Motion to Take Note (Continued)
My Lords, the referendum campaign on both sides was appalling. It verged on abuse. The people of this country deserve better and as a political class, we owe them a profound apology. Divisions inevitably linger and perhaps some are in danger of growing, particularly on immigration. I spoke a few words yesterday and, with your leave, will speak a few more today.
We condemn the outbursts of intolerance—of course we do. However, much of the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of a political establishment that, for 20 years, has chosen largely to ignore the problem. The left shouted down anyone who wanted to discuss the issue, accusing them of being racist while we on the right offered up glib, implausible promises. How did we, as Conservatives, expect ordinary people to react when at one moment we promised to reduce immigration to tens, not hundreds of thousands—no ifs or buts—and only a year later delivered a net total in a single year of 330,000? We share the blame.
I wept when I saw that dreadful referendum poster of refugees. Is it their fault? No, it is not theirs. The fault lies with us. We have been sleeping comfortably with our consciences and have slept too long. As a result, today millions of people who are legally and properly settled in Britain are afraid, uncertain of what we might do with them and to them. They do not deserve such uncertainty. At times politics requires us to climb into bed with some pretty uncomfortable bedfellows. In the case of vote leave, dare I suggest that some of my fellow campaigners forgot to take off their boots?
This referendum was about freedoms and tolerance, not just for a few but for us all. It was about the British sense of fair play and flexibility—nothing to do with racist bullying and kicking out minorities. It was about moving forward, not about retreating to dark old days of an island surrounded by stormy seas. Above all, it was about respect—respect for the wishes of the people, which requires respect for others, no matter what their origins, their colour or their accents. Yesterday the Government said that it would be unwise to offer assurances to immigrants already here without parallel assurances from other European Governments. What are they saying? Is offering assurances unwise? No, it is far from it. It would be an act of humanity, of friendship and of leadership. After all, what was Brexit about if not establishing a sovereign independent Government capable of making up their own mind? We do not need anybody else’s permission. Those days are gone. It is our choice, so I want to press the Government and all those who have ambition to lead the Government for clear assurances that EU immigrants already living lawfully in this country need have no fears. They are welcome and will continue to be.
What are we to have, for pity’s sake? Are we to have mass transportations like we have seen in the Balkans, with vast lines of mothers, bewildered babes in arms, crossing the Channel in different directions? That is the way of madness. It is worth repeating that these people are not bargaining chips, least of all hostages. They are our neighbours and our friends. We Conservatives are not, dare I say it, the nasty party and we must not become one. Any future Government who tried to introduce legislation to send back legally settled immigrants would be out of their mind and soon be out of office—otherwise we would lose our sense of decency. We would lose the superb support that we enjoy in our health service, in our care services, in the contributions we get in every street of every town in every corner of the country—and not least, the superb service we get in our own dining room. Ministers please take note: it is not going to happen; get on with it.
What will happen? It is no one’s interest that we should be cut off from the EU. We are, and still will be, all of us, Europeans. There is no reason why that relationship should not be warm and productive, but I urge the EU in its own interests to find a better means of dealing with this crisis than through its unelected president. I do not wish to personalise this, but if it had not been for President Juncker’s conduct and exquisitely clumsy commentaries—he has been at it again today—I think that remain would have won.
This will and must be a political process, balancing the rights of the UK and the rights of the EU—a process that requires vision and is run not by bureaucracy but by elected politicians, those who can feel the hot breath of the people on their necks. That means above all Frau Merkel, who, more than any other person, holds the future of Europe in her hands. I would say this to her if I could. If not union, then alliance. If not as one, then at least together. If we are no longer bound by law, then let us be bound by bonds of overwhelming friendship. We have a mountain to climb, but the view from the summit might yet prove awesome.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, and I 100% endorse what he said—at least in the first half of his speech. We must all work on these issues.
My starting point is a bit different from that of most other noble Lords who have spoken so far, whose contributions, if I may say so, have been a bit local. One cannot stress too strongly that what is happening in the aftermath of the referendum is being watched around the globe. A country as heavily dependent as ours on overseas investment should be paying due attention.
Not too many articles in the world’s press, to put it mildly, see a plucky Britain struggling through from the tentacled monster that is the European Union. Truth is often conveyed in humour, as the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, knows very well. A cartoon that has appeared in many papers is typical. It shows a plane with an EU symbol on its side. The hatch door is open and a man in a bowler hat—for some reason, the rest of the world thinks that the British still wear bowler hats—and waving a tiny union jack is poised to jump out, but without a parachute.
This is a world where the global and the personal are intimately bound up with one another, and I must add my experience to those mentioned by other noble Lords. I was walking along the corridor of your Lordships’ House yesterday and bumped into a member of the House of Lords staff whom I know very well. We started talking about football, and then his face crumpled and he said, “I was brought here when I was seven. I have been here for 35 years. What will happen to me? What can I do?”. I therefore wholly echo the sentiments mentioned in the wonderful speech of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and all the other speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, on this issue. There is a huge repair job to do here for all of us and this House can take the lead in some of it.
The metaphor of Basil Fawlty jumping out of the plane might turn out to be worryingly accurate. The outcome of the referendum will be determined by two things once Article 50 is invoked: first, how other nations, global markets and international investors respond; secondly, what kind of deal the rest of the European Union is able to come up with. I remind noble Lords that the European Union is not that mysterious entity, Brussels, but 28 nations collaborating. Individual member states, or small groups of them, have a veto over many issues. Being subject to these twin forces if and when the UK leaves the EU does not look much like increased sovereignty to me. The world today is so massively interdependent that real sovereignty comes only from collaboration with others, whether it is the EU, NATO or the UN.
All noble Lords sitting here know that this referendum, as has been discussed this morning, had an unhappy provenance and was to do with muting squabbles inside the Tory party in the run-up to the last election. However, it is important to see what was going on. At the time Mr Cameron made the commitment, early in 2013, less than 10% of voters put the EU at the top of their main preoccupations. A decision of this significance should have emanated from widespread public concern rather than from factional party rivalries.
The referendum, as we all know, has not quietened divisions in this country. On the contrary, it has served to heighten them. One of the fundamental problems we face, as we all know, is that those who advocated leaving the EU, and won the day, have been quite unable to agree on what leave actually means. Their differences are quite profound. They were not resolved during the campaign but simply fudged.
On the one side are the radical free marketeers—in which category I think I would include the noble Lord, Lord Lawson—who think that exiting the EU will free Britain to trade across the world and who are willing to abandon the single market altogether. Although I may not be correct to, I exempt the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, from my next comment, which is that they care little for tradition or for the past. In addition, many are intuitively pro-migration, which he certainly would not agree with.
On the other side are those who have a nostalgia for evaporating customs and ways of life, who want to close the borders and retrieve lost sovereignty. They are hostile to big business and claim to stand up for the common people. These yawning ideological differences account for the descent of the leave campaign into empty populism, epitomised by Boris Johnson’s absurd remark that in negotiations with the rest of the EU he wanted to have his cake and eat it. I suppose it makes it easy on the digestion.
The British people can make a proper judgment only when there is a plausible plan on the table, a firm outline of which has been agreed and accepted by the other 27 states in the EU. The core dilemma involved is well known, but could quite possibly prove intractable. Not far off half of British exports go to the rest of the EU, and most are services rather than goods. Again, I rather strongly disagree with what the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, said on these issues, because passporting—the absence of regulatory barriers for business firms—is the key to success in this instance. That is not the same as the absence of tariffs.
Exiting the single market, even in the medium term, would be hugely problematic, yet staying in almost certainly involves accepting freedom of movement. If there is a way out of this dilemma, no one has discovered it yet. Precisely because there is no plan, there must be some sort of renewed and extensive public engagement, if and when a deal is agreed with the rest of the EU and starts its passage through Parliament. I am not sure in my own mind what form this should take, but I would not write off the possibility of another referendum down the line, or an election in which this figures as the prime issue.
My Lords, the tone adopted by some leading politicians at times during the referendum debate was nothing short of racial incitement to hatred, and demonstrated the worst of British politics. I was so dismayed and concerned by the tone and exaggerations of the debate that I wrote to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, on 13 June drawing his attention to the fact that some Ministers were failing to comply with the Ministerial Code and the seven principles of public life, which include maintaining the highest standards of integrity and honesty. Despite the scaremongering about minority groups, immigrants, Turkey joining the EU and Turkish Muslims “swamping” the UK, we must not confuse the leave vote with people who are entirely far right in their political views or who are mostly racist or xenophobic.
I agree with my colleague, Tim Farron, who stated that it has been absolutely heart-breaking to see the spike in racist and xenophobic attacks following the referendum. Many warned that the rhetoric of Farage and the leave campaign could lead to a rise in the intolerance we are now seeing. We must be clear that the outcome of the referendum was not a green light to xenophobia. It must not be allowed to damage the multicultural, multi-ethnic and multifaith society that Britain is and will remain. The vote to leave the EU is not, and should not be seen as, a victory for the far right. No serious leader should fall back to regressive policies that demonise minorities or communities, or put in place policies which undermine our civil liberties.
The tone used in debates around immigration was disgraceful, and those politicians who took part in such attacks should hang their heads in disgrace. It is imperative now that all politicians give clear leadership in uniting and condemning racism and xenophobia, and work towards stressing the importance of the key roles that EU nationals play in making Britain—the UK—a success in every aspect of our daily lives. We are all, mostly, a nation of immigrants; it is merely a question of time.
I accept that there are legitimate questions and concerns about the state of our public sector and the services within it. I will share some facts with your Lordships on polling, which were thus: those working full-time or part-time voted to remain in the EU. Most of those not working voted to leave. More than half of those retired on a private pension voted to leave, as did two-thirds of those retired on a state pension. Around two-thirds of council and housing association tenants voted to leave. Among those whose formal education ended at secondary school or earlier, a large majority voted to leave. There is a pattern here and the polls demonstrate that many disadvantaged people in poorer communities voted to leave the EU because—I have heard them say this—they had nothing more to lose.
David Cameron has often expressed a simple message: “If you want to work hard and get on in life, this Government will be on your side”. Yet the terrible tax credit cuts envisaged by the Chancellor, which would have affected over 3 million Britons and their supplements to low-paid work, exposed the hollowness of this claim. Although the Chancellor reversed these cuts, when people move onto universal credit, regrettably, many of the larger and poorer families will again be disadvantaged. Yesterday, it was announced that there would be a cut in corporation tax. This is likely to mostly benefit larger businesses and corporations. Those benefits are not likely to translate into many more jobs, and so will do little for those needing help and support in disadvantaged communities. Indeed, cuts in corporation tax may lead to further cuts in public spending, such as in the NHS and in the welfare budget, as the Chancellor tries to make difficult ends meet.
Clearly, successive Governments have failed to listen, and act upon, improving the lives of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society. You have only to visit places in the north of England to see derelict housing, poor transport infrastructure and struggling communities. Governments have talked the talk, but talk and slogans have not translated into concerted action; the northern powerhouse is one such example. Of course, many people have legitimate concerns about access to hospitals, GPs, good schools, good transport infrastructure and affordable housing, and to decently paid, permanent jobs. But the poor and the disadvantaged feel these issues more acutely, because they often find themselves and their families trapped in low-paid jobs and inadequate and expensive housing, with greater levels of ill health. Social justice and reform must work for everyone, and ensuring that everyone has the best chance in life must surely be a right for all, and not a right for only the privileged or those with power and influence.
The result of the referendum to leave the EU is likely to mean that inflation rises and that benefits continue to be frozen. This will hit the spending power of people on disability benefits, those who are jobseekers and those on low pay. Brexit-voting pensioners have already seen their annuity values crashing with the flight into gilts. Clearly, the disadvantaged people in every area who voted out will be worst hit by job losses and high inflation. What will the Government do to mitigate against this?
The Government have set out their life chances strategy to tackle poverty, aimed at transforming the lives of the poorest in Britain, with a focus on tackling the root causes of poverty, family breakdown, worklessness, drug and alcohol addiction, serious personal debt and assessing educational attainment at 16 years of age. But they omitted to include income as a means of getting on in life. The Government also need to look at reskilling and upskilling people in poorly paid and part-time jobs.
We need a new and inclusive vision, with new and honest politics that give hope to all in our nation—but most importantly to those who need us the most. We want an inclusive, tolerant, equal and fair society, committed to a new set of values of fairness and hope.
I very much agree with the noble Baroness’s main theme and, like the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, I pay tribute to the remarkable speech of the right reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. I cannot match it and therefore will be more mundane in making six points about Article 50.
First, the reference in the first clause of Article 50 to the member state deciding,
“in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”,
has been much discussed, including by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, this morning. The intention of the phrase was simply to make the point that how the decision is reached is entirely a matter for the member state; just as with ratification procedures, there is no EU template. The question of whether a UK parliamentary procedure is required is one for a UK Parliament and nothing to do with anybody in Brussels. There is no relevant EU law; it is not an EU issue.
I am inclined to agree with the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, although I am not a lawyer, that there should be a parliamentary procedure. But that is not because I would wish to vote against leaving if there were a vote here. We are where we are and, in the light of the referendum result, I would with a heavy heart vote for leaving. Of course, I believe that it is a serious mistake as our influence across the world will be much diminished. Of course it would be a disaster for our economy and lead to a decade of economic and political uncertainty, as Mrs Leadsom so succinctly put it. Of course, I am also sad and angry that the case against referenda, and for representative democracy, has been confirmed by a campaign marked by mendacity and irresponsibility, in which assertion has trumped—yes, trumped—fact and argument, and in which a Justice Minister said that the people of the country were fed up with experts. I am determined to be dispassionate today. We are where we are and if the Government act on the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and put a resolution to the House empowering it to revoke Article 50, I believe that resolution should and would pass.
My second point is that there are those who argue for a different question: for the repeal of the 1972 Act, as the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, argued. I disagree for two reasons. First, my understanding, supported by the report from the committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, is that where a treaty sets out an abrogation procedure—in this case, a secession procedure—abrogation other than by that procedure would break international law as well as EU law. It would, of course, also poison the atmosphere for any continuing negotiation in Brussels. Secondly, although I heard the reference made by the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, to delayed commencement, I do not believe that it would make sense to destroy the foundation on which so much law and so many statutory instruments are based without first deciding which to relabel and retain, which to adjust and which to let fall, as he mentioned. While the small-state, anti-welfare libertarians skilfully avoided saying which they would let fall—health and safety, consumer protection, equality, the environment?—we know that they were not just against Brussels regulation; some of them were against regulation per se. That is easy to sell in general terms but rather harder to sell when it comes down to specific regulations, so we need a more honest and deeper debate before the repeal of the Act.
My third point is about timing. Some in Brussels and some here say that we must immediately press the Article 50 button, while some over there say that there must be no talks with us until we have. This is arrant nonsense. There is no legal basis for it in Article 50, which leaves it entirely up to the member state to decide when to issue the formal notification. It would be very wise for the new Prime Minister, whoever she is, to take time first to study the issues and talk to her new colleagues. Mr Johnson complains that the Government have no Brexit plan. How could they have a Brexit plan when he issued no manifesto on which Whitehall could base its planning? Judging by his article last week in the Telegraph, he is still consistent about his policy on cake: our goods are to have free access throughout the single market but we will not recognise the jurisdiction of the ECJ.; we will play football but bring our own referee; our people will be free to live and work across Europe, but theirs will come here only if they satisfy the controls of our points-based visa system. That is Lewis Carroll’s White Queen and her six impossible things before breakfast.
