, Lord Forsyth, Lord Cormack, Lord Taylor and Lord Bridges, all made the point—as did the noble Lord, Lord Maude, I think—that this House must send this Bill back unamended, because otherwise we are in trouble as a House. Others disagree. I am not 100% sure that they are right, but it is worth reflecting on why the British people and, to some extent, the other place, distrust our motives and suspect that we are once again trying to prevent getting Brexit done if we amend this legislation.

In this House, we have heard three and a half years of excuses for not enacting the wishes of the British people. We heard that the economy would collapse if people voted to leave, but the British people said, “Get Brexit done.” We have heard that people did not understand what they were voting for, but the British people said, “Get Brexit done.” We have heard that there was a need for a meaningful vote in Parliament before any withdrawal agreement be passed, and the British people said, “Yes, okay, fine, but get Brexit done.” We have heard that the Northern Ireland border was insoluble, and people said, “Yes, fine, but get Brexit done.” We have heard that the EU would not let us diverge, and the British people said, “Please get Brexit done.” We have heard that there is not time to scrutinise all the secondary legislation necessary before leaving the European Union, and the British people said, “Get Brexit done.” And we have heard that people might have changed their minds since the vote in 2016, so in 2017 we had another general election, in which people voted overwhelmingly for parties that wanted to get Brexit done.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab)
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I am most grateful, as it is not usual to intervene in such a debate. Surely the question is: is it meaningful, without all the negotiations which we all know must take place over the next two or three years, just to say “Get Brexit done”, as if it makes sense, and to worship the people for saying something which might be rubbish?

None Portrait Noble Lords
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Oh!

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Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall
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My Lords, I very much echo the basic thrust of what the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, has just said. If it is true that on the doorsteps of Widnes and Wakefield, the election reflected a frustration which only Mr Dominic Cummings was able to put his finger on with the second of his brilliant pieces of mendacity—“Get Brexit Done”—that may itself turn out to be a false prospectus. If it does, what will be the position in a year’s time when the same people, on the same doorsteps of Widnes and Wakefield, see that it was a second misleading slogan? “Get Brexit Done”, implying a magic solution almost overnight, was an even bigger fib than “Take Back Control”—as if we are going to take back control in Widnes of a multinational corporation such as Google, or as if our workers could get some countervailing power with the world of China, the United States and so on.

I am also rather doubtful whether the citizens of Widnes and Wakefield would agree if it was put to them that “You’d much rather transform Britain into ‘the Singapore of Europe’, would you not?”. I think they would all say, “What’s all that about?”. I might say, “Well, let me tell you a little about Singapore works”—but of course it is a slogan. The trouble is that life in this country is now—social media comes into this—getting into a bigger remove from what we have slaved to do in the trade union movement. We had weekend schools trying to talk about how world market share depends on having a better value-added performance, along the lines of what they do in Sweden and so on. We had a lot of those things successfully transformed in the Labour Party and the TUC in 1988 by the famous occasions of Jacques Delors. It is very difficult, as time goes by, to counter the new right’s slogans when it is easy for people to think that this sort of quasi proto-nationalism is what chimes with them, just like support for their local football club. So we have a major problem in how we are going to avoid further disillusionment.

Only last week, we saw the beginnings of the unravelling of the idea that all this can be sorted out this year. I do not know whether the Minister can confirm this, but it was said by one well-informed journalist on the Spectator—his name is Mr James Forsyth—that a week ago, there was a Cabinet committee that decided that we would not in fact be able to sort all this out this year and therefore that we would have the gloss on this commitment, that it needed to be selective and the deal would be far more focused on goods than services. The punchline in the Spectator article was:

“The tight Brexit deadline will be met but, crucially, not all of the Brexit deal needs to be agreed by then. ‘We can do this in stages,’ says one cabinet source. ‘That will kill any talk of a cliff edge.’”


But that is not what the president of the Commission has agreed to. What we are saying is make-believe; my noble friend Lady Donaghy called it a pig in a poke. This is becoming absolutely undeniable. George Orwell would have been proud of the doublethink.

