Lord Trimble debates involving the Leader of the House during the 2017-2019 Parliament

Brexit: Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration

Lord Trimble Excerpts
Thursday 6th December 2018

(5 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Trimble Portrait Lord Trimble (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I feel sorry to have to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, that I think she is pointing in the wrong direction. If as a result of political activity we fail to deliver the results of the referendum, we are going to find a considerable reaction from people when they discover they have been swindled of the results that they wanted. I think that is the road down which the party over there is heading, and it is heading in the wrong direction.

I do not want to dwell on that matter because there is what for me is a more significant issue flowing from quite a bit of the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Murphy. I am very glad to see that my noble friend Lord Bew is in his seat because his contribution yesterday was extremely good. Unfortunately I was not here to hear it, but I have read the Hansard and if anyone was not there then I urge them to read it. There is material in that speech that has never been given here. It is surprising that the Attorney-General did not pick up some of the issues that the noble Lord covered.

The basic problem, as the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, said, is that the people who drew up the Irish protocol are deeply imbued with a different way of approaching things. I dare say most of them were énarques, but that is not our system. As has been said, they drafted something that is top-down. Being top-down means that it is depriving the people in that Chamber of having an effective say in what is happening. It is not a democratic process. That protocol is not a democratic one and it undermines the Belfast agreement.

Over the past year or two, people have expressed concern that this process might damage it. Yes, but it is not the desire to leave the EU that is causing the damage; it is what the EU is doing by way of reprisal, aimed not just at us in Northern Ireland but at the UK as a whole. There is something there that we have to take on board. What the Attorney-General did not realise is that there was a case, Matthews in 1999, in which the European Court of Justice condemned the creation of arrangements that deprive people of their opportunity for democratic participation. That is what the protocol does, and it has to go. Actually, I think the whole agreement has to go; while the provisions relating to Northern Ireland and Ireland are particularly perverse, you get echoes of the same thing the whole way through. We have a situation where a certain Mr T Blair, speaking in Brussels the other day, said that the EU will not permit the UK to leave the common customs arrangements. Your Lordships can work out who I am talking about, and I am afraid that what he is saying is most regrettable.

Those comments come from what has been said. I want to add a couple more comments on more general matters, which I will try to keep as short as possible. The first is a reflection on the single market. Looking through the newspapers earlier this week, I discovered an interesting fact: they said that non-single-market countries have been increasing their exports to the EU at a rate greater than that of most single market members. If non-single-market countries are doing enormously well outside the single market, how valuable or necessary is the single market when you are dealing with that situation? Add to that the fact that we in the UK have a substantial deficit with the single market. I have seen the figures variously reported over the last few years as being £70 billion or £90 billion per annum—huge sums. It does not work for us. It does not work for our economy. There is no point pretending otherwise. That is the reality of it.

People are talking about the problems that might arise with no deal. I think the issues there have been greatly exaggerated. In the modern world, supply-side shocks have often had less impact than expected. Thanks to globalisation, there are more alternative sources of supply; and because of information technology, we know more about accessing them.

We might leave without a deal. I do not think it is necessary or inevitable but it might occur, and it can be coped with. I think we will discover, because of the factors that I have just mentioned, that it will not be anywhere near as bad as people have predicted. But then, of course, we have been having another attempt to whip up Project Fear to scare people into going in one particular direction. Again, I think that is going to fail.

There is one other, lesser Project Fear situation. Our own Government, I am afraid, sometimes say to members of the party that they have to be careful what they do in case we end up with a Corbyn Government. Let us think about that. If there were to be a Corbyn Government, we would expect that, like all socialist Governments, they would inflict serious damage on the economy and ruin public finances. But such an Administration are not likely to survive. They might get through one term, but might not even reach the end of one. If there is a problem there, it is a short-term one. When we look at the alternative of accepting the withdrawal agreement, we see problems that are not short-term but long-term. As has been said in the Attorney-General’s report—it is also there in the agreement, if you look carefully—the provisions for the backstop and its related matters will continue indefinitely. Under those provisions there is no way in which we can be sure of getting out from underneath them.

On one hand, there is a negative thing which is short-term; and on the other, there is a bigger negative thing which will be generational in its application. If we do not kill the backstop and this agreement now, it will haunt us for years, decades, maybe even generations as well. There is only one way to go on this matter. I add as a footnote to this, directed to the leadership of our party, that in the event of a general election in the near future, there should be no room in the running of it for anyone who was involved in last year’s disaster.