We need a plan but Brussels will have to wait until we have one, and it must not be based on Daily Mail thinking. Mr Paul Dacre told the country in his leader last Saturday—he was no longer campaigning, as he has won—that Brexit carried no terrors because services are not in the single market. I think I have been unfair to Mr Dacre. I had thought his campaign was driven by an insular ideology, but I now think it is probably just plain ignorance—I am being dispassionate today. My dispassionate point is that the timing of our triggering Article 50 is entirely up to us, whatever Brussels says.
My fourth point is about sequencing. Article 50 is about withdrawal, about divorce. Some in Brussels assert, wrongly, that there can be no trade talks with us until the divorce is through. I refer them to Article 50(2) and the reference there to,
“taking account of the framework for”,
the seceding state’s,
“future relationship with the Union”.
How could the parties to the treaty respect that unless they were in parallel agreeing such a framework, the architecture of the future and the principles on which the new partnership should be based? All the detailed discussion of future relations in trade, finance, energy, aviation, foreign policy and the fight against crime will take years, but there is a treaty requirement to establish the framework before the Article 50 divorce terms are agreed. The Brussels institutions will have to accept that. I would add that our own preparations for that separate, parallel, simultaneous negotiation will be much more complex than the preparations for the Article 50 negotiations.
The fifth point is one at which I part company with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. In his Times article he referred to a notification under Article 50 as “irrevocable”. He used that as a flying buttress to support his principal argument, with which I agree, about the need for a prior Act of Parliament. I do not think he needs such a buttress. I also think it is a rather fragile one. Nothing in the treaty says that a notification cannot be withdrawn, nor does it say the opposite. There is no precedent to turn to, so it would be a political question. If we were to change our minds on discovering from the Article 50 and framework negotiations what out looks like, I do not believe that our partners would say, “Too late, out you must go”. Some might, like the prodigal son’s brother, be unhappy. Some might be tempted to seek a price. All that is speculative. My point, which is highly academic now but relevant to the concerns advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, is simply that there is no treaty basis for regarding an Article 50 notification as irrevocable.
My last point has already been made and I can be brief. It gives me great pleasure to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, for the way he put it: “EU citizens here, hate crime and bargaining chips—this is no way to create a good atmosphere for a negotiation”. Such incidents are being well reported across the continental press. I do not need to add to what has been eloquently said from all sides of the House, but I hope that the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary are listening and will reflect again on what they said yesterday. Student politics may have trashed the country but now it is time for the grown-ups to reassert themselves, reassert our values and restore our reputation.
My Lords, in 1997 I stood before you to deliver my maiden speech. My priority then was to draw your attention to the ludicrous EU regulations that were inflating the cost of theatre productions in mainland Europe and almost doubling ticket prices as a consequence.
Today, thanks to us being forced to adopt some of these regulations, our ticket prices are unfortunately creeping up, too. Yet, while EU practices have undoubtedly caused great problems for the entire entertainment industry, I am not here today to burden you with further industry-specific tales of woe. These, with almost every other issue, pale into insignificance when compared to what I believe to be the greatest threat to our people for a generation.
This is undoubtedly a time of great uncertainty for our country. The issues being discussed are of immense importance, particularly those so eloquently raised by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury earlier in this debate. However, I fear that, as we continue to look in on ourselves—as we continue to work out what has happened to our country since the referendum—we are at the same time walking blindly into a threat, the gravity of which far surpasses any of the issues that we have indulged ourselves in to date.
Let us not forget that last week’s commemoration of the Battle of the Somme—where more than 57,000 British servicemen forfeited their lives—was a timely reminder of a moment when the continent of Europe and its people were jeopardised for a generation.
Today, I believe that Europe is once again facing a terrible threat and, with that threat, the security of the continent is in the balance. The greatest single threat to peace, in both the United Kingdom and Europe—and with it our stability and safety—is Putin’s unopposed meddling in Syria. While the Syrian situation was, of course, not created by President Putin, his actions and involvement remain a cause for huge concern.
Over the past six months, Russian bombs have decimated hospitals, schools, markets and homes in Syria. They killed more than 4,000 people between September 2015 and early March this year. Russia’s actions have displaced millions more and, in doing so, have played an active role in fuelling the European migrant crisis.
While the United Kingdom and Europe feign to quarrel over what sort of trade agreements we may or may not have in two, three or 10 years’ time, Putin’s involvement is steadily destabilising our European borders and unleashing the fury of war in a sinister echo of the Somme, about which we swore, “Never again”. We should be under no illusion that Putin’s forces rage—and they rage not just against those in combat but against civilians, too.
When the referendum was called, the Syrian migration crisis had not yet exploded. Now the goalposts have moved, and they continue to move all around Europe in many different ways. The frozen conflicts in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, as well as the direct armed intervention in Syria and aerial provocations to NATO members, demand that we recognise the Moscow regime as being a huge threat to the stability and security of Europe. It is Putin who continues to move the goal posts, with ever more devastating consequences.
While we immerse ourselves in the aftermath of a referendum and the rest of Europe looks on, trying to make sense of our decision, Putin carries on his airstrikes in support of a discredited Assad regime. Our parents’ generation sacrificed their lives for peace; now is the time to ensure that we are trustworthy custodians of that inheritance. So I shudder to think how Putin must be looking on our travails with glee. By fuelling the migrant crisis and commanding the atrocities of war, he has, directly or indirectly, made historic European divisions bubble to the surface again. Things are working out well for him. He knew that the refugee crisis would strain Europe to breaking point and he was right.
In quitting Europe, I fear that we are hastening Putin’s dream of the break-up of the EU—and with it, potentially, western civilization. Austria recently missed electing an extreme right-wing President, and I understand that the election is to be rerun; Marine Le Pen could become President of France next year; the far right has made advances in Norway and Finland; nationalists run Poland, Hungary and Slovakia; the Putin-fuelled refugee crisis has undermined Angela Merkel, once the most powerful and stable politician in Europe; and the German far right is back in business.
So now, more than ever, we must stand united, as a country and as a continent, to honour our reputation as a great kingdom and provide the moderating voice that Europe needs in order to remain peaceful. I just hope that in five years’ time we will not look back with incredulity at the way in which we wallowed in self-serving arguments about our economic prospects and how to better ourselves financially, while failing to help those in desperate need and completely missing one of the greatest threats of our lifetime looming ominously on the horizon. Our nation’s safety and that of our people has to be our overriding priority.
Discussions about the future of our children and our children’s children are foolhardy and misguided if first we have not addressed their safety. There was much talk during the referendum of securing their future, but they will have no future if Putin’s continued involvement remains unchecked. Instead, we need to seize the initiative and to quickly see ourselves as a nation that looks outwards, geared towards being united against this very real danger, and as the generation who, like our parents before us, pulled together despite the mayhem that surrounds us.
I very much welcome the Defence Committee’s report regarding the Russian threat to UK security today. It rightly questions our understanding of a Russian military strategy and Putin’s ultimate ambitions, and it expresses a fear that he is employing many of the old Soviet tactics that so terrorised generations before us. The committee’s call for improved communication and greater understanding of the Russian mindset is also vital.
By contrast, the inflammatory tone of some of the spokespeople in Brussels fills me with a mounting sense of dread. It fills me with dread because now more than ever we need to build bridges and the next Prime Minister needs to restore faith, trust and good will between this country and our European neighbours. Without that, we have nothing, and I fear that we will leave ourselves and our children open to an insecure and consequently frightening future.
I honestly believe that we are in a race against time, which is why I feel compelled to speak today with a very real sense of urgency. There is no time to lose. Although I do not claim to have the answers, raising this vital question in order that we tackle it head-on, united together, is surely the best way to avoid a situation that has the potential to be truly perilous not just for our people and not just for our country but for Europe at large.
My Lords, the present state of affairs constitutes a major challenge to the political system of our country—a challenge with which we in this House have to cope. What is now to come and how should we deal with it?
First, I commend to the House many of the speeches today that have given us a role with a special responsibility: to help restore confidence in our political system. The front page of last Friday’s Economist carried the words “Anarchy in the UK”. I read a lot of the continental press every day of the week and over the last seven to 10 days have seen similar headlines, quite apart from a degree of consternation within our own country. The House of Lords, with its experience, expertise and capacity for calm, reasoned debate, is very necessary at the moment, particularly if the Government, because of their election of a leader, do not institute significant action until September. We have a short-term and a long-term obligation.
All of us in the political system should reassure people of our principles and process. I suspect many of those who voted leave did so because of their resentment and not for their appreciation of one side or the other. Many who voted to stay are deeply regretful of the result. They will all need to be reassured now about objectives, process, timing and alternative solutions, and this must be done with transparency. The idea that these negotiations can be conducted in secrecy or semi-secrecy is totally unrealistic. There will be leaking by everyone involved as they think appropriate.
We should resolve the following in the action we need take. There should be a plan—not a plan to have a plan—which includes the basis of a coherent strategy. We should use professionals. We should go out and recruit. There is no reason why we should be concerned about the intellectual competence of our civil servants—trade negotiations are conducted by trade experts, not national civil servants. We have one in the House. My noble friend Lord Mandelson was the Commissioner for Trade in Europe for four years and negotiated with the WTO. So I am talking about cross-party co-operation as well as professional involvement.
On business and finance, small businesses depend on Europe much more than the multinationals—it has the most direct effect on them and their workers—as well as the City of London and others. If we are to negotiate, let us base the strategy on realities. I was for remain but negotiation is hard talking. Sixteen per cent of the continental trade of the European Union comes to the UK. More than £1 trillion of assets are managed in London, put there by European investors. Do we really think that the Germans will give up on their cars? One of its own confederations of business last week said that an attempt to stop that trade would be “very foolish” if its own Government supported it. The same applies to French wine and Spanish tourism. In Italy, 20% of GDP is represented by non-performing loans. With the stability and growth pact no longer working, it prefers Germany’s operation at the cost of the poorer countries. We have to be realistic and tough —and I am a remain man.
In these negotiations we have to talk about alternatives —that is, competent negotiation. Of course we must be friends together, but we tell the other side, “This is what we want, or else”. What of the “or else”? President Eisenhower said:
“Firmness in support of fundamentals, with flexibility in tactics and methods, is the key to progress in negotiation”.
Firmness in fundamentals offers flexibility. The timing of how you put things from one period to the next is critical. Reporting back to Parliament is indispensable if you need, as you must, to maintain public confidence. Then there is the final deal: what is going to happen then?
What about the effect of Article 50 on our politics generally? There is a period until we trigger it—let us say three to six months. There could be an early agreement, but that is highly unlikely. Or, at the end of two years we are out unless there is unanimous agreement to extend that period. Do we realise that, depending on which alternative occurs, that runs through pretty well the whole life of the rest of this Parliament? Indeed, it could go into the next general election. What would we then face compared to the referendum we have just had?
I turn now to new markets. Last Friday, in the United States Congress, the United Kingdom Trade Continuity Act was proposed by Republicans, with, I understand, some Democratic support. It is designed to open the prospect of a United States trade agreement with the UK. That might bring us into or next to the NAFTA with Canada and Mexico. I am not recommending it but pointing out that there is an actual alternative.
We built Latin America in the 19th century. It contains 500 million people and has a vast and emerging infrastructure and other projects that we could supply. China, the Commonwealth, and India are all also economic factors.
One extremely important factor is the geopolitical issues that bind us to Europe: whether we are in the Union or not, terrorism, human trafficking and refugees from conflict will still be there.
Lastly, there is NATO. The Americans may talk to Germany and France out of necessity if we leave, but we are their preferred ally. We should bear in mind that Mr Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, last Friday condemned NATO for warmongering military exercises in Poland. Europe is not going to go away, whatever we decide.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Brennan; the whole House will have appreciated his profound insight. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber, made a most compelling speech about European Union cohesion which I and most other Members will have wholeheartedly endorsed. I draw attention to my entries in the register of interests.
I have always been against joining the European single currency and have campaigned against it. Nevertheless, I very much support our continuing membership of the European Union on the terms negotiated by the Prime Minister. The referendum was held at a particularly inauspicious time. The Government’s accumulated debt is in excess of £1.5 trillion, which is over 80% of our GDP. The annual deficit, although hitherto falling, was £74.9 billion in the year to March 2016. Our current account deficit continues to run dangerously high. In the past we have funded this with foreign direct investment, some of which is both volatile and capable of being moved extremely fast. As the Governor of the Bank of England said during the referendum campaign, we rely on the kindness of strangers.
Despite the referendum result and the downgrading by the rating agencies, it appears that government 10-year bonds can still be sold at a coupon of less than 1%. The Chancellor has abandoned the fiscal squeeze and the Governor of the Bank of England has stated that he will take all necessary actions to protect the economy. We are still creditworthy, but I suspect that if we serve an Article 50 notice, market sentiment will change. Before the referendum and probably as a result of the impending referendum, the economy was showing signs of slowing down. Since the result, and from my experience and discussions with business people, it appears that the slowdown is gathering pace. Deals are falling through or are being renegotiated, and I would draw the attention of the House to reports in last weekend’s Financial Times of major City of London property deals which since the result have now fallen through.
Asset prices, particularly real property, often provide the underlying security for much lending to small and medium-sized businesses and companies. Currently it is extremely difficult if not impossible to fix a value for real property, except perhaps at a vastly discounted price. This is a dangerous situation and I am endeavouring personally to advise borrowers, lenders and other commercial businesses against the backdrop of these very difficult conditions. There are reports of many companies freezing their recruitment, and in some cases unfortunately there have been job losses. The evidence for these reports will start to come through in August when the July figures are published. I hope that the Bank of England and the Treasury will monitor closely the effects of Brexit on our small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the bedrock of our economy and provide so much employment for our fellow citizens.
We are not alone in Europe in having a crisis of confidence in globalisation and to some extent in the institutions of the European Union. Support for the national front in France is rising in the polls, as is support for the AFD in Germany. Elections are being held in both countries next year. The United Kingdom is the second largest economy in the European Union and is important to the Union. Italy is facing major problems with its banking industry. All the foregoing should act as incentives for the European Union, with the United Kingdom, to negotiate some changes, perhaps even changes in freedom of movement.
The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, gave us his plan of what Brexit entails. He was quite clear that we should not bother to endeavour to negotiate access to the single market because this would entail us allowing freedom of movement for EU citizens. It really is a great shame that this prospectus was not put to the British people before 23 June. I take the view that access to the single market is of the greatest importance to our economy, for jobs, opportunities for individuals and businesses, and for investment. It gives us great advantages, not least in our ability to ensure, relatively straightforwardly, that our exports of goods and services to the single market are not unnecessarily impeded. I join other noble Lords in asking the Leader of the House to ensure that we have a definitive explanation of whether Parliament has a role in the Article 50 process and the extent of that role. Will she also confirm that an Article 50 notice, once served by the United Kingdom, can be withdrawn only with the unanimous consent of the UK and all the other 27 EU countries?
I much regret the decision to leave the EU. We are part of Europe and part of European civilisation. In an increasingly interconnected world, it is a dreadful mistake culturally, economically, educationally and for many other reasons for us to abandon the European Union. It will cause damage and hardship to us all, especially the younger generations who voted in such large numbers to remain.
My Lords, I start by making it clear that while I join the noble Lord, Lord Burnett, and other noble Lords in greatly regretting the outcome of the referendum, Government and Parliament must accept and act on it. This means that sooner or later Article 50 must be invoked. If an Act of Parliament has to be passed to do so, Parliament should pass such legislation. I accept also that the campaign is over. Arguments that the British people were misled into making their decision are fruitless. The British people made their decision and that is an end to it.
The question, however, is whether the outcome of the referendum prevents any further critical consideration of the decision to leave in the light of the emerging terms on which we do so. Let us imagine a possibility—which I acknowledge now seems unlikely—that the EU partners decide that it is in their best interests to give us access to the single market, combined with an acceptable degree of control over migration into the United Kingdom. Are the Government saying that our response has to be, “No. The people have decided—albeit by a narrow majority—that we must leave, and that is an end to the matter”?