Finally, we are told that we have got to fly the union jack at the end of this month. The union jack is a flag that is being torn up by Boris Johnson. The scenario that is increasingly plausible about what could happen in Scotland, which my noble friend Lord Darling touched on, would mean that the St Andrew’s flag would go and we would break up the United Kingdom. This is what happens when you play the nationalist card and start talking about the flying of the union jack.

Brexit: Preparations

Lord Lea of Crondall Excerpts
Monday 21st October 2019

(4 years, 7 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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It is extremely difficult to say. However, the noble Lord is well experienced in parliamentary matters. The previous referendum, I think I am correct in saying, took about seven or eight months in total to get through the various Houses and their procedures and to take place. That was with a Government with a majority and a manifesto commitment to do it, so we can draw our own conclusions as to how long it would take to get referendum legislation through when this Government will manifestly not introduce that legislation. There is clearly no majority in either House for it and no agreement on what the question should be, or the franchise or the rules governing it. Many Members who are much more experienced in the workings of the House of Commons than I am have estimated that it could take even longer than that.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab)
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My Lords, paragraph 10 of the Statement repeated by the Minister reads as follows:

“Furthermore, no formal response from the EU has yet been received to the two letters sent by the Prime Minister on the evening of Saturday 19 October”.


Is the Minister surprised that there has been no formal response to these two letters, which say opposite things? One of the letters is not signed, and that is the view of Parliament. The other letter is signed by the Prime Minister. It says that the EU can ignore the first letter, which is unsigned, because it is only the view of Parliament. Is the Minister surprised that in a parliamentary democracy it should be so surprising that the European Union, in all its manifestations, has not replied to these two letters on the grounds, first, of the strange constitutional concept behind them and, secondly, that they say totally opposite things?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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What the Minister is surprised about is that the noble Lord clearly has not read the letters. We do not say in the second letter that the first one could be ignored. We were complying with the terms of the Act. We were sending the letter as required by the Benn Act but making clear what the policy of the Prime Minister and the Government is. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and other legal commentators have said that that is perfectly within the law.

Brexit: Divergence from EU Standards

Lord Lea of Crondall Excerpts
Thursday 3rd October 2019

(4 years, 7 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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As always on these matters, my noble friend speaks great sense. I agree with the points that he has made. The ability to set our own regulations and to adopt a nimble and flexible approach to regulations on future technologies would be one of the great advantages of leaving the EU.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that the previous Conservative Government, before the recent change, said that they would keep up with the changes to minimum standards? Is he saying that there has been no change in policy since that time or that there has been a change in policy since that time?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I am saying that one of the great advantages of our new, upcoming independence will be the ability to set our own regulations and standards, determined in this House. I am really not sure why the Opposition want Jean-Claude Juncker to determine our environmental standards rather than the British people and the British Parliament.

Brexit: Positions on the Pound

Lord Lea of Crondall Excerpts
Monday 30th September 2019

(4 years, 7 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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No, I do not agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson, and it is frankly sad that a person of his reputation is indulging in these ridiculous conspiracy theories. As Forbes business magazine put it, this is yet another “tin-foil-hat conspiracy theory”.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab)
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Is it the Government’s policy to avoid the pound falling below parity with the euro?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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The Government supports a floating pound and it would be wrong of me to comment on what the appropriate level should be—it is for the market, at the end of the day.

Brexit Readiness and Operation Yellowhammer

Lord Lea of Crondall Excerpts
Wednesday 25th September 2019

(4 years, 8 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I do in fact agree with a large part of the most reverend Primate’s remarks. I was not going to say it, but compromise is of course required. I remind the most reverend Primate that we attempted cross-party talks under the previous Administration, but they were not successful. I personally believe that the withdrawal agreement that we negotiated was a compromise. Those who would have preferred a so-called “clean-break” Brexit did not get everything they wanted. There were some aspects of the withdrawal agreement that I was not completely happy with, but I thought it was a good compromise with the EU. It was hard fought and hard negotiated but the fact is that it was rejected three times in Parliament.

It remains the Government’s objective to get a deal but, given the attitude of some of the opposition parties, I am not confident that, even if we did get a deal, they would be prepared to facilitate its passage through Parliament. We are between a rock and a hard place. I firmly believe that the strength of our democracy and political system depends on satisfying the wishes of the 17.4 million people who voted in the referendum that we should leave the European Union. We attempted to do it with a deal, but that did not prove successful: Parliament did not vote for that.

In my view, Parliament is not complying with the wishes of the referendum Act that it passed and authorised. We asked people for their opinion in the referendum. We sent however many million leaflets to every house in the country saying, “We will abide by your decision”, but we are not abiding by that decision and that is the problem. I would welcome the good offices of the most reverend Primate for some mediated way forward. I would be happy to engage with that, but I firmly believe that, for the strength of our democracy in this country, it is essential that we deliver on that referendum result.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab)
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The noble Lord, Lord Callanan, seems to give the impression that the referendum result was unambiguous—we all know that we are in this difficulty because it was not. As the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said, there are many different sorts of compromise. Would the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, withdraw his reiteration that the referendum result was somehow unambiguous, and as such, for example, incompatible with staying in the internal market and customs union? There are many ways in which things could be agreed, and the referendum result is not one he can rely on as unambiguous.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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I do not know what the noble Lord’s definition of ambiguity is, but in response to the question “Do you wish to remain in the European Union or leave the European Union”, the country replied, “leave the European Union”. The noble Lord might think that is ambiguous, but I do not.

European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill

Lord Lea of Crondall Excerpts
Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab)
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My Lords, just over a week ago, Ministers started to backtrack on an important announcement made by the Prime Minister two weeks previously that he would respond to Angela Merkel on his alternative way of dealing with matters raised by the necessity of the backstop. That necessity is that there needs to be some way of continuing the internal market and customs union in the context of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. A week today, when we will not be here, will be the red-letter day for the reply that the Prime Minister has promised to give Angela Merkel. Does the Minister still expect such a reply to be given, or is this another of those commitments that disappears into thin air after a few days of media?

What could the Prime Minister have said, or could still say? It is logical, and in line with the provisions of the Bill, which I think will undoubtedly be enacted, that another way of looking at the backstop question should be seriously considered. It is as follows: that in order that we have no border on the island of Ireland, therefore, on both sides of that border, there is common membership of the single market and the customs union. Some people in Northern Ireland then say, “But there could be a dotted-line boundary in the Irish Sea”, to which the answer is that the whole of the British Isles needs to stay in the internal market and the customs union. By the way, that was very near to being adopted by the House of Commons, but at the time there was competition between two or three similar alternatives. People say with a degree of vehemence, “Of course, there is no consensus in the House of Commons for anything remotely like that”, but that has not actually been tested in the House of Commons recently.

That would also deal with the key question posed on many doorsteps in this country along the lines of, “What have the Romans ever done for us?”. We in the trade union movement—I was heavily involved in this in the TUC—know that with an internal market, it is essential that you have a way to deal with undercutting by anyone competing with us who is a member of the internal market. The answer to that, given by Jacques Delors in 1988, was collective bargaining at a higher level, so there is an understanding, an undertaking, by qualified majority voting if necessary, on the baker’s dozen of important rights for part-time workers, and so onI will not enumerate them now. None of that will be possible without the guarantees which can alone be given by staying in the internal market.

That is one of the things that the Romans have done for us, and I ask the Minister to confirm what he has said previously in a slightly different context: “Yes, we will give those guarantees”, but how can we believe government guarantees? Therefore, we need the whole of the British Isles to stay in the customs union and the internal market.

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Lord Empey Portrait Lord Empey (UUP)
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The noble Lord, Lord O’Donnell, is not in his place right now but, before I begin my remarks, I wanted to mention the problem of spads, because it is not only here that they have caused problems. I personally believe that a lot of the problems in Northern Ireland are the result of spads out of control and their Ministers creating a culture where they can function, interrupting the normal flow of business in the department. That is something that, as a country, we need to examine, because it has a serious impact on our structure of government.