Let us imagine what I am afraid may be a more likely scenario: that it becomes apparent that our economy is being so badly affected by our decision to leave that there is an overwhelming public demand to be able to think again. Let us imagine a petition, not of 4 million people but of 17 million or even 30 million people.
Let us imagine a third scenario, one such as the noble Lord, Lord Burnett, outlined, whereby the effect of the British decision causes such a clamour for reform from other member countries that the EU is compelled to make such reforms—for example, on free movement—that our continued membership would be acceptable to a substantial proportion of those who voted to leave. Is the position of Parliament and Government going to be so rigid that they say to the British people, “No. You decided two years ago to leave. Leave you must”? It would be one thing for our European partners to deny the British people the right to think again, though it is very doubtful that they could do so. It is quite another for the British Government, in two years’ time, to deny the British people any opportunity to change course, even if it becomes apparent that the road is leading over a cliff.
Whatever the merits of a referendum process—and there are some—we have also to acknowledge its weaknesses. I am grateful to a correspondent who brought to my attention an article by the late Lord Beloff, a greatly respected Member of this House who was Gladstone Professor of Government and Public Administration at the University of Oxford. In that article he argued that a referendum is only meaningful to the extent that clear alternatives are set before the electorate. According to Lord Beloff, in the absence of such clarity the electorate would be indicating a very general bias one way or the other, and nothing more.
It may be argued that the referendum offered such clear alternatives. What could be clearer than “Remain or Leave”? A moment’s thought, however, shows that it did not. One of the alternatives was clear: a modified “business as usual” by remaining within the EU. The other was anything but clear. The leave alternative offers a whole range of different futures, dependent on the outcome of uncertain negotiations and unpredictable market decisions. It is indeed a step into the unknown.
So, let us go into the negotiations in good faith, determined to get the best deal we can for the British people in accordance with their decision in the referendum. However, it is in no one’s interests—not ours, nor those of our partners—to rule out any possibility of a change of mind in response to events as they unfold over the next two years. If legislation must be introduced to authorise the Government to trigger Article 50, I shall support it. But I should also support an amendment providing that the departure does not become final until, at the end of the negotiations, the British people have an opportunity to make an informed decision through a general election or further referendum.
My Lords, one word stands out in reference to the recent EU referendum: “division”. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop and many noble Lords have stated this today. It was a divisive campaign—some would say by both sides—but the divisions were clearly already simmering and ready to surface when conditions allowed: divisions within our political parties and within our society, and divisions along national lines. In Scotland, the SNP Government, apparently unwilling to accept the legitimacy of a UK-wide referendum, are already calling for another independence referendum and fomenting fresh divisions north of the border.
Of course, I would like to think that the majority who voted to remain in the EU or to leave did so purely on a point of principle. For those like me, the economic argument for staying in the EU was obvious and, as a former chairman of CBI Scotland, I made those arguments on numerous occasions on behalf of members. However, as the owner of a small software company, I could also understand why others would see the EU as an overly bureaucratic machine that impacts on small business in particular in a negative way. That is neither here nor there. We have the result to leave the EU and we must begin the task of developing a new strategy to succeed economically and globally. I point noble Lords to a debate on Thursday on this subject.
Today, I confine my remarks to that word “division”. What has emerged from this referendum is that a whole swathe of the population harboured real resentments and their vote to leave was a means of protest. The social and economic gap that has grown over recent decades has created an inequitable society. That is a ripe condition for blame, particularly for blaming those who look different, speak a different language or have a different culture or religion. Of course, the vast majority of British people who voted to leave the EU did so as a consequence of their genuine concerns. However, there were those on the leave side who disgracefully drew on those resentments and fears when the sole focus became immigration. There is only one word for it, one that we do not like to use but the only one that fits: racism. This has not just been about people from the EU. That infamous poster with Nigel Farage said it all. The racist attacks and verbal abuse since the referendum reflect that this is not just about EU citizens. The P-word and N-word have been used abundantly. Indeed, this has been of such concern in the days since the referendum that the Prime Minister and other senior politicians have made public statements condemning such behaviour.
Since 1968, successive Governments in this country have worked hard to bring about a more cohesive society through race relations and equality legislation. The United Kingdom has been by far the most successful in Europe in giving equal rights to its citizens. That is why this is such a great country to live in and why anyone who comes here loves it and has such loyalty towards it. We have come a long way from 1968 and Enoch Powell’s rivers of blood speech. We do not want to go backwards. I remember that time well and the negative impact that it had on me personally as a little girl in primary school. When you are on the receiving end of prejudice, it has a whole different perspective. It leads to feelings of rejection, alienation, anxiety and depression. Make no mistake, it is not just about overt racism; covert racism can be just as damaging. Those who are sensitive to it and know that it is directed at them recognise it in the most fleeting expression. Every one of us has constantly to question ourselves about our own prejudices if we want to build a strong society and real national pride. Politicians and the media perhaps have the biggest responsibility of all.
Ethnic communities of many hues have enriched the lives of this nation. The food that we eat, the colours and clothes that we wear and the music that we listen to have changed beyond recognition from the days when I came to live here as a child. Many people have come to these shores—Irish, Jews, Italians, people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and from the Caribbean, and the recent migrants from Poland and elsewhere in Europe. They, and the many others from around the world, have all contributed immensely to this country. Those who may have come to exploit it are a disgrace, but they are just a small minority. Overwhelmingly, what the newcomers bring is their energy and ambition to build a new life and to do well. That means having a strong work ethic and often an entrepreneurial spirit.
My late father came to this country from Pakistan and worked hard, employing more than 500 people in his various businesses in the 1970s and 1980s. He paid his taxes, he believed in public service and he was a model citizen. That work ethic was a value that he shared with mainstream British society. What we must do now is to build on these values again—and with fresh energy.
Finally, if we were to baton down the hatches and not allow any more immigration, as some would wish, I would make a gentle reminder that the many hundreds of jobs—in the NHS and agriculture, in the hospitality industry, in transport and in every sector—would still have to be done. Enough home-grown Brits would have to be willing to do them.
I urge the Government, under their new leadership, to refrain from the scapegoating of immigrants that some in our main political parties and certain sections of the media have found politically expedient of late. There is a very positive story to be told about the huge contribution made by immigrants to our country. It was not very well told in the run-up to the referendum, but together we can get this message out now. As we move forward, it is important that our Government clarify their objectives on immigration and the means by which to achieve them.
This is a wake-up call to mend our country, to tackle poverty by providing jobs through small-scale manufacturing and other routes, to engender that work ethic and to encourage enterprise. It is a huge task, but one that cannot be sidestepped if we are to avoid social unrest and if we want to continue to be a great nation. We have to learn to respect and value each other’s contribution and our national leaders have to lead the way.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow that speech from the noble Baroness and the excellent speech from the noble Lord, Lord Butler. This is clearly a time of political crisis. So far, two party leaders have gone. My hope is third time lucky and that my own party is able to move forward quickly.
We are also in a constitutional crisis. When I was introduced to this place, I took the oath of allegiance to the Queen and signed up to the Code of Conduct of your Lordships’ House, as do all noble Lords. That code makes clear, in paragraph 7, what our duties are:
“In the conduct of their parliamentary duties, Members of the House shall base their actions on consideration of the public interest, and shall resolve any conflict between their personal interest and the public interest at once, and in favour of the public interest”.
I do not equate public opinion and public interest and think that they are the same thing; they are currently potentially in conflict.
I believe that most of the 52% who voted to leave did so out of a concern for the effect of migration. One of the failings of the remain campaign was to allow it to become a referendum on that issue. Migration is a function of globalisation. The free movement of labour, alongside the free movement of capital and goods, is a founding principle of the EU. I profoundly believe that the migration of capital and, therefore, of jobs away from the UK is now a bigger threat than the migration of workers.
It is not in the public interest for Parliament to ignore the outcome of a referendum, but if the outcome of a negotiated exit is an end to the free movement of labour, and with it free trade, the public interest is not served by supporting that outcome. I like the notion put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Butler. Employers need access to current skills and will migrate to access those skills in an environment free of trade barriers. Perhaps our negotiators will succeed in persuading the EU to act against its founding principles and its own preservation by agreeing to free trade but not the free movement of labour, but I doubt it. Either way, this Parliament needs the assurance from the Government that it has a role in both the negotiating position and in triggering Article 50 so that we can exercise our duties as parliamentarians. What consideration has been given to forming a Select Committee of both Houses to provide detailed scrutiny of this critical process for our nation?
The second huge concern raised by this flawed referendum is the failure of representative democracy. We have seen 75% of the country’s parliamentary representatives who were elected just a year ago ignored in their considered opinion. The two main parties both failed to lead significant parts of their core vote. They were joined by almost every expert on the economy and academia and were still ignored in favour of dishonest populist messages. One of our representatives was murdered in the street and yet this was not enough to cause people to pause for thought. The old model of elected representatives making difficult decisions for us is under strain, but direct democracy is equally flawed. We do not know how to inform the public to enable and empower them to take a considered view. It amuses me when Tory friends campaigning to remain complained that three-quarters of newspapers were against them. For us on this side, the response was, “Welcome to my world”. The echo chamber of social media is distorting and our methods of campaigning are sterile. On-demand TV has moved many away from watching the national news. We depend on an air war fought in the media to drive ideas, mood and education and on a ground war to mobilise people behind the media campaign. That paradigm is redundant.
This House may seem a strange place to talk about democracy. That is partly because we now think that democracy is just about voting. It is not. Voting is just one of the tools of democracy alongside others such as freedom of speech, juries and free access to ideas in libraries and now the internet. We urgently need to review how our democracy works so that we can give everyone a sense that they matter and that their opinion counts and so that we can also be engaged and informed to ensure that decisions are informed decisions.
Finally, we need urgently to address the sense that the majority of electors fear the future and the rapid change storming through society and the economy. We need the proceeds of growth to be more evenly distributed. It is not sustainable for business, politics or society if the rich continue to get richer and the poor get relatively poorer. Employment growth is insufficient if there is no security of income or of housing.
How do we do that? There are no easy answers, but I welcome the Government’s acknowledgment that they have a role in stimulating growth, as represented in the northern powerhouse. Perhaps we need a national powerhouse. I also welcome the ending of the surplus target by the Chancellor and with it, I hope, a loosening of austerity. I would also like to see priority given to skills. I am chair of the digital engagement charity, the Tinder Foundation. We work to get the 10 million-plus adults currently without digital skills confident to use the internet. That work needs accelerating, to give those people a sense of participation in the future. We need to give a much stronger priority to adult skills. If we listen to this referendum, we will have to replace migrant skills with domestic ones to stem the migration of jobs. To respond to that needs urgent redesign of both education and skills in this country.
In summary, we need to respect the outcome of this referendum, but without delivering on it blind to the consequences of the public interest. We need to rejuvenate our democracy and inform and empower electors. We also need active government refreshing the parts of the economy other policies cannot reach.
My Lords, the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union has exposed one of the fundamental weaknesses of our democracy. We define our democracy as a system of government by the population voting to elect Parliament. In its wisdom—or otherwise—our elected Government failed to give us a clear lead and opted for a referendum. It is beyond doubt that the referendum descended into a struggle for political leadership of the Conservative Party, thus obscuring the real issues on which voters had to decide the outcome.
Oscar Wilde once said:
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple”.
How true. The national debate narrowed down to two issues: the economy and immigration. I shall leave the economic aspects to our experts. Suffice it to say at this stage that we are in uncharted waters and that it is almost impossible to envisage what the future holds for us.
The issue that has concerned me most is the way the debate on immigration and migration has been handled. Many electors, whether pro-EU or anti-EU, were seriously concerned that the national debate had generated xenophobia. The wider view about the benefits of trade, jobs, investment and prices, which will have a profound effect on generations to come, was overshadowed by irresponsible statements from some of our leading politicians. I am a keen supporter of our membership of the European Union: now this remains a distant dream. I have never wavered in my belief in a stronger Europe and in our role within the Union. It is time we raised our sights from being little Englanders to look at the changing world where globalisation is an everyday reality.
We cannot ignore a market of over 350 million people on our doorstep. No one owes us a living: we are all interdependent. The issues that affect every citizen in our country include global terrorism, cross-border crime, human rights and matters relating to trafficking and drugs. These are the issues that have destabilised our communities. It is the duty of every Government to provide security for all their citizens. There is always strength in numbers. Look at the large number of young voters in the country. Our first mistake was declining to give them a vote at 16. Those youngsters who were of voting age were clear that their future was better safeguarded by our membership of the European Union. This has now been denied to them.
The way migration issues have been handled is a retrograde step. The United Kingdom is no longer united so far as race relations are concerned. We saw the variations in voting patterns, particularly in Scotland and in Northern Ireland—but there is more to this. It has put fear into black and ethnic minority communities in Britain. I admired the contributions of my noble friend Lady Manzoor and the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, on this issue. Attacks on our Polish community, swastikas in children’s playgrounds, and attacks on mosques and temples bring back memories of the early days of migration to the United Kingdom.
Racial attacks and racial discrimination are now everyday realities in the lives of many migrants. Geographically and economically they occupy the most deprived areas of our country. Added to this, migrants face spitting, swearing, shoving and abuse almost routinely. Immigration policies have played a crucial role in successive Governments since the late 40s and early 50s. The difference this time is that the third and fourth generations, born and brought up in Britain, are now victims. There is a limit to their endurance. Sooner or later the matter could degenerate into public disorder, because those born and educated here are more likely to challenge their treatment than their parents did.
There is a dramatic rise in race-related crime. The figures have been given a number of times in this debate. Incidents of abuse suffered by minorities are reported daily. The picture of fleeing refugees as a backdrop to a poster issued by UKIP, and classifying London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan as a terrorist risk, are simply not acceptable. We must put the blame squarely on our politicians. Of course we have tough laws on incitement and racial hatred, but there is a thin dividing line between what is acceptable and what is not. For the third and fourth generations born and bred here to suffer this abuse is simply not acceptable. Surely this is a recipe for disaster.
It is no longer a valid argument to talk about an integrated society if we continue to single out minorities as scapegoats for our own failures. Like it or not, immigration and free movement of people are even more necessary in the face of change resulting from the growth of the global economy. Increasingly, the global economy relies on the skills of people wherever they are available, and international movement is a key feature of all sound economies.
Few other political issues create the same tension and emotions as immigration and its implication for Britishness. There are three reasons for this. First, the unending discussion on numbers now focused on others coming from Europe. Secondly, our role in the international community: do we face towards Europe or look for alternative markets? Thirdly, the worry about national identity.
I conclude by saying that the referendum has proved that leadership—in or out—is uneasy when confronted by the issue of migration. There is a kind of schizophrenia in the response to immigration on the one hand and community cohesion and a pluralist society on the other. Migration policies are aimed at playing to public fears about mass immigration fanned by some of the media. They militate against the liberal elements welcoming diversity. They make minority communities feel targeted as a problem: their skills and perspectives are no longer welcome. The progress that we have made in our society is too valuable to be played in such a cynical manner by politicians. They must share the blame for destabilising our community. No society can live in peace or be at ease with itself if a section of its population continues to live in fear of being abused. We all have a duty to reverse this trend.