During the debate, a number of Members, some of whom have considerable experience, have been kind enough to refer to the problems in Northern Ireland. We know that that has been at the core of the blockage to progress for quite some time—though it is not confined to that, because there are quite a number of Members in the other place who see a range of other problems with the withdrawal agreement and would wish to replace that and have an entirely new negotiation.

I think it is true to say that the negotiation has been wrong from the very beginning. Someone said that we should have tried to get more of a cross-party consensus before we started the negotiations and, I have to say to noble Lords opposite, their leader was first out of the trap to call for triggering Article 50 immediately after the referendum, which seems to have been forgotten in discussions. He was out there wanting that done before we had even agreed a negotiating position.

The danger with the Bill—it is most unfortunate—is that it puts us into a further period of purgatory where we do not get an agreement. My sense is that what we should concentrate on in Parliament is finding alternatives. We need solutions. We do not need to rehearse the arguments of the referendum debate again and again. I just point out that, in 2015, when the referendum Bill became law, 554 Members of the House of Commons voted for it, and we were no better. Having let Pandora out of the box, we are now confronted because, for political and party reasons, we let a particular process emerge that was different to our normal parliamentary process—and then we complain about the problems created by it. It has been done by our own hand. We all, on all sides of this House, live in glass houses and that is something we need to reflect on as we move forward.

I believe there are alternatives, and I have been trying with colleagues for some months now to influence government and to speak to other people to look at what they might be. The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, referred to the alternative arrangements working group. I understand that its work—I have seen some of it, but I have not read every detail—is terribly technically focused. Many of the problems we have in all parts of Ireland are not technical. They go to the heart of what people feel is their identity. Some feel that they have been short-changed. They supported the 1998 agreement and feel that this process upsets that. Others are exploiting the situation for cynical reasons. Sinn Féin is the most anti-European party in Ireland. It has opposed every treaty. It has opposed everything from the 1970s, and its support for it now is purely from the teeth out.

Leaving that aside, let us focus on what possible alternatives there could be. Instead of being a problem for the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, why do we not use the agreement and some of its institutions and precedents as part of the solution? I have mentioned this to noble Lords before. With some modest devolution from here to Stormont, perhaps based on trade issues and others, I believe that we could address the democratic deficit created by the backstop where Northern Ireland would be receiving regulations from Brussels but would have no representation there. It would be a rule taker and effectively a European colony, and over time a gradual difference would emerge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom in terms of rules and regulations.

It seems to me that it would be appropriate for a number of measures to be taken. We need to send a signal to our European colleagues that we take their single market seriously. We need to make it clear that, if anybody uses United Kingdom territory to export goods to the European single market that are not compliant, that is an offence. We should create a new north/south body under the 1999-2000 treaty specifically to deal with cross-border trade issues.

I was Trade Minister for some years in Northern Ireland and set up two of the six cross-border bodies—InterTradeIreland and Tourism Ireland. They have worked for 20 years. The six bodies have staff working on both sides of the border. There is no problem. There are no complaints. They get on with their business and it is totally acceptable. I see no reason why that body should not have at least two functions. We both start with the same rulebook and the same regulations on education. Any new regulations coming from either side could be notified to that body. It could then ensure that the totality of the people who export into the Republic are advised of the regulations and the same would apply the other way round.

You could further ask them to ensure that, if they see any sign of inappropriate movement of goods or processes when visiting depots and companies, it is reported to the relevant authorities. Do you realise that if the backstop were implemented as it stands to date, goods coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland would have to be treated as coming from a third country? There was mention of that in other speeches but not in that context. It creates a huge problem for us because it is the beginning of a separation process. I think that that is unnecessary and extremely difficult.