My Lords, 23 June was not independence day for Britain; it was the day the UK shot itself in its foot. Our economy has been doing so well. While European economies have been doing badly we have had cumulative growth of 62% since the single market started in 1993. We did not lose our sovereignty. We have had the best of both worlds. We have been in the EU but not in the euro. We have been in the EU but not in Schengen. We pour our beer in pints. We measure our roads in miles. Yet Vote Leave makes claims about red tape and regulations. I have seen in the 10 years that I have been in this House that the regulations that we make—the laws that we make that affect our daily lives—are made by us right here, right now in this House in this Parliament.
We take for granted 1.2 million of our citizens living in the European Union and we have 3 million European Union citizens living here. How dare people even think of sending these people back? These are people who left their families a thousand miles away, who came here not knowing the language to a strange culture and made friends, worked hard, paid taxes, put in five times more than they took out and contributed to our economy. How ungrateful can we be? We should be grateful for the efforts that they have put in. They are welcome to stay here.
We have for many years been saying: “Take control of our borders”. I believe we have lost control of our borders. I have been saying for many years: “Illegal immigration is the issue. Let’s bring back exit checks. Let’s scan every passport, EU and non-EU. Let’s make that first step, rather than making immigration the excuse that we have”.
Our universities will suffer. Already we have lost our AAA rating. Eight of our universities have already lost their credit ratings. Our universities receive £1 billion from the EU. I am president of UKCISA.
My Lords, I am sorry, but I do not have much time. We have 500,000 international students in this country; 170,000 of them are from the EU.
In the finance sector, big banks have already begun to make plans to move staff out. The Royal Bank of Scotland has lost value of £8 billion. That is more than we put into the EU every year and it is taxpayers’ money.
The biggest lie of them all was the £350 million that we give to the EU emblazoned on the Brexit bus with: “Let’s give that money to the NHS instead”. There was the Vote Leave advertising film showing the NHS inside the EU and the NHS outside the EU. What is going on here? It was completely misleading. These are lies. It is a net contribution of £8 billion a year, 1% of our annual government expenditure per year. That is not going to shift the needle, let alone save the NHS.
What was the Electoral Commission doing? That is what I ask the Minister. In India, which has one of the largest elections in the world, the election commissioner is the most powerful person in the country at the time. Here we have an Electoral Commission asleep on the job. Surely we need to look at the role of the Electoral Commission. Then the result would have been completely different, because I have met people who have said: “I voted to leave to save the NHS”.
We rely hugely on inward investment. The referendum saw the pound plummet to levels not seen since the 1980s, when I was here as a student, when the UK was the sick man of Europe—the 1980s when this country had a glass ceiling for foreigners. Today in this country, anyone can get anywhere, regardless of race, religion and background, yet we hear of these awful hate crimes, attacks against migrants and discrimination, which I have experienced myself. Do we want to wind the clock back?
In this referendum, 72% of voters under 25 wanted to remain in the European Union but, sadly, just over one-third of them turned out to vote, whereas 83% of those over 65 turned out to vote and they overwhelmingly voted to leave. I hope that the youth of this country have learned their lesson for ever: they have to exercise their precious right to vote and come out, regardless of whether it is in or out of term time; they must come out to vote for their futures.
What is more, I forecast that if we left the EU, it would threaten the EU itself. Already, many countries in Europe are demanding a referendum, which could lead to the break-up of the EU, which could lead to the break-up of the euro, which could lead to the biggest financial crisis the globe has ever seen. Already Scotland, a region that unanimously voted to remain, is asking for another referendum. Northern Ireland, which voted to remain, talks of merging with Ireland. We are going to be a withered, shrunken England and Wales. Is it not gut-wrenching to see Nigel Farage, who was so responsible for creating the mess that we are in, resigning as leader of UKIP and this weekend wearing Union Jack shoes when he could be responsible for breaking up our union?
Look at the treacherous behaviour of the people leading the leave campaign. Boris Johnson stabs the Prime Minister in the back and leads Vote Leave. Andrea Leadsom stabs Boris. What a hypocrite she is. She said that leaving the European Union would be a disaster:
“I don’t think the UK should leave the EU. I think it would be a disaster for our economy and would lead to a decade of economic and political uncertainty”.
Wow, how prescient. Michael Gove stabs Boris Johnson in the back. These are the people who led us to leave the European Union. What were people thinking? Project Fear? Project Reality.
The referendum was advisory, and pro-remain MPs outnumber leave backers in the House of Commons, the other place, by 3:1 and in this House by far more. There is now a strong legal case, as we have heard, that Article 50 cannot be triggered until Parliament votes on it. Here is a conundrum: with the lies, the deceit, the treachery and the turmoil that has been caused, will a responsible Parliament affirm the 52:48 referendum result built on such shaky ground? With hindsight—this point has not been brought up by anybody—a decision as important as this should have had a two-thirds hurdle. Changing the fixed-term Parliament in the other place needs a two-thirds majority. To change the Indian constitution, you need a two-thirds majority. There would then have been a definitive result.
As for the Opposition, please forgive me, but Jeremy Corbyn has been absolutely useless as a leader, and his role in the referendum was pathetic. That could have changed the whole picture—and now look at the turmoil the Labour Party is in. On top of all this, we have 4 million people signing a petition asking for a second referendum. There is no legal obstacle to holding a second referendum, and a general election could even be treated as a proxy second referendum on the issue. Would the Minister agree? A MORI poll says that 48% of voters agree that there should be a general election before Britain begins formal Brexit negotiations. A BBC “Newsnight” poll says that a third of voters do not believe the UK will leave the EU, despite the referendum result.
According to Saturday’s Financial Times, the UK is now heading towards,
“lower growth, more uncertainty, a weaker currency and looser monetary policy”.
That is just what I said on 15 June, in my last speech in the debate here. Our airport expansion has already been delayed. Brexit will hugely damage our economy, our businesses, our citizens, our stability and our standing in the world. The Governor of the Bank of England is already talking of economic post-traumatic stress disorder. The Economist Intelligence Unit projects a 6% contraction in the economy by 2020.
Brexit is now the central focus of politics and government and will be for years to come. Just think of the opportunity cost of all that time, which our leaders and civil servants could be spending improving this country and the lives of our citizens. Switzerland voted two years ago by 50.3% to modify the free movement of people—two years later, it has got nowhere in its negotiations with the European Union.
I conclude by saying that this 52:48 vote to leave will not actually achieve the slogan of Vote Leave: “Take back control”. We have actually lost control and will lose more. The irony of it all is that the chief Brexiteer publication, the Sun—wot won it—published a poll just this weekend showing that 67% believed the priority of the new Prime Minister should be steadying the economy. Only 28% of them want tackling immigration to be a priority for the Prime Minister. The irony of that is unbelievable. This wretched referendum was a dreadful decision. This country had the wool pulled over its eyes and was misled by a buffoon and a court jester—the Pied Pipers of Hamelin leading our people over the white cliffs of Dover.
Now is the time for us as a country, in the words of the leave campaign, to take back control. We need strong leadership and we need to negotiate with the European Union before getting anywhere near Article 50. Then, whether the decision is for staying in the European Economic Area with restricted movement of people or staying in the EU with restricted movement of people, we can go to the nation through a general election, properly supervised by an effective Electoral Commission, so that people can make an informed decision about our children’s and our grandchildren’s future, with the youth turning out in full force.
My Lords, I cannot match that passion, but I join other noble Lords in saying how much I appreciated the speech earlier of our boss—I mean of my friend, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. He and I have both worked in the north-east and been welcomed by the people of that area, many of whom voted to leave, just as people in fenland in my current diocese and people in east Kent, beloved of the most reverend Primate, did. These people were not, it seems to me, voting against the European Union but were making a great cry—a lament—about not having been heard for several generations by us, the political class. This was their opportunity to make us listen, after feeling excluded for so long.
About 20 years ago I read an essay by JK Galbraith called The Culture of Contentment, which seems prophetic now. It said how politics in the West has been organised for the wealthy at the expense of the poor, and that we would reap the whirlwind of this. In a peaceable way, that is what we are experiencing. There is a poem by the Christian poet George Herbert which includes the line “lament and love”. There now seems to be the opportunity to move ahead together in hope about the future that we might construct together. If I were to point a finger at the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, the presbyter on the other side of the House, there would be three fingers pointed back at me. Although recrimination is a natural human desire, it seems to me that we have to move beyond that and see how, together, we can as a Parliament support the Government in offering a new kind of leadership for the future.
There are various collective nouns which the clergy have for bishops, the polite one being a blessing. I strongly ask us to think about how we, as Parliament, might seek to be a blessing in the way in which we support government in an urgent redefinition of the leadership that we need across all political parties. It will not do for us to think about a steady-as-you-go way forward, but we need to have leadership which is radical in its imagination, generosity, transparency and rigour for the future of all of our country and all of our fellow citizens.
We are talking about the flourishing of all our people and not for some at the expense of others. As the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury referred to, one way of looking at this is through what we, as the Church of England, see as a vision for education into the future. The four pillars of this are wisdom, hope, community and dignity. So many of the people who have expressed their lament have been badly served over generations in developing their skills and aspiration for being real stakeholders in our economy and society.
If we are going to support wisdom, then we need to seek to invest in all that our people need in terms of training and being equipped with the right kind of education, which not only makes them economically productive, but grows in them—in us—the character to be mutually regarding as citizens, as those given to public life in the public service. We need to express hope that nobody is written off. One of our pledges in Church of England education is that no child is to be written off or excluded. That must apply too to the parents of children—no one is to be written off in our society and there is always hope for restoration and transformation across our communities. It is the purpose of all those engaged in political life to seek to make that happen.
All of us belong to community, one with another. I applaud everything that has been said by those who have been speaking against the way in which xenophobia and race hatred have been allowed to creep through the cracks lately and particularly in the last couple of weeks. We need to find new ways of living well together as one community and in fact, of course, it is in churches, temples and mosques where it is most likely that people meet cross-generationally to influence one another in places of safety. On dignity, some of the things people say—often to me—particularly in areas which have voted to leave, is that they do not count and there is no respect for them in the way in which any policy is framed. Dignity and respect are key.
All of this needs to be framed in outward-looking international environments, so that we do not become little Englanders but look outwards. We have a bold and vivid tradition as a country which has looked beyond its shores, not just for imperial adventure but to seek to transmit our values—all that we hold dear—for the advancement and encouragement of other peoples in other places. This is particularly true of our universities. In advance of this debate, I had a long conversation with the vice-chancellors of the University of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin University, and both were keen to stress their first priority. There was concern for the migrant workers in Wisbech and the EU citizens who form a large proportion of their student body. They are anxious about the free movement of scholars. Scholars no longer live in ivory towers; there are now great highways of academic endeavour across the world, and Cambridge is the most important research university in Europe. How do we continue to make this vivid and real, not only for our own sake but for the sake of others?
The rest of my diocese is largely rural, but the fact remains that many of our farmers farm not just in this country but abroad; every year, half a million packets of lettuce come back into England from a farm that one of our big farmers has in Spain. He is profoundly concerned that proper respect is given to those people who, from abroad, make it possible for our food to be harvested. If it were not for overseas workers, there would be food rotting in our fields right now. So we need to be clear that our emphasis, even when we are concerned about our own country, is on all the implications for community worldwide, for the sustainability of community, and for the common good of which the most reverend Primate the Archbishop spoke, rooted in our application to wisdom, hope, community and dignity for all, so that all our citizens may flourish into the future.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate, with whom I agree entirely. I include in that his wise words of denunciation of that vile minority of racists who have participated in disgraceful attacks; they should be prosecuted, and prosecuted vigorously.
I am glad that I did not follow the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, or I would have side-tracked myself with a 20-minute attack on almost every sentence that he uttered. On 23 June, 17 million voters voted democratically to end our membership of the EU and to restore this country to the free, independent member state that it was before 1973. That long-overdue and momentous decision will in my opinion be good for the United Kingdom and good for democracy in Europe. It may well be that Britain will have fulfilled its traditional role, as it did over the centuries—in 1850, 1918 and 1945—of saving Europe from rule by undemocratic and unaccountable government over the whole of Europe. Fifty two per cent of our people voted to leave and 48% to remain—the greatest vote for anything in the history of this country. The losing remainers must stop their bitter recriminations and accept the decision of the people. Some are calling for a second referendum or for politicians to ignore the result. They say that the country is divided because 52% voted to leave; some are pretending that we would not be divided if 52% voted to remain.
On 23 June we saw the greatest rebellion against the ruling elite—including us in this House, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria—that this country has ever seen. The leave victory is narrow in the sense that there is only a four-point difference, but it is absolutely massive when you consider that the leave campaign started from way behind and was up against the full weight of the Government and the establishment. But people ignored the dodgy Treasury forecasts warning of doom and gloom, as well as forecasts from the CBI, the IMF, the OECD and all the other organisations—the best-known organisations. The more the Government called in their friends in the Davos elite, including President Obama, the more ordinary people suspected that they were being sold a pup. I would go so far as to pay tribute to every person in the leave campaign, including in this regard only Nigel Farage—because, without him, we would not have had this referendum in the first place.
Now we must deliver on Brexit. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has said that the job now is to unite the party, unite the country and negotiate the best possible deal for Britain. To borrow a phrase from Lady Thatcher, I would say, “No, no, no”. The job now is to deliver what 17 million voted for—nothing more and nothing less. I say this as a former Conservative Party Opposition Chief Whip: you will not unite the Conservative Party around a fudge that is half-in and half-out of the single market, with a bit of freedom of movement here and a bit less there, and tweaking our budget contribution. We have tried that fudge over the past 20 years, and it has not worked very well for us. Some 17 million voted to take back full control over our democracy, which was the key runner, as all our leave studies showed—not immigration, but control over democracy and the ability to sack the politicians who are supposed to be in charge of us, as well as control over our law-making, borders and economy.
Of course we must have reconciliation and reaching out to those who voted remain, as well as consultation with Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland as we negotiate exit, but reconciliation will tear this country apart if it is merely crafty double-speak for compromise on the Brexit policy and selling out the electorate. Already we hear demands from some remainers that it is essential that we stay in the so-called single market, even if it means having to accept freedom of movement and some sort of payments to Brussels. What bit of “leave and take back control” do not they understand? First, it is not a single market. That fiction was sold to Margaret Thatcher by Delors in return for qualified majority voting. It is a single European regulatory zone and not a proper single market—look at the lack of a market in services. We do not have to be a member of the so-called single market to access it. The two are quite different.
I see some Commission officials are saying that we cannot cherry pick nor have EU à la carte. I agree entirely. I do not think we need to do either. First, we are a sovereign country and our Government are not going to negotiate with some Commission officials no matter what the Commission or the Parliament think. We will talk to other Heads of Government, but the Council’s appointed leader, Mr Didier Seeuws, a Belgian diplomat who was chief of staff to Herman van Rompuy, should not be top of the list. They say that he is an able man, and I have no doubt about that, but what planet are they on if they think that the fifth-largest economy in the world, the second-biggest member of NATO, a nuclear power and a member of the UN Security Council will prioritise talking to a minor Belgian diplomat rather than to Germany, France and Italy?
The negotiations are not complex; there is only one difficulty. We need a Prime Minister who will look Angela Merkel and Hollande in the eye and remind them, in the nicest possible way, that they have a trade surplus with us in goods of £70 billion. The City of London has a financial services surplus of £20 billion, so our Prime Minister simply has to say that we are willing to accept the status quo and that we will take no action on their goods if they permit passporting for the City of London. If they try to freeze out passporting, they will get hit with tariffs. It is a simple as that. It is not that complicated, but it requires guts and credibility to do it.
Our trade negotiations would be complex only if we had a massive trade surplus with the EU, not the other way round, and we were begging to be let into the market. On 24 June, the president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry—I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, is not in his place because I think he referred to this fellow—said:
“Following British departure from the EU, it will be in nobody’s interest to make the international flow of goods more expensive by erecting customs barriers between Britain and the European continent”.
Exactly, Herr Wissmann, and I suspect that will also be the view of French car, cheese and wine producers. The leaders of the big countries in the EU, which export far more to us than we do to them, know that it is in their fundamental political and economic interest to have no changes to our and their access to the so-called single market. It is quite clear that some of those who want interminable and complex trade negotiations have an agenda of staying in the EU and want, at most, Brexit-light.
The people have given this country a golden opportunity to prosper once again now that we will be throwing off the shackles of the corrupt, undemocratic, regulatory, job-destroying regime that is the post-Maastricht EU, an EU which has caused the rise of extremist parties in Europe because it denied people democracy and ignored their concerns. The Government have a relatively short time to deliver proper Brexit and meet the expectations of those millions of voters in Labour heartlands and in Tory middle England who voted out. We had a revolution through the ballot box on 23 June. A few thousand remainers marching through London wanting the result overturned will be as nothing if we betray those 17 million voters. The quiet people of England have now spoken, and God help us if we ignore them.
My Lords, we are a proud island people. Traditionally, we been the envy of less happy lands. Historically, we have intervened on the continent only to restore the balance of power against a Napoleon, a Kaiser or a Hitler. Yet, after the Second World War, we began to realise that we had missed the European bus. We tried, after the 1957 treaty of Rome, to find an alternative. I was in the Foreign Office when we built up EFTA but soon realised we were in a cul-de-sac that led absolutely nowhere. We had the two Gaullist vetoes, sought entry on our own terms, and then, eventually, had the referendum of 1975, which confirmed our membership of the European Economic Community. Alas, on 23 June, we went against that. We chose the exit door. Analysis shows that it was the oldies—the key dividing line was those aged above 44—who did it.
The experts so derided by Mr Gove have been proved right thus far. I shall not mention all that the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, has said, but we have seen the abandonment of the Chancellor’s fiscal target, the revision of investment decisions and the anxieties of our nationals on the continent and of EU nationals here. Those same experts will now be called on to build a new relationship with the European Union. The question arises of whether we have the experts we need to conduct the new trade negotiations, or whether we shall have to call upon the new world—New Zealand, for example—to redress the balance of what we do not have. Perhaps redundant city bankers and New Zealanders will help us out.
In June 2012, the Prime Minister argued strongly against an in/out referendum as,
“not the right thing to do”,
as it offered only two choices. He changed his position. Can anyone doubt that, essentially, it was changed, not for the national interest but for party reasons—just as he left the European People’s Party when he wanted to be selected as party leader? He who had blown on the flames of anti-Europeanism for much of the last five years has now been consumed by them.
Yet the Prime Minister was right to draw attention to the problem of a referendum offering only two choices—in or out. On 23 June, the people spoke, or at least, 36% of the eligible voters voted to leave. The dilemma we now face is: what did they say when they spoke? Did they speak clearly, apart from indicating that they wanted to get out? The spectrum of possibilities ranges from pulling up the drawbridge to seeking the closest possible relationship with our former partners. You cannot negotiate with public opinion. Some argue for a second referendum at the end of the negotiating process. But there is a problem. What happens if the new package is rejected by the people? Do we have to form another package and another, until a particular package is acceptable to a public opinion that may change over time?
The question we face is rather a Leninist one: what is to be done? How do we limit the damage? The front door is closed; let us see if we can find other ways round. Clearly there will have to be some trade-off between access to what the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, and others referred to as the so-called single market—certainly, industrialists and others know that it is a real single market—and free movement. We will have reduced bargaining power with third countries. Clearly we should try to preserve our beneficial relationships with European institutions, such as universities and collaborative research projects. The European Medicines Agency is probably doomed in its place in London, but Erasmus, surely, is so important that we should seek to preserve it. We will have to leave the European Council; therefore we will have to boost our bilateral relationships with European countries. Our own embassies in EU countries will become more important. The Foreign Office will need more funds.
I was in the Foreign Office on a European desk in the early 1960s, when we had a similar predicament. We were outside the European Union. We wanted to build a relationship, so what did we do? I was on the western European desk. We thought, “Here is an institution that brings together the existing members of the EEC and ourselves”. We sought to build it up and it lasted for a while. There is a still a western European union, but its parliamentary component has gone. Surely we need to try to find some institution—existing or developed—that brings us together with our former partners in the European Union. We will no longer be in the European Parliament. Inter-parliamentary relationships need to be increased. The IPU should be given additional funds, specifically to provide opportunities for UK parliamentarians to meet their EU colleagues.
However, surely the best opportunity for working together is in the field of military, security and intelligence policies. We need to continue the intelligence relationship in gathering and analysing material, and we need a close relationship with the common foreign and security policy, the CFSP, without which both the EU and the UK would be diplomatically diminished. For example, the United Kingdom was part of the EU3 in negotiations with Iran. If outside the EU, there is no reason why, given our weight, we should not be part of similar future initiatives.
On the military side, we should remain associated with the European Defence Agency. We should build on the excellent bilateral relationship we have with the French after the St Malo and Lancaster House agreements, and our experience of working together in the Balkans and Libya. We should seek to expand that excellent bilateral relationship with France to Germany and other countries. Should not our NATO allies also be encouraged to develop niche capabilities?
We shall have to live with the referendum decision and salvage what we can to protect the interests of our country. We should be forced to ask basic questions about ourselves and our role in the world until, I believe, eventually a new generation will seek a closer relationship with the European Union, which, by then, will probably have changed in the direction that we now favour.
My Lords, this vote has threatened the hopes of my children’s generation. Our young people asked, overwhelmingly, “Why would anyone want to leave the European Union?”. They now feel disillusioned, angry, hurt and betrayed. They have grown up as Europeans; they value their freedom of movement; and multiculturalism, tolerance and international friendship are at the heart of their being.
It could have all been different. With high-handed overconfidence, the Government rejected amendments giving votes to 16 and 17 year-olds, EU citizens resident in the UK and UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU for more than 15 years. Thus they denied votes, which could have proved decisive, to three groups of people who are now most profoundly affected by the leave vote.
Like all other noble Lords, I find it shameful that the Government now try to justify bargaining with the cast-iron promise of indefinite leave to remain given to UK-resident EU citizens, so I welcome the Bill tabled today by my right honourable friend Tom Brake MP guaranteeing their right to stay.
Where next? During the campaign, the Prime Minister said that he would invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty immediately if leave won. Then, as he resigned, he said that this would be a matter for his successor. My noble and learned friend Lord Wallace reminded us that Article 50 includes the words,
“in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”.
With no written constitution, the UK’s constitutional requirements for giving notice are uncertain. David Cameron seems to have assumed that notice could be given by exercising prerogative powers. I disagree. I far prefer the analysis of many senior lawyers, echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, who argue, broadly, that legislation is required.
Whatever the legal position, there is at least a political imperative which requires a resolution of the House of Commons, as the elected House, before an Article 50 notice may be served. The leave campaign stressed the sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament; it cannot now credibly argue that a non-binding referendum can take the final decision away from this Parliament. Moreover, the treaty does not say whether an Article 50 notice can be withdrawn after service. Again, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kerr. A negotiation is real only if the parties can walk away.
Implementing this crucial decision must not be rushed through with ill-considered haste; nor should it depend on the Conservatives’ leadership election. Many noble Lords have said that we must respect the will of the people—and so we must.
Remain fought a sad campaign. We failed to raise people’s sights from the threat to the economy, which many believed was exaggerated or worse. In hock to focus groups, we failed to make the principled case for international collaboration, for protecting our environment, for peace and stability, for freedom of movement. We said far too little about what the UK brings to the European Union rather than the other way around. We failed to refute the notion that while the head should say remain, the heart should say leave. That failure of ours allowed the leave campaign to persuade voters, albeit by a small majority, that they should abandon a relationship of 43 years which has involved facing the world together, making compromises, resolving differences by negotiations and discussions—often, yes, protracted and difficult—to pursue the superficial attraction of an independence that will prove entirely illusory and lead in time to economic hardship, isolation, weakness, disappointment and regret.
Much has been said by noble Lords today about misrepresentation during the campaign. With much I agree. But in six months or a year there may be more clarity and the true economic costs of leaving may have moved from the realms of speculation to a starker reality. The public mood may have palpably changed. The real-life options for our future relationship with the EU may be apparent. The EU may have changed its position. In this context we must end the absurd stand-off between a hurt and angry EU refusing to negotiate before notice is served and our being unwilling —reasonably so—to serve notice before negotiations start. Given our right to serve or withhold a notice at our option, we can do better than rely on ill-defined, informal bilateral talks, as outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, yesterday.
The Scottish Government’s threat to leave the United Kingdom is already clearer than it was. Might they not be willing to abandon plans for a second independence referendum if the United Kingdom does not invoke Article 50?
When Parliament takes its decision, my party will stand up for our internationalism and for our fundamental belief that we should play our full part in the European Union. We will take that principled position even if there is a political cost—just as my right honourable friend the late Charles Kennedy did over the war in Iraq, for which we are likely to receive vindication tomorrow, nine years late; and just as my right honourable friend Nick Clegg did when taking us into coalition with the Conservatives at a dangerous time for Britain, and at obvious political cost, leading to five years of stable and successful majority government, but ultimately leading to damaging losses for the Liberal Democrats which, ironically, delivered to David Cameron the overall majority and the referendum that have proved to be his nemesis.
I echo much of what the noble Lords, Lord Armstrong and Lord Butler, said. I trust that not only my party but Parliament will continue to do what Members of both Houses, with full regard for the referendum result, in their consciences believe to be in the national interest of the United Kingdom. That is the basis of parliamentary democracy and of the sovereignty of Parliament. If ultimately Parliament decides that it should put the terms of withdrawal to the people once again, so be it.
My Lords, the first political meeting that I attended was as a teenager in 1968 to hear an erudite but rather dry speaker extol the virtues of the Common Market. His arguments, but even more so the wartime experiences of my father and grandfather, clinched my support for entering the Common Market. My father had seen action at Monte Cassino and in the north African desert, his brother was killed in the RAF, and their father had been in the Flanders trenches and later in Mesopotamia and the Holy Land. Siegfried Sassoon’s Great War poetry, read in Picardy last week under leaden skies, 100 years after 20,000 British and Empire soldiers lost their lives on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, vividly recalls those catastrophic events. Sadly, another generation later, such powerful and shocking patriotic experiences seem to have lost much of their resonance.
My support for what became the European Community was also inspired by Europe’s founding fathers: Adenauer, Schuman, Monnet and de Gasperi, who were shaped by their own harrowing wartime experiences at the hands of Nazism and fascism. They were Christian humanists who believed in subsidiarity, solidarity, the promotion of the common good, social justice and reconciliation. It was for those reasons that in 1975, as a young local politician in Liverpool, I campaigned for Britain to stay in the Community, and 67% of the British people agreed.
In the intervening years, what went wrong and what has changed? By 2007, the Community had morphed into a Union and that year I spoke against the Lisbon treaty, because I do not believe in a centralised European superstate, replete with a common currency—so disastrous for countries such as Greece—a European army, or its other trappings. One size does not fit all and is contrary to subsidiarity.
Although I, along with my family, voted to remain in the European Union, it was clear to me that there would be a win for the leave campaign. This was confirmed when I chaired a public debate in Lancashire a week before the vote. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, reminded us about the problems of binary choices; I could not help thinking that if a third option had been available on the ballot paper I would have voted to remain and reform. Binary choices are by definition narrow, when most things in life are invariably more complicated and subtle. Similarly, in Scotland a third option of devo-max—rather than independence or status quo—would have united rather than divided. If we are to have more referenda we should think far more carefully about the questions we ask.
Just before the vote, someone close to me said she did not know anyone who was voting leave. That comment graphically illustrates how dangerously separated and divided our country has become—it is not only on the London Underground that we need to mind the gap. But the spectre of inequality referred to by the most reverend Primate reminds us that not just gaps but chasms are opening up in society. We need to understand that many people feel powerless, disaffected and angry. Many of them are from northern towns and live in poorer communities, dangerously disconnected from the political classes. It would be disingenuous beyond belief to caricature or dismiss all those who voted for Brexit as xenophobes or racists. I say that as someone whose mother was an immigrant whose first language was Irish, and who greatly prizes this nation’s diversity. But let me also be clear that the scapegoating and hate-mongering, and the deployment of poisonous xenophobic arguments not seen since the days of Peter Griffiths, will have long-term consequences for community cohesion. It is much easier to summon up the tempest than to quell it, and to call up the furies than dismiss them. In this respect I echo the remarks made throughout your Lordships’ House. The Government need to act immediately to make it clear that people settled here will not be weaponised in the coming negotiations. Failure to do so will further poison our world.
Many of the votes cast were angry votes. That anger, fuelled by a scepticism about Europe’s failure to deal with a mass migration of terrified people, was hardly assuaged by Jean-Claude Juncker’s arrogance in telling us just days before this tumultuous referendum that however we voted it would not make any difference. The Junckerism seems to be catching. The noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, said unwisely last week that, “There has to be a way to resist public opinion”. It is bad enough that millions of our poorer citizens believe that the establishment has become impervious to their fate, but it would be unbelievably dangerous to tell 17.5 million people that they will be resisted and not listened to. The key to the future is surely to be found in Article 50, which specifically requires the European Union to listen to an exiting member and, in the words of the article, to take,
“account of the framework for its future relationship”.
This crisis must now be used to create a range of new relationships at every level, perhaps modelled for instance on the EU framework programmes such as Horizon 2020, which is so important to UK science. Switzerland, Israel and Norway are all part of Horizon 2020, but of course are not part of the European Union. It is imperative that political paralysis does not delay work in forging such relationships. These are urgent questions and the Government simply cannot go into hibernation. Skilful negotiators will need wise heads, steely nerves and steady hands to see whether within the framework of subsidiarity, solidarity and the common good we can create new opportunities to live together amicably. We owe it to those who bought our own and Europe’s freedoms with their blood and their lives. We also owe it to all those who now feel marginalised or fearful for their own futures.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has made a thoughtful and wise speech, and I am sure that every Member of your Lordships’ House will endorse completely what he said, and what has been said by so many, about European Union nationals in this country and our nationals in the European Union never becoming a bargaining counter, and how essential it is that that matter is put clearly, firmly and unequivocally as early as possible.
I have heard every single word of the 35 speeches that have preceded mine and they have been very varied. It is clear that in the three weeks which have elapsed since we last debated the referendum on 15 June, some feelings have hardened. There are wounds that are still deep and there is an understandable elation on the part of some who perhaps did not expect to be so euphoric today. But in those immortal words, we are where we are, and we have got to move forward constructively.
No one has said anything so far in this debate about the necessity of trying to have another British Commissioner, my noble friend Lord Hill having in my view prematurely retired. Nothing has been said about the need for us to take seriously the fact that next year the presidency is supposed to fall to this country. I believe that as long as we are a member of the European Union, we have to be a fully participating member of it.
I want to concentrate my remarks on one issue above all others. I do so in the secure knowledge that if one wants to keep a secret, it is a good idea to make a speech in the House of Lords. I want to appeal to our colleagues at the other end of the Corridor, and particularly to colleagues in the Conservative Party. Today they are casting their votes in the first ballot for the Conservative leadership. Whether one believes that it was wise or foolish of the Prime Minister to announce his resignation so soon—I personally do not think he had any alternative—he did announce it, perfectly honourably. But in doing so he created a vacuum, and time and again we have heard the words which have been cited in this debate: that everything will depend on the new Prime Minister and the new Government. At a time when one of the principal ingredients of a parliamentary democracy is entirely absent—namely, a strong Opposition—we are in a vacuum as far as the Government are concerned. We need a Prime Minister and we need one soon.