The cry from Dublin and Brussels is that we need an insurance policy. I get that. I think this insurance policy should be that the United Kingdom should indemnify the European Union by treaty. If our territory were used to export goods not covered by European rules to the Republic, we would have to indemnify them. If we found that goods slipped through, it would be our responsibility to them. People can always smuggle, whatever agreement you have, but it would mean that the insurance policy would come from us, by treaty. With the cross-border treaty, you could join the EU to that treaty, so that the body which would operate and be democratically answerable both to Stormont and Dublin could have EU observers, or they could be linked into the treaty. There would be no secrets; it would all be above board. The North/South Ministerial Council to which that body would report is an existing, widely accepted institution. We also have the east-west dimension, with the British-Irish Council, which could also have a role. Instead of the agreement sitting there as a threat, it should be used as part of the solution.

There are these technical schemes, such as trusted trader status. I get all that. The big problem we have in Ireland is not simply technical. It is people feeling that they have been short changed and that they are in a situation not of their own making and which is out of their control. We could give them this control back.

My party does not have the technical back-up and support necessary to work out the detail. At least the Taoiseach said, when we released it the other day, that he was prepared to look at it. It is easy to say that; it does not mean anything. Instead of having the referendum argument all over again, we need to spend our time concentrating on solutions. Only solutions are going to avoid the difficulties of leaving the European Union in a disorderly manner which does not suit anybody in Ireland—north, south, east or west. I certainly do not want to see it.

There is another thing that people forget. There is a land border of 300-odd miles—we know all about that. The vast majority of material moving between Ireland and Great Britain does not come across the border. It goes from Dublin to Holyhead and Fishguard to Rosslare. Some 80%-90% of Irish goods travel on the British land bridge. They either go to the UK market or to the European or world markets. The north-south trade flows represent one-10th of 1% of EU trade flows. Of total imports to the Irish Republic from the whole of the world, only 1.6% comes from Northern Ireland. The vast majority of this is agri-food and animals. It may be 1.6% of imports to the Irish Republic, but it is a bigger percentage of our exports, so a lot of our small businesses depend heavily on it. It is a bigger deal for us in many respects than it is for them. Their problem is the exports to Great Britain, where for instance 55% of their beef comes to the UK. This is a huge quantity which is not going to be replaced by other markets in five minutes, particularly if you get 45% tariffs applied.

Let us redouble our efforts and stiffen every sinew to find solutions. There is no point in arguing over who said what in 2016 at the referendum. Everybody is to blame either through sins of omission or through sins of commission. We all put our hands up for the legislation. Let us look for solutions. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said. Those technical issues are part of it, but we need—

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall
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Is the noble Lord not effectively saying that the whole of the British Isles should be part of one internal market and customs union?

Lord Empey Portrait Lord Empey
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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.

Further Discussions with the European Union under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union

Lord Lea of Crondall Excerpts
Wednesday 27th February 2019

(5 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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Absolutely true, of course. I look forward with interest to hearing noble Lords’ contributions this afternoon. I do not know who writes this, but that is good. I must pay tribute to the stamina of many noble Lords on the speakers list today who have spoken in many, if not all, of the Brexit debates we have had in the past few months. Yet again, the challenge will be to introduce new points that we have not heard before: I am sure that noble Lords will rise to the occasion. As usual, my noble and learned friend Lord Keen is champing at the bit in his enthusiasm and looking forward to the utmost to responding to the issues raised in his winding-up speech.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab)
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I can help the Minister with a new point. Is not one of the serious difficulties that we have entered into an arrangement with Brussels whereby we cannot discuss new relationships until we have left? Yet all the time people are trying to spatchcock new relationships, whether it is the customs union, the single market or other arrangements. Is it not time to consider whether the sequencing is satisfactory? I do not know how one would answer that, but there is a difficulty in the way in which the sequencing has been laid down.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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Of course, we can and have discussed the future relationship. There is a whole political declaration devoted to the new relationship, but the legal position is that the EU cannot legally conclude a further, ongoing relationship until we are a third country. If there are no more interventions, I beg to move.