Those who are aspiring to the leadership of the Conservative Party and therefore to be Prime Minister of our great country—it is and will remain a great country—have a duty, if over the few days until next Tuesday it becomes apparent that a particular candidate has very considerable support, to row in behind that candidate. My own view, and I would be disingenuous not to confess it, is that one candidate has the qualities referred to earlier by my noble friend Lady Goldie of steely determination, a steady hand and long experience of high office. Theresa May has another very important quality: contrary to what many of my noble friends on the Brexit side would say, I believe that we will get a far better deal in Europe if the Prime Minister of our country is not perceived as hostile by those with whom she is negotiating. I very much hope that, during the next week, we will see a clear favourite emerge at the other end of the Corridor who will be able to assume the mantle of Prime Minister before the end of this month.
I know that people talk about the vote in the country, but what are we talking about? We are talking about an electorate that is twice the size of an ordinary constituency: about 140,000 electors. We are talking of people who are not necessarily representative of the ordinary Conservative voter. In the days when I became active in politics over 50 years ago, the Conservative Party had 2.5 million members. There were 500,000 in the Young Conservatives alone. It really was a mass political movement. It is not any more. It would be self-indulgent for our party in the country to maintain a political vacuum by holding up the election of a leader at a time when we desperately need firm, clear and decisive leadership. We need a Government selected by the Prime Minister in whom that Prime Minister can have confidence and who can have confidence in serving that Prime Minister.
I make no apology for this appeal to friends and colleagues at the other end of the Corridor, and to friends and colleagues in the Conservative Party up and down the country, of which I have many, having sat in the other place as a Conservative Member for 40 uninterrupted years: collectively, we Conservatives have this duty. It is a national duty, and all the more a national duty when—and I grieve about this—the Opposition is in such disarray. I very much hope that we shall soon see a strong, credible leader of a strong, credible, alternative Government but we do not have that luxury at the moment. The responsibility therefore lies on those of us who sit on these Benches in this House, and in another place. I hope that before the end of this month No. 10 Downing Street will have a new occupant in whom we can all have confidence and who will be able to lead the trickiest negotiations that this country will have had for a very long time.
I have heard every speech. I shall have to go in a few minutes because I am launching the House of Lords volumes in the History of Parliament series, with which many noble Lords may be familiar. They deal with that critical period in our history between the Restoration in 1660 and the coming of the Hanoverians in 1714. Having a sense of history gives one a sense of perspective and helps me to overcome some of the gloom that has engulfed me in the past two weeks.
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. When he spoke of a woman to lead with decisiveness and a steely determination to get on with the business, I thought he was talking about Angela Eagle.
I am reminded of the closing words of “King Lear”:
The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
Therefore, it is with sorrow, not with anger, that I will dwell—unlike the noble Lord, Lord Butler—on the campaign. I recognise, too, the sadness on the government Benches and of the Government at a result they did not want. They campaigned for a very different result. None the less, there is a determination to sort out this mess.
I served for 15 years as an active Member of the European Parliament. During all my time there, and since, I have never recognised the European institutions as represented in this country or in debate. Alan Ayckbourn said that comedy is a tragedy interrupted. We are in the midst of a national tragedy of unimagined proportions, but we have witnessed tragicomedy in the wake of the referendum result as Johnson and Farage, like a latter-day Laurel and Hardy, shuffle off, leaving us with another fine mess that they have gotten us into. Then Michael Gove, having derided and diminished experts, now does a 180-degree pirouette and demands that they be brought in to sort out the mess. You could not make it up.
Into this interesting storyline and web of lies, deceit, hate and, yes, fear, the right-wing British press added its misinformation, disinformation and barefaced lies, undermining informed decision-making democracy. Yes, these are strong words. Truth was sacrificed. Immigrants and migrants were paraded as factors of fear and threats to our way of life. They became figures of hate—to our eternal shame. Was the right-wing press objective and fair, according to internationally agreed principles on election observation agreed at the United Nations? The answer is an unequivocal no. It serves me no great pleasure to state that.
A lacklustre media saw fabrication, ignorance and pure invention go unchallenged and uncorrected by presenters who should have known or been briefed better. The denial of a veto on accession, the £350 million a week that was supposedly going to Brussels, and the EU defence force—most of these claims went uncorrected. The disgraceful depiction of Turkey and Turkish people as negative and a threat to this country is unforgiveable. If nothing else, the leave campaigners owe an apology to Turkey and the Turkish people. I am afraid that I do not agree with the Leader of the House: this was not a great democratic exercise. It was a shameful campaign that diminished Great Britain and our place in the world, let alone Europe. Precisely when we should have supported the EU in the refugee crisis and the euro crisis, we abandoned any sense of solidarity and became self-obsessed and self-serving. In so doing, we threw away a thousand years of history.
We are now in a perfect political storm, rudderless, leaderless—yes, I refer to my own party, too—and clueless. Nearly two weeks after the referendum result, we wait for the leave plan. We wait in vain because plan comes there none. There was no plan—that is absolutely right. That is why Parliament must consider how to act, weighing the options carefully and slowly. This will affect not only our generation but generations yet to come, and the younger generation who feel betrayed—as noble Lords have said.
We must not be defined by right-wing, narrow nationalism nor by racism and xenophobia. Britain is better than that. We are better than that. However, a dark underbelly has been revealed and, I believe, encouraged by the right-wing press. That is deeply disturbing. I woke up on 24 June to feel like I did not belong in my own country, that my values of fairness, decency, human rights, justice and inclusivity had been rejected. Now, I am more determined than ever to uphold those values. They are British values and they are European values—a Europe born out of the ashes of the Second World War: ashes of people’s hopes and dreams, and ashes from crematoria dotted across Europe where people went because they were perceived and portrayed as different. Out of that history came a determination that we would never look away again, we would never scapegoat, we would never see country fight country for power, coal, steel or economic superiority. It is a Europe based on fundamental human rights. A Britain that helped to construct it now turns the other way.
EU nationals, to whom your Lordships have referred, currently reside here. On the issue of giving them reassurance, Downing Street was quoted as saying there will be, “no immediate change” to status. The Home Office Minister yesterday offered little more. However, the Foreign Secretary was quite clear and said it is “absurd” to guarantee a right to stay in the United Kingdom before a reciprocal deal is done for UK expats in the European Union. Whatever happened to leadership? We should show vision, some guts, and above all else some principles—the principles of a country with human rights and civil liberties at its heart, not at the fringes of a negotiating process. The House is clear: afford the right to reside and do it now. These people have settled here; they are employed and have businesses here; they have mortgages, and children in schools here. They are part of the fabric that holds our society together and we must not abandon them.
The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury understood well that we must now come together as a nation. I suggest that that should not rule out the prospect of a Government of national unity. The most reverend Primate recognised clearly that inequality is at the very root of the disfranchisement and disempowerment felt by so many. We need to catch hold of that hope he spoke of, not abandon it, and find the means to celebrate difference and diversity as fundamental values of our country—an inclusive and outward-looking country. In the meantime, the comedians are leaving the stage and the tragedy continues to unfold.
My Lords, I am proud to speak from the Liberal Democrat Benches, where we have a leader whose position is secure and who has the support of all of us. I am also proud that it was a Liberal Democrat MP, Tom Brake, who took the only real action to secure the position of EU citizens living and working here. Yet these are small consolations to me today because I have such concern about the effect on the NHS.
Of all the disasters that will result from the EU referendum, one of the worst is the effect on our health and social care services, on which the outcome is likely to inflict significant damage. It was also the subject of the biggest, fattest lie of the leave campaign, one of those that was retracted almost before the ink was dry on the result. “Three hundred and fifty million pounds extra per week for the NHS” was plastered all over the campaign buses and, even though it was frequently pointed out that this could not happen, the leave campaigners cynically waited until after the result reluctantly to admit that it was not true. Where does that leave those who voted leave because they thought it would help the NHS which so desperately needs more funding? Betrayed and angry, that’s where it leaves them. They were conned into delivering their precious votes into the hands of a bunch of charlatans. I know that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House would prefer us to sweep these facts under the carpet and be positive, but they matter—not least because some of those now seeking to lead this country had every opportunity to correct this misinformation, and they did not take it.
So where are we now? We have an NHS which has to rely completely on funding from a thriving economy if it is ever to be able to deliver on the needs of an ageing population—one that rightly demands the benefits of the latest medical and scientific research. It also relies on immigrants. It is estimated that 10,000 EU doctors and 52,000 EU nurses are working in our NHS today. What have we heard from the Government and from those wishing to lead it about these people? Only that they are to be used as pawns in the negotiations to leave the EU. There are 335 EU citizens working in the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital alone. They do not know what will happen to them in two years’ time. How would that hospital manage if they got fed up waiting for some assurances and went home? It is disgraceful to play a game of poker with these people’s lives and their contribution to our health service. The Government must do the right thing now and give these workers the confidence of knowing that the UK wants to keep them here, contributing to our care and to our economy. What about the thousands working on very low pay in our social care sector, caring for the old and vulnerable and putting up with minimum wages for doing a very difficult job? It is time that the Government took the initiative and said that these EU citizens will be allowed to stay if ever the UK leaves the EU.
Then there is the effect on our ability to recruit the best research talent from abroad and on the pharmaceutical companies that have to invest millions of pounds to develop new drugs and treatments. Reducing corporation tax is not going to reverse the damage to them. Investment decisions are already being made or postponed. Why would highly qualified researchers and medical staff come here when they do not feel welcome and have to jump through all sorts of hoops to get here? The UK is part of a worldwide marketplace for talent and there is a chronic global shortage of highly qualified research and clinical staff. We have just made it more difficult to attract the best.
On the big issue of resourcing, we have heard many times in your Lordships’ House about the £30 billion gap in NHS funding and the £6 billion gap in social care funding. My right honourable friend Norman Lamb has long called for a new Beveridge commission, an independent commission to look at how health and social care should be funded. This is needed now more than ever because the economy is in crisis and it is our taxes that pay for the NHS.
In the next few months, the biggest threat to the NHS will come from a recession-driven round of additional spending cuts, hitting non-ring-fenced budgets such as social care. Such cuts would be almost as bad for the NHS as direct funding cuts and would significantly exacerbate the financial problems of the acute hospital trusts. The promises from the current Chancellor and at least one of the candidates for Conservative leader to abandon their manifesto promise to remove the deficit by 2020 is quite sensible, as they are hardly likely to be able to deliver it if we have an economic recession. While I welcome this pledge, I cannot see how a failing economy will be able to deliver the funding that public services need to survive. The Government need to steady the ship, but we have no captain. This captain is to be elected by 0.03% of the electorate. I do not call that democracy.
Changing models of care are essential for the sustainability for the NHS, but there are now far too many uncertainties to allow health service managers to plan for change. Uncertainty is just as bad for the NHS as it is for the City of London. One recent change with great potential for patient benefit has been the devolution to Manchester of the powers to deliver health and social care. However, even if the Government remain committed to this kind of devolution, the Civil Service will be so busy disentangling us from Europe that they will not have the capacity to do the work. In the longer term, there will be issues about the working time directive. The junior doctors and all the other staff will have to negotiate new maximum working hours and all the other elements of contracts that have been so hard-fought.
Will the Government now pledge that there will be no further cuts to public services? Brexit could undermine staffing, research, service reform, devolution and funding. I find it very difficult to obey the exhortation of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury in his excellent speech to be hopeful and positive. The only thing that gives me hope is the ability of the NHS and care staff to keep calm and carry on in the interests of their patients, despite the turbulent waters into which we have been steered by the man without a plan.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, whom it is a pleasure to follow, is an orator. She has spoken eloquently on the question of the NHS. I am but a dry, superannuated lawyer. I shall leave the merits of this debate behind, although I should perhaps begin by saying that I favoured and voted for remain. Indeed, as I had suggested in a letter to the Times, whatever might be thought to be our national interests, the wider interests of Europe as a whole surely dictated that we should remain. But that is now mere nostalgia; the present reality is that the majority of our citizens have voted to leave. We have already lost not only a Prime Minister but the benefits—limited though they no doubt were—that he achieved in the February negotiations.
The only lawful route to leaving is via an Article 50 notification. So much is clear and, I think, undisputed among lawyers. It is clear, too, that we cannot lawfully repeal the 1972 Act—in particular, those parts of it that submit us to the paramountcy of EU law—until we have reached the point of leaving the Union. Until we leave, we need it. Altogether less clear is whether, under UK law, a parliamentary process—probably an Act of Parliament—is necessary to authorise an Article 50 notification of withdrawal, or whether this can be done by the Executive under prerogative powers. As we know, this issue is now apparently to be the subject of litigation. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, consistently argues the view that he expressed in his Times column last week that legislation is required. In a letter in yesterday’s Times, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Millett, a retired Law Lord, took the contrary view. If this issue has to be litigated, it will be decided, as the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, said, purely by reference to our domestic law because it depends ultimately on, in the language of Article 50(1), our “own constitutional requirements”. I tend, as he did, to share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, that legislation is necessary, but that may become an academic issue. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Millett, ended his letter by saying that, in practice,
“it would be politically impossible to implement Article 50 without the consent of the House of Commons”.
I suggest, too, that it would need the consent of your Lordships’ House.
The critical question is this. I suppose there to be a substantial majority of the Members of both Houses—many in the light of the gathering uncertainties as to precisely what Brexit will involve—who are now strengthened in their belief that Brexit will be profoundly damaging to our national interests, let alone the wider interests of Europe as a whole. Notwithstanding this, should Parliament none the less give effect to the outcome of the referendum vote by authorising an Article 50 notification on whatever basis the incoming Prime Minister believes is best?
The arguments for and against our feeling bound to follow the will of the majority expressed in the referendum vote are obvious on both sides. They have already been widely canvassed by several of your Lordships and I shall not rehearse them. They are neatly encapsulated in today’s Times correspondence columns. Vernon Bogdanor suggested that rejecting the referendum result would be “very dangerous” for democracy—in short, a betrayal of the already somewhat fragile trust that the public have in us as parliamentarians. But other letters suggested that since parliamentary sovereignty was a central plank of the Brexit campaign, the campaigners could hardly complain if Parliament now rejects their vote to leave the EU. I have to say, albeit with great reluctance, that like the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, I am of the clear view that we have to give effect to the leave vote. This referendum was, after all, legislated for by a large majority in Parliament and designed to settle once and for all a basic question of principle, even though, ineptly, as others have pointed out, it is suggested that we are faced with a simple binary choice.
I shall say a word on the subsidiary question—another legal question—as to whether an Article 50 notification is irreversible. Suppose, following such a notification and negotiations under it, it becomes apparent that, after all, the best deal available would be conspicuously worse than remaining in the Union, could we simply abort the process and simply say that we are going to stay, or would the process have to proceed inexorably to the exit door? The noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, suggested that we could change our mind, and so, too, did Sir David Edward, our distinguished judge who used to be in Luxembourg, and Professor Wyatt in their evidence to the EU Committee of the noble Lord, Lord Boswell. I hope that they are right but I have to say that I have read very powerful legal arguments to the contrary. This is a legal issue which, if it did arise, would have to be decided by the ECJ. Alas, we cannot count on being given a second chance to stay once we have started negotiation and proceeded down that road. Of course, the other 27 states may be happy to allow us to change our minds, particularly if, as the noble Lord, Lord Butler, envisages, the Union had already moved—as one day it is likely to—to a less extreme position on the issue of freedom of movement. However, I am not optimistic about this. I fear that the rest of the Union will not wish to be seen to be trimming this cardinal principle to encourage a generally disobliging state—as they would perceive us to be—to stay with them. That said, there was not a word in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, with which I disagreed. This is essentially a concurring judgment, not a dissent.