EU Withdrawal

Lord Lea of Crondall Excerpts
Wednesday 13th February 2019

(5 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Cavendish of Furness Portrait Lord Cavendish of Furness (Con)
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My Lords, it is fascinating to follow such a fluent speaker. I do not think that I am qualified to challenge what he told your Lordships.

As a convinced supporter of leaving the European Union, I recognise that I am in a tiny minority in your Lordships’ House. I invite noble Lords to pause for thought that this House, for the first time since 1910, has parted company with the people. There was a trust, I believe, between the people and the Peers that we would support them against a high-handed other House. I am not sure that that is entirely significant, but what I would say about people who are very gloomy about the churn and bad temper that the noble Lord, Lord Wilson, touched on is that we might look back and say that this was an extraordinary moment of change in British history and British politics where there was a realignment of people, and the bad temper and hot debate was all part of that and was perhaps more constructive than we see it now on a day-to-day basis.

I was interested, as perhaps other noble Lords were, to read an article in last week’s newspapers drawing our attention to the treaty of Utrecht of 1713. The author—of the article, not of the treaty—Mr Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, made the point that the famous treaty still holds force today because, unlike agreements such as NAFTA, NATO or the World Trade Organization, it contains no escape clause. The withdrawal agreement has no escape clause either. By signing it, we would be bound by its terms literally for ever. No country that I can think of with any significant stature in modern times has ever committed an act of such suicidal folly and self-harm as throwing away indefinitely fundamental sovereign powers.

I accept the advice that the term “best endeavours” may indeed have some force in international law, and, for all I know, “protocol” or some other comfortable form of words might, in diplomatic terms, add value to negotiations, but this is simply not good enough. We have been here before. I remind noble Lords how Mr Tony Blair affected to meet concerns about the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, which became legally binding under the Lisbon treaty. He told the other place that, through securing Protocol 30:

“It is absolutely clear that we have an opt-out”.—[Official Report, Commons, 25/6/07; col. 37.]


The rest is history. As a consequence of that contemptible episode, the ECJ acquired jurisdiction over swathes of our commercial, social and criminal law that was not intended by Parliament.

Of course, I am not remotely exercised by President Tusk’s preferred choice about where I spend eternity. What I cannot ignore is the EU’s increasingly aggressive attitude to this country in general and its relentless attacks on the City of London in particular. I remind noble Lords, as I have before, that we are morally and legally entitled to leave the European Union.

A gulf is fast developing between the very well-paid and arrogant officials of the EU and the citizens and institutions of individual states. I meet men and women from continental Europe who express acute embarrassment and shame at what is being done and said in their name. A group of top German economists have told the EU to tear up the Irish backstop and ditch its ideological demands in Brexit talks, calling instead for a flexible Europe of concentric circles that preserves friendly ties with the United Kingdom. Brussels must, they said, abandon its indivisibility dogma on the EU’s four freedoms to come up with a creative formula or risk a disastrous showdown with London that could all too easily spin out of control. What welcome and sensible mood music that is, compared with the vile-mannered stuff issuing from the mouths of some Eurocrats. The vexatious backstop is, for me, only one of the wholly unacceptable aspects of the withdrawal agreement. If there is any merit in the political declaration, I think it is that it has little or no legal force. By my reading, it gives away control over the environment, labour law, competition and state aid. Through non-regression clauses, none of this body of law would be capable of repeal. There is no mutual recognition for future trade in services. Accordingly, under the scope of the withdrawal agreement the most valuable and critical part of the economy will have been sacrificed.

During these debates I have asked the opposition parties from time to time what they like about the EU. I do not think there is much interest in the Liberal Democrat view, as it becomes daily clearer that, as a party, they have more appetite for virtue signalling than for governing. Their attitude to EU membership at the last election decimated their numbers, but it has not led them to moderate their actions here in your Lordships’ House to be more in line with their representatives in the House of Commons, a practice followed, I suggest, by both Labour and Conservatives in the past. Labour politicians, as distinct from Labour voters, have an obvious taste for EU membership, as it shields them from any responsibility for their redistributive policies. Their appetite for helping themselves incontinently to money they have not earned is something they can and do blame on the remote people of Brussels.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab)
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The noble Lord refers to things we have not earned. Since he owns 17,000 acres, can he explain how come that is his main critique of the other party in this House?

Lord Cavendish of Furness Portrait Lord Cavendish of Furness
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I wish I understood the question. Will the noble Lord repeat it?

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall
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We know that part of the animus about the Labour Party on the Benches opposite is their attitude to the distribution of wealth. To be more specific, I am simply asking the noble Lord whether, as an Etonian, he believes there is an issue there? Does he have some understanding of why many people in this country would take a different view?

Lord Cavendish of Furness Portrait Lord Cavendish of Furness
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How nice to hear from an old class warrior. Yes, I did go to Eton and, yes, I do have land, or my family does—I have declared an interest; it is all in the register—and I should have thought my party were really rather enthusiastic redistributors ourselves. My point is not that we are redistributing other people’s money incontinently but that we are happy to face the voter at election time, but I enjoyed the intervention.

Given that we never hear from Labour politicians so much as a syllable of criticism directed at the EU and its works, I would love to know how ready they are to sign up to the EU’s federal ambitions, how comfortable they are with the well-chronicled defects of its institutions, the vast cost of corruption, the crony capitalism, the protectionist policies that harm developing countries, the democratic deficit and the truly inhuman scale of youth unemployment. Above all, they speculate, wrongly, that Brexit will cause poverty, yet they seem determined to ignore the impact of the common external tariff at between 18% and 20%—I have asked the noble Baroness on the Front Bench several times—that is levied on clothes, footwear and food. So much for Labour’s pretension to care for the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

I will say more generally that I cannot remember a time when the political class was so out of touch with the people they represent—that is a more general point and I do not focus it just on the party opposite. I canvassed opinion quite widely in Cumbria over the weekend, consulting people who voted leave and those who voted remain but have now become leavers. The reason for the change is quite often rather complex. However, overwhelmingly it has been that this has all gone on for far too long and that, to quote my right honourable friend the Prime Minister,

“no deal is better than a bad deal”.

I happen to believe unashamedly, as somebody in business, that a clean break on WTO terms is better even than a second-rate deal. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and all those following her, even some on my own side, have talked about chaos and crashing out. Some 130 countries deal on WTO terms without much distress. Maybe they have been listening to the CBI, an organisation at the heart of crony capitalism that takes money from the European Union.

It is time to take stock. Those on my side of the argument put forward suggestions and ideas almost daily. For example, I have qualified enthusiasm for what has become known as the Malthouse compromise. I wholeheartedly applaud Kit Malthouse for bringing together people of opposing views in a constructive search for solutions.

My understanding remains that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister undertook to achieve certain objectives consistent with the result of the referendum. They were to take back control of our laws, end European Court of Justice jurisdiction in the United Kingdom, end vast sums of money going to the EU, end free movement, allow the UK to leave the single market and the customs union, guarantee control of our agriculture and fisheries policy, allow new, independent trade deals for goods and services, guarantee existing defence and security arrangements with interested allies and keep the parts of our precious country united. In these very difficult circumstances, a reasonable person might allow for some slippage on some of these undertakings but, as I understand it, not a single one of these undertakings has been honoured in full by the withdrawal agreement. I do not know which failure shocks me most; I single out just one. Surely every single loyal British subject is entitled to assurances following the warnings by a former field marshal of the British Army and heads of our Security Service that the withdrawal agreement imperils our security. Can it really be the case that defence of the realm—that principal responsibility of all democratically elected Governments—can be traded away? What is going on?

I agree with the notion that officials advise and Ministers decide, and it would therefore be wrong to point a finger at the Civil Service. To that extent, and only to that extent, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wilson. Might it be, I ask myself, that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister’s heroic resilience under such unprecedented pressure is the result of the field of advice being too narrow rather than too broad? Might it be the case that she consults with colleagues too little rather than too much? Whatever the case, it seems that confusion reigns. Worse, it feels that as the process winds wearily on, we are being deceived. I know for a fact that I am far from alone in this view. If trust continues to be eroded, and if people are denied the Brexit they voted for, I fear for my party, my country, the new generation and those that follow. Above all, I fear for representative democracy and the rule of law, which our forebears won at such great cost.