Because, however, we are unable to guarantee a second choice—a second bite of the cherry—it is surely imperative that we do not notify our Article 50 decision until we have in place a plan which the Government are quite sure will satisfy those who voted for Brexit and is likely to be achievable in the real world. Alas, at present, plainly no such plan is agreed by all Brexiteers. One has only to contrast the speech today of the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, on the one hand, with the much more cautious, nuanced suggestion of continued close association with the single market in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Maude, on the other. That is a difference replicated by the contenders for the next premiership. One day, no doubt, the clouds will clear on this issue, but I fear that thunderstorms are all too likely along the way. Boris may have gone but he leaves appalling problems in his wake.
My Lords, the story is told that when Hugh Gaitskell made his passionate speech at the Labour Party conference advocating that Britain should not join the Common Market, as it then was, his wife turned to him and said, “All the wrong people are cheering”. That is how I felt when the referendum result was announced and one heard that Marine Le Pen in France was over the moon, Mr Geert Wilders in the Netherlands thought that we had set an admirable example, and Donald Trump even took the trouble to go to Scotland to tell us how well we had done. Those are not the people to whom I hope this country would normally look for cheers. None the less, democracy trumps all. The people have voted, the result is clear and we must now do our best, on behalf of the country, to mitigate the consequences and achieve the best future that we can. As the most reverend Primate the Archbishop so eloquently pointed out, the place we should start is to prevent the sort of views that Ms Le Pen and Mr Wilders and, indeed, Donald Trump, advocate.
It is very important to recognise the damage that has been done to communal and race relations as a result of much of what was said by the leavers in their campaign. I am not suggesting that they intended to inflame communal and race relations, but I do suggest that they were often very careless in what they said and in the posters they produced. The results are perfectly clear: there has been an enormous increase in hate crimes against people from other parts of Europe, and against Muslims and other people from outside the European continent. Emotions have been inflamed and the impression has been given—one has seen this on television screens—that what leave meant was that foreigners would go home, and would go home quickly. One of the responsibilities that the leaders of the leave campaign should now take up is to say explicitly, not just in this House or in the Commons, but in the constituencies concerned, that that is not what was meant, and that those people who are here—I do not mean just doctors, lawyers and people in the City, but people all over this country doing humble and modest jobs to the benefit of our economy—are as welcome now as they were before. I of course welcome what has been said in this debate about not using EU citizens as hostages or bargaining counters. That is quite right. However, a great deal more is needed and the most reverend Primate the Archbishop set us all an example.
However, we need to ask ourselves why in this normally tolerant society so many people have been open to the idea of venting their anger against immigrants. I do not think it is a matter just of numbers, as the situation was often worse in places where there are practically no immigrants at all. As other noble Lords have said, I believe that it arises from a widespread sense of insecurity and a sense among many people in this country that their jobs are at risk or are disappearing. They feel that while they are facing increasing difficulties, others are getting richer at their expense. They feel threatened by social and economic change, of which immigrants are the outward manifestation and thus become the scapegoat.
Much of the remain case, which I, of course, supported, was based on the proposition that a leave vote would damage the country’s prosperity and that of its citizens. I believe that to be true. However, I understand that for those who feel that they have not shared in the fruits of prosperity, it is not such a very convincing argument. I am a strong believer in the benefits of capitalism and globalisation, but I recognise—I have been very much reminded of this by recent events—that those benefits have been very unequally distributed. It is very important now that the Government turn their mind to doing more to ensure that, while the strong are rewarded and encouraged, those who are at risk from and suffering from change are protected and given the means to adapt and adjust.
This problem will get much more severe. The rise of the robots—which was the title of a recent book—and advances in artificial intelligence will put at risk a great many more people who are much higher in the socio-economic scale than those who have been suffering until recently. This is one of the great lessons we must learn from what happened in the referendum. I would say to my own party, too, that we have far too often given the impression that we are in favour of austerity for its own sake, rather than as a means of bringing about a stronger economy. That balance must also be righted.
In the very short time remaining to me, I would like to say a word about Britain and the EU. I hope that our relationship will be as close as possible, not just in trade, economic and financial matters. I hope that we can preserve as much as possible of all that has been built up in the sphere of political, foreign policy and security co-operation. Likewise, I hope that a great deal can be maintained in the area of development, which covers trade agreements as well as aid, where we have co-operated so effectively with our European partners. We must also remember that the EU and NATO are two sides of the same coin. We must not allow our relationship with our EU partners, who are also our principal partners in NATO, to be damaged. There is a lot that can be saved: we must try to save it and build a better future for this country, both domestically and in our relationships with our partners.
My Lords, there has been a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth in the House this afternoon. It seems only a very short time ago that Members on all sides of the House were urging the British public to register to vote and to use that vote. We are all aware that low turnout at elections of all kinds is of great concern and dangerous to future democratic engagement. I cast my vote in the referendum in west Somerset. The turnout there was 79.1%, which was extraordinary and excellent; the result was 39% remain and 61% leave. If democracy is to survive, it is essential that Parliament respect the will of the people. What message would the electorate receive from, and what would their response be to, voices who call for another referendum, a general election, a delay in the hope that something will turn up and change their minds, or those who tell them that their vote is advisory only and that, in effect, parliamentarians know best?
I am grateful for all that the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal said in opening this debate. I agreed with every word. Whatever our views, those on both sides of that past argument now have to do their best to give effect to the vote. Not to do so would not just cause irreparable damage to future political engagement and respect for the parliamentary process; even more seriously, when the electorate already mistrust politicians like us and those in another place, we would risk holing parliamentary democracy below the waterline. Political involvement is, of course, heady stuff. We all know that emotions ran high during the campaign and they still do, as can be seen in this House. They cut across friends, neighbours, work colleagues and even families. However, democracy surely means government by all the people. That includes those who do not agree with you, those whom you think got it wrong, those whom you believe were misled by your opponents, and those who were too stupid or insufficiently well-educated to understand—and those are all arguments I have heard in the last week.
The increase in reported racial hatred and abuse is utterly shameful and is rightly condemned by all of us. We should also know that abuse of those who voted to leave is sadly not uncommon as well. As the right reverend Prelate said, there is an enormous amount to be done on both sides to heal the gap that has now arisen. Unless people were deeply unconscious during the whole of the campaign, the electorate cannot have been unaware that serious consequences would follow a vote to leave. It was spelled out in spades; it was amplified; it was repeated every day and embellished almost to the point of farce. Few voters could have been unaware of the possibility—even probability—that they personally might be worse off. Whether one agrees with the majority view or not, people voted for what they believed was right for our nation. That took real courage, in the face of the campaign.
What happens now? Other noble Lords have spoken about the damage that uncertainty is currently doing. That is obvious: talk to anyone in retailing, business or manufacturing. They all have things on hold because they are waiting to see what is going to happen. We have to do what we can to end uncertainty where we can. That means there has to be a clear timetable, which everyone understands, and a clear process which is agreed. People cannot plan their lives if government delay taking action. We have got to get on with it. Secondly, as others have said, EU nationals who are currently here have to have their minds put to rest—not in September, but now. We have a Prime Minister; could he not leave the packing cases for a very short time? At a stroke, he could remove a great deal of distress for many people and their families, and their employers.
Finally, a significant feature of the campaign was cross-party campaigning on both sides. I have lost count of the number of people who remarked favourably on seeing the Prime Minister campaigning with Sadiq Khan—politicians working across the party divide. I believe that the public are utterly fed up with the major political parties obsessing about their internal affairs. On these complex negotiations, I believe that the public want to see co-operation, putting the nation first and above party. That is also essential to heal the divisions which the result has inevitably left. We have surely now had quite enough of recriminations, negativity, hand-wringing and pessimism. Brexit is going to go ahead. However we voted as individuals, we are all of us in a different place now. For goodness’ sake, let us get on with it and make a success of it, as I believe we can.
My Lords, with the single, wonderful and inspirational exception of our football team, my country has perplexed and saddened me recently. I campaigned in the referendum in Cardiff, which voted heavily to remain, but much of the rest of Wales voted to leave, despite being a net beneficiary of EU money. That included rural areas with a heavy dependence on EU agricultural subsidies, which now face a very uncertain future, and the city of Swansea, which has had many millions of pounds from the EU to build a new university campus. The heaviest leave votes were in those parts of Wales which have benefited most intensively from EU funding.
These areas are at the sharp end when industrial and business investment recedes. Indeed, the Cardiff metro project, designed to link the valleys with the capital city, is already in doubt because of the almost inevitable withdrawal of EU funding. Successive Governments in Britain have proved very unwilling to endorse the use of EU money to assist poorer areas. I recall that the very first big argument in the fledgling Welsh Assembly was about the Labour Government’s refusal to provide match funding—which is, of course, what you need when you have money from Europe. So I am very sceptical that the current or future Governments will simply plug the gap. Anyway, the mythical £350 million a week has already been spent many times over.
A slow fuse has been lit. People seemed to expect an immediate explosion after the EU decision. They looked to the stock market, expecting it to fall dramatically. However, what will actually happen is that business disinvestment will take years as the fuse slowly burns away. I have one plea to the Government: that they ensure that the Welsh Government are fully involved in the negotiations to come. If they are not, the alienation in Wales will only increase. The Government need to beware of creating another Scotland.
I shall now concentrate on transport-related issues. These are practical problems that need to be solved, or at least grappled with. They are issues that affect us in everyday life. I am pretty sure that people who voted to leave still expect to be able to fly abroad to their summer holidays and to buy goods that have been transported safely and in a timely manner from other countries. There is a simple, practical fact about which nobody—no referendum, no decision—can do anything: the continent of Europe, the land mass, stands between us and much of the rest of the world.
The first issue is the Channel Tunnel. The dream of the Channel Tunnel long predates the European Union, but the tunnel was constructed while Britain was a member and it has been executed and managed with EU membership at the forefront. It is privately financed and privately run by an Anglo-French consortium and its scale is simply enormous—400 trains a day, 50,000 passengers a day and 54,000 tonnes of freight a day. The point is that the British border is in France, and that arrangement has already been placed in doubt.
It is clear that many who voted to leave did so in the expectation of tighter border controls. This conflicts with the inspiration behind the Channel Tunnel, which was to have freer and faster movement of both people and goods between Britain and France. Any moves to implement tighter controls or to apply them in different ways will inevitably have an impact on business and on the enormous investment that the Channel Tunnel represents. Have the Government given any consideration to the impact of future models for immigration control on this business, which has invested recently many millions of pounds on expansion plans? How will control of movements through the tunnel work in future?
Turning to air travel, Britain is part of the single European sky project. Europe has competence on air traffic management and the single European sky project defragments European airspace. It reduces flight times. It is good for the environment. It increases safety. Airspace is divided into blocks: functional airspace blocks. We share one—a unified block—with Ireland, which of course will remain part of the EU. About 90% of North Atlantic traffic passes through this block. It is part of the modernisation of air traffic management technologies and I hope that it is pretty obvious that we need to remain part of it. But here is the rub. The European Aviation Safety Agency has competence over our airports, air traffic management and air navigation services as part of this modernisation scheme. So the question for the Government is: will we withdraw from this, or is this yet another part of the EU that we suddenly discover is a benefit and not a burden?
The aerospace industry is worth billions of pounds to our economy and employs thousands of people. Freight transport—whether by road, rail, sea or air—is our lifeblood with, in the first quarter of this year, 700,000 vehicles travelling from Britain to mainland Europe. We all know about the impact last summer of the delays around Dover when we had Operation Stack. It caused loss of time and money for those in the industry, but it also destroyed goods. Delay means the destruction of goods in the freight industry, so changes in border control will affect that.
Finally, I emphasise the importance that EU legislation has had for us on our roads. The tachograph, regulations on drivers’ hours, standards of vehicles, the loading of vehicles: they all affect us every day as we drive on our roads. The EU has at its core a sound principle, and I think that many people are suddenly beginning to wake up to that.
My Lords, I endorse the comments of my noble and learned friend Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood and the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, who, as many other noble Lords have done, made the important point that it is essential now that this Parliament and Government give effect to the expressed view of our fellow citizens in this referendum and ensure that the most effective way forward is achieved for our great nation in its future relationship with the European Union. To do anything less runs a very serious risk of undermining our democracy, undermining faith in the work of our Parliament and further consolidating some dangerous trends with regard to cohesion in society that have been identified and came to the surface in the aftermath of the referendum.
Before turning to that matter in some more detail, I shall pick up on a point made by my noble friend Lord Alton of Liverpool. In so doing I declare an interest as professor of surgery at University College London and as the UK business ambassador for healthcare and life sciences. My noble friend made the point that there are now areas of national activity that require clear advice and instruction from government in terms of dealing with the consequences of the referendum decision. One such area is that of collaboration in scientific research in Europe, which is well recognised. In the previous Session of Parliament, your Lordships’ Science and Technology Committee undertook an interesting report into the relationship between UK science and the European Union.
There is no doubt that the negotiation as it goes forward provides the opportunity to consolidate that relationship. As we heard from my noble friend Lord Alton and others, many nations that are not part of the European Union have participated in programmes such as Horizon 2020. There must clearly be the opportunity to do that. However, interestingly, there are now reports that European universities and individuals—though not the European institutions—are starting to exclude UK universities and individuals from scientific collaborations to be made in the coming weeks and months. That is clearly inappropriate.
No final decision on the disposition between the relationship of our universities and the European Union has been reached. It would be a matter of negotiation. To exclude them at this early stage runs the risk of destroying important networks and collaborations that have taken years to build. The research opportunities lost as a result could have profound impacts on our economy—research and development is vital to it—and, in the area of biomedical research, on the health of the nation. What advice are the Government able to provide to ensure that UK universities can overcome this potentially important problem by addressing these types of, let us say, unilateral decisions by individuals and institutions in Europe to exclude their UK partners?
I turn to the truly shocking and worrying increased reporting of so-called hate crimes. This is a difficult and dangerous situation. Appropriate discussion and debate about immigration to our country is absolutely justified and it has certainly formed an important part of recent political dialogue, but for that reasoned debate to be hijacked by illegitimate focus on racism and prejudice is completely wrong. It causes deep anxiety in communities from the European Union that are settled here in our great country, and in other well-settled communities. It makes them feel that they are no longer safe to live securely in their communities and in our country, and that is truly a disaster.
We have heard that Her Majesty’s Government have rightly encouraged those who are the subject of these terrible crimes to report them. It would be useful to understand when the Government’s hate crime action plan is to be published. It is very important that that plan deals in some detail with what needs to be done regarding resources for policing and support for community activities and organisations to drive forward better understanding. It is also vital that the question of settled EU individuals and communities in this country is addressed rapidly. A failure to do so runs the serious risk of allowing prejudice to become more established. That is clearly not the intention of anybody on either side of the European argument, and therefore it needs to be addressed effectively and rapidly.
In addition, we need to understand the underlying reasons for this reaction. We have heard them discussed in some detail in this fascinating debate. Those issues must not be ignored. They need to be addressed effectively to ensure that the lessons learned beyond the broader question of Europe can be understood and effectively addressed as part of public policy in the years to come. We must also use this as an opportunity to engage once again with our national values. At the heart of those national values, as we heard earlier from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, are tolerance and decency. Fundamentally, as our nation moves forward, it will be tolerance and decency which will ensure our long-term success both at home and abroad.