Brexit: Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration

Lord Lea of Crondall Excerpts
Thursday 10th January 2019

(5 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab)
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My Lords, I very much agree with much of what the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, said. I feel some constraint, as we were earlier advised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, that we were addressing a Bill to leave the EU. I will therefore try to limit my remarks for the most part to how we could get a better outcome while still leaving the EU. I think that his words have been touched on by my noble friend Lord Monks.

To give some shape to what I want to say, I will deal with issues of substance such as the single market and the customs union, which address questions such as Dover/Calais and the Irish border. However, there are then endless issues of process, ranging from the role of Parliament to a general election, a referendum or perhaps tossing a coin. The two are quite separate but get mixed up.

On what I call the substance, the Institute for Government said the other day that there is a spectrum of trade-offs and we have to decide where there can be any sort of parliamentary majority between those trade-offs. That is exactly right on where we are today. There can be such a majority in the area, as has been said, of moving from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 of the European Economic Area. By the way, I have heard it said in the Corridor, “Who’s ever heard of the EEA?” I do not know how many of the people who say that sort of thing fly to Alicante or some other part of the continent for their holidays and come back to Gatwick. If they do, they will have to queue under a big heading saying “EEA”—or, to be a bit more technical, “EEA and Switzerland”. Perhaps I can ask the Minister to check before Monday so that he has time to get an answer to this question: what will happen to the EEA queue at Alicante or at Gatwick?

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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It will get longer.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall
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Apart from getting longer, will it still be there at all and who will be able to go through it?

I would like to stay in the single market and the customs union. The pamphlet that I helped to prepare points out—Liberal Democrats please note—how it could be done successfully. My basic difference from the Government’s proposal is that we would stay long-term in the single market and in the customs union or, if you want to use the indefinite article, “a” customs union negotiated with the EU, which I think would be roughly the same thing. As far as I understand it, and I will be corrected if I am wrong, the objections to doing that are not from Brussels, as those requirements or suggestions were requested, but from London—ideological objections because of certain parts of the Conservative Party.

Someone made the remark in this context that they feel “trapped”. I think it was the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, who asked, “How do we get out of this trap?” We are not the only people who are trapped: people in Bolton are trapped and see their public services and industry disappearing all at the same time. My noble friend Lord Grocott made the very valid observation that people feel that they are on the dumping ground of history. Without mentioning Professor Trump—actually he is not a professor, is he? I do not think he can even read a book. Without mentioning President Trump, we are aware of that sort of politics.

To go further on to the point mentioned by my noble friend Lord Monks, I say that earlier in the year we tabled an amendment to have a parliamentary role in a mandate. In a trade union you have a mandate, and then you have the executive look at the results of the negotiation by reference to the mandate. That was not done, which was a pity. It was the Commons that rejected it, not the Lords. If there had been such a mandate we would have been a little further forward, such as looking at the proto-treaty that emerged on 20 December, when we were on our way home for Christmas, about the EFTA/EU separation agreement.

I would like to ask the Minister to reply on Monday about how, if we did wish to synchronise the clocks of leaving the EU and rejoining EFTA, that would work. Would that be compatible with the proto-treaty published on 20 December?

In conclusion, the idea that the EEA is incapable of reform is not the case. It was always intended by Jacques Delors that it would evolve. It would be a different organisation with Britain back in it; there is no doubt about that. On the objection that, when we have left the table, we would not have a vote, even Boris Johnson’s logic surely would not demand that we leave the table, pay no money and yet complain about not having a vote.

I will finish where I began. To get out of the mess that we are in at the moment we are very much hoping that there will be support in both Houses—as I think there will be—for the emergence of some sort of interest in an amendment next week that we stay within the European Economic Area.