My Lords, after listening to many speeches today in your Lordships’ House, I fear that mine will appear to be contrarian. I make it not in a contrarian spirit nor with a contrarian mind. I voted in 1975 to remain in the European Union. The Lord Privy Seal said in opening the debate this morning that the referendum was a momentous democratic event. In our post-war history, the Attlee Government of 1945 and the Thatcher Governments after 1979 were the two watershed events of British politics. The result in this referendum was a response to a single question: remain or leave? It did not fudge the issue, and neither did the result. It was clearly a protest against the growing power of Brussels over our governance in these countries of ours and, for me, a rejection of the sustainability of the European Union in its present form.
The euro is a monetary union without a fiscal or political union. It results in intolerable levels of unemployment in southern European countries and even worse levels of youth unemployment. Schengen is a great idea, but five member countries are putting up fences against other member countries. The established political parties in the European Union have failed to respond to the aspirations of their electorates; the result has been the growth of some very unattractive extremist parties. My noble friend Lord Lamont mentioned polling on ever-closer union in a number of key European countries. Clearly, it is not something that they want, yet I have the strong feeling that, despite all this, the EU will insist on carrying on to become a transnational state.
I believe that your Lordships’ House has a role to play in the next few years in debating this issue, but we need to tread with care. As the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, stated so forcefully, any attempt to undo what has been done will be seen as a betrayal of the democratic process. As my noble friend Lord Lawson said earlier, the result could be mayhem.
For myself, I feel that the vote touched a deeper nerve in our society—something commented on by the right reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. The vote was a judgment by people about the way that British society has developed over the past few decades; the growing divide between the rich and the rest, between winners and losers from globalisation; the rapid change in our culture, which has left people confused and without a clear sense of identity; and about a sense that modern Britain has become a two- class society with stagnant real incomes for lower-income earners, inadequate housing, high youth unemployment and millions of families without any ownership stake in this society. The vote therefore not only affects Europe but is a wake-up call for us all.
The way forward can be set out only by a new Prime Minister and a new Cabinet. The first priority will be to negotiate an exit on the best possible terms. We clearly have very few trade negotiators but New Zealand is happy to help us and we are in a strong position on the single market. We do not have to assume that during two years of negotiations the arguments will be black and white, because many manufacturing companies in France, Italy, Germany and Sweden depend for their profitability on exporting here. We need a comparable deal in financial services. There is every reason to think that we can negotiate a reasonable outcome. In addition, we will have new trade deals with Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East.
One thing we cannot duck after the vote is the issue of immigration. Continued immigration is essential for the British economy and our public services—indeed, for our cultural well-being—but following the leave vote, it is also essential that we are able to control our total numbers. The thing that scares people most in this area is not immigration per se but the fact that there is no limit to the number who can come in. If there were controls, we would have much less concern about the issue. Next, we need a coherent economic strategy. The Chancellor has already discarded the objective of a Budget surplus by 2020. You can see the opportunities for tax cuts, such as a 10% corporation tax, and for increased infrastructure spending on London’s third airport, the trans-Pennine railway, the northern powerhouse and public sector housing. Finally, and most difficult of all, we need to set out how we can create a more inclusive economy and society so that each family in this country has a stake in economic life. We need far more houses built across all tenures: private ownership, housing associations and local authorities. We need far more investment in training people for a digital world. We have 865,000 people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are NEETs—not in education, employment or training.
I believe that we can be stronger in trade, in enterprise and in controlling our borders outside the EU. Our identities as four nations will be strengthened by being outside the EU. There are many more challenges but instead of Project Fear, we need Project Success: the conviction that we can do it with greater self-government so that our society can be better. If I look for my inspiration anywhere then, as a rugby fan, it is to the Welsh soccer team.
My Lords, the Welsh soccer team is certainly an inspiration, and I am sure we all wish them luck tomorrow evening. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, that we need a much more inclusive society, but unlike the noble Lord, I believe we are in the midst of a political earthquake whose tremors are being felt not only in the United Kingdom but throughout the European Union and the wider world. Whereas once we were a stabilising influence, the result of the referendum has destabilised our economy, our politics and our partners. We are in what some might call a brave new world—but no one has a map and no one has properly considered the options or implications for our country, for our citizens or for the constitution. Throughout the campaign, people were warned not to take a leap into the dark, but it is even darker than I had anticipated. I am still stunned by the lack of any preparations and, at a time when we are in desperate need of strong leadership, there is a vacuum in the Government and the Opposition, as many have said.
The idea of member states co-operating for the greater good to be a stronger voice in the world and to maintain peace and stability is a noble idea, and one whose importance for me has grown in an increasingly fractured and fractious world. This was brought home for me, as it was for many others, on Friday as I watched the moving ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and on Saturday when I laid a wreath at an event to commemorate those who bravely went to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War, which began 80 years ago. There is more that unites us than divides us—or perhaps not any more.
However, the decision to leave the EU has been taken. I respect most of those who voted to leave, but I have absolutely no respect for Mr Johnson or Mr Gove, backstabbers who have wrought havoc in the country and their party and who exacerbated people’s fears and insecurities by disingenuous propaganda and sometimes downright lies. They threw liberal and humane values to the wind and built on fears of difference. They fanned the flames of division in this country between rich and poor, young and old, and cities and towns. They did nothing to prevent the crack in what the most reverend Primate called the “thin crust” of tolerance.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, and others, I believe that many of those who voted to leave were using the referendum to express dissatisfaction and to vent their anger about a system which does not respond any more to their needs and concerns. Their lives are difficult: they are insecure and constantly worried about their jobs, the roof over their head, problems getting their kids into school, and the long wait to see the GP. They feel that they have no control over their lives, so when simple solutions were proffered for complex problems, and when told that the only way to get back control was to vote leave, of course that is what they did—that is normal and natural. Many people simply believed that their lives could not get any worse. That is an indictment of not just of this Government’s policies but government policies as a whole. My fear is that those people who have given up on the political system and given up on experts will now be let down because the promises made by the leave campaign are undeliverable even by the most assiduous and shrewd negotiators.
Many of the promises cannot be reconciled with reality, including the political reality that Governments in other member states are confronting populist and nationalist forces whose leaders, such as Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders, have been strengthened by Brexit. The people with whom we will be negotiating are concerned about contagion and are naturally looking to their own electorate as well as considering the changes necessary to make the EU more responsive to the 21st-century challenges on security, climate change, migration and the economy. What, I wonder, will be the impact of Brexit on the rerun of the Austrian presidential election, where the far right was beaten by a whisker? It is a dangerous moment for the EU as well as for the UK.
Can the Minister say who our negotiators will be and who will determine the positions that they will take? At a time of national crisis—which this is—we need national unity and that must mean that the Government cannot act alone. I agree with my noble friend Lady Mallalieu that the public like and want us to work together. As many have said, there must be parliamentary, cross-party engagement. There also needs to be direct access for the Opposition—when we have one—to civil servants. There must be deep involvement of local government, for in many instances it will bear the brunt of change and is best placed to understand the impact in those areas where people already feel left behind. I endorse the call made by Sadiq Khan yesterday that London should be guaranteed a seat at the table throughout the negotiations alongside Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and his call and that of many noble Lords for us to remain in the single market.
How will the Government ensure that the voices of all stakeholders are heard and reflected? As a pro-chancellor of the University of Bath, and someone who is proud of the university’s reputation as a truly international centre of excellence for teaching and research, I express concern on behalf of the university sector, like the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar. What assurance can the Minister give that staff and students from EU countries will be able to continue to work and study at British universities in the long term? The intake for this year will be fine, but what will the impact be on applications for 2017? I understand that eight British universities have already had their credit status downgraded as a result of the Brexit vote, amid concerns that curbs to free movement will hit recruitment of academics and students and that EU research funding will be cut. This is more tangible proof of the damage of the uncertainty caused by Brexit.
Many noble Lords have spoken, and will speak, of Article 50, and how and when it will be invoked. But I wonder how it will be possible to reconcile the tensions between the economic need for speed, to provide certainty, and the political desirability for time. Concern about insecurity for EU nationals has, properly, been emphasised this afternoon. These people are human beings, not pawns on a chess board; likewise our own citizens living and working in other parts of the EU, including those who serve us so well in the institutions.
However long negotiations may take, it is clear that a huge number of our civil servants will be engaged in disentangling us from laws passed during 40 years of membership and in working on new agreements. The usual work of government will be paralysed, at a time when the country is crying out for action that will deal with the blight of inequality. Who, for example, will work on the policies that will improve the lives and life chances of young people? Already shafted by this Government, they have now been so let down by the referendum result.
The deep divisions in our country are sadly not new, but the depth of the divisions was not taken seriously by any political party. If we are to remain a tolerant, united and inclusive country, the first priority of the Government and the Opposition must be to develop and implement policies that will heal that divide.
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, and concur with her that we are living in very dangerously uncertain times. People talk about uncertainty, but there is real danger, not only here but across Europe. I want to address two specific issues in this debate, and just draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Interests.
The first is the impact on the quality and delivery of UK development assistance, which I do not think has been mentioned in this debate. The UK is the second-biggest bilateral provider of official development assistance in the world, with our contribution totalling around £11.5 billion. We are the first G20 country to deliver 0.7% of gross national income in official development assistance, and we have legislation to focus on poverty reduction and gender issues. Thanks to my friend and colleague Michael Moore, we have legislation to maintain our commitment to that 0.7%.
There is a correlation between those who campaigned to leave the EU and those who want to cut the UK aid budget. However, nothing would give a more negative signal, or more positive proof that the UK was turning its back on international engagement, than for us to cut the amount of our national income we deliver in development assistance.
The UK has an imperial legacy which over the centuries has seen us intervene, not always nobly, in the affairs of most countries in the world. Like it or not, countries such as Pakistan and Nigeria were created by Britain: indeed, we shaped the map for most of our aid partners. Delivering aid in many of these countries may be challenging, but history has passed us a strong moral obligation to help poor people out of poverty in these areas.
David Cameron was the representative of the industrialised nations in the high-level panel to deliver the post-2015 agenda, which determined an aim of ending absolute poverty by 2030 and leaving no one behind. It would be a travesty and a tragedy if Britain turned its back on this commitment. A significant proportion of ODA is delivered through the EU, which the multilateral aid review identified as an effective means of delivering UK pro-poor aid objectives. We should therefore give priority in negotiations to continuing teamwork in partnership with the EU in delivering our development aims. It would put less pressure on DfID to find alternative outlets, which could never have the same reach as the EU, and it would maintain an area of co-operation with the EU that would engender a positive relationship and good will. I urge the Government to resist the siren voices that inevitably will be raised to cut the aid budget and transfer it to domestic priorities. By the way, those who claim that leaving the EU would free the UK to grow faster outside its constraints could hardly justify cutting the budget now.
The second issue I wish to raise is the future of the UK and Scotland’s position. It is true that voters in Scotland made clear their desire to remain in the EU, but it should not be forgotten that while 1.66 million Scottish voters chose remain, over 2 million in the previous referendum voted to stay in the UK. It was reported last week that the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, was minded to stage another referendum on independence before the negotiation for the UK’s leaving of the EU is completed, with the suggested question: “Do you want Scotland to remain in the EU or leave with the rest of the UK?”. If this is true, it is an absurd and wholly irresponsible proposition. It may be perfectly reasonable for Nicola Sturgeon to hold talks with sympathetic elements within the EU, but she knows perfectly well that there is little or no prospect of Scotland carrying on within the EU, let alone with the UK’s current opt-outs. When the Prime Minister of Spain made it clear that Scotland was part of the UK and there would be no separate talks—this was echoed by France—the First Minister said that this was no surprise. Of course not, but Spain, France and every other country holds a veto over Scotland.
I have no doubt that many within the EU will hold out warmth and sympathy towards Scotland in the light of the vote, but that is not enough to launch us into uncharted waters on the back of the prodigious uncertainty we all face right across the UK. Depending on the terms of the new UK relationship with the EU, Scotland should not put itself at risk—which it would be doing—of total isolation. Scotland cannot apply for membership of the EU before it becomes independent. It would then face the same obligations as every applicant state. Even the fast track would take years. We would have to establish a central bank, a currency and a fiscal and exchange-rate track record. This would be challenge enough, but if the UK is establishing itself outside the EU, and possibly outside the single market, free movement and all those other issues, then barriers would be going up between Scotland and the rest of the UK before they even begin to come down with the EU. Given all this, I contend the priority for those of us who care about Scotland, its relationship within the UK and between all parts of the UK and the EU, is to secure the best possible outcome that maintains as much as possible of the co-operation and partnership that we value so dearly currently as a member of the EU. Anything else would be to show that independence is an ideological obsession that transcends the economic, social, cultural and political interests of the people of Scotland. The SNP should not let its patriotism lead to a betrayal of the real interests of the people of Scotland. As a passionate home ruler and Europhile, I firmly believe we need to tread carefully and sensitively towards an outcome that maintains the best of the UK and the best of our relationship with the EU.
My Lords, after hearing the Minister’s responses to the fourth Oral Question last Wednesday on the residential and continuing rights of European nationals already living in the United Kingdom, I add my voice to the many, both inside and outside Parliament, and in trenchant speeches today, who have condemned the expressed government attitude. This issue was also discussed in the House yesterday, with much the same equivocation and uncertainties from the Dispatch Box. The Minister referred to negotiations with the EU affecting the single market and trading arrangements, but not those about people. As a “Yes Minister” type of response by the Minister last Wednesday, it was classic. The actual real-life and immediate and future concerns of 3 million people were shuffled under the carpet by a rubric that exuded extreme and noncommittal caution and blindly defied political nous and basic common sense.
As was made obvious yesterday, the Government are not really certain whether to discuss this issue with the EU authorities or with each and every one of the other 27 countries in the EU. That is hopeless; we should be clear what we will do. There are two particular issues. First, what is the right immediate policy and, secondly, what should the long-term steady state be post completion of Brexit negotiations? Surely we would not be starting these negotiations on a favourable footing with the 27 were we so much as even to suggest that some of their nationals already resident in the UK might one day be refused right of abode, be told to leave or be booted out—or is this a sneaky cunning plan to massage a reduction in the net migration figures? I hope not. Do we really mean to start by inferring that we could be expecting trouble from the 27 about the residential status of UK citizens presently domiciled in their countries and so, to counter this, are keeping the 3 million EU residents in the UK as a club in our negotiating locker? This is about real people, their lives and livelihoods, their families and their futures. It is not about foodstuffs, textiles, the trading of goods and services or other inanimate objects. Is this not a situation in which the UK should be giving a clear, positive and constructive lead, which can be welcomed and adopted by the 27 in a win-win outcome?
Let us say without further equivocation that not only will European nationals resident in the UK not be in any way affected in the near term—as made clear by the Prime Minister last week—but that it is the Government’s intention to treat their right to remain as a firm, long-term, red-line undertaking. It should be deliberately adopted as a non-negotiable position. Why must all wait for David Cameron’s replacement? He has stated the short-term position. Is it not down to him to get agreement now, very quickly, to the longer-term one? I urge the Government to make clear this direction of travel and to spell it out now as their intention. I suspect that cooler heads may still seek to establish a halt to—or rather a control of—newcomers after a certain date in the not-too-distant future, but for those already here or arriving to live and work in the weeks before that date, the clear government policy and intention surely should be that the current status and right to remain of EU citizens will not be abrogated by Her Majesty’s Government. In the face of many tricky Brexit issues to resolve, this one, dealing with people and their lives and not with things, should not be left to fester on the pile. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I, too, draw attention to my entries in the register of interests. From time to time, I am asked what I do in the House of Lords as special interests. I generally say to people that I follow foreign affairs and trade unions and they very seldom overlap, but tonight, unfortunately, they do.
I endorse everything that has been said about EU citizens resident in the UK—the eloquent words of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, being just the latest—but I want to draw attention to another group of people: the civil servants and public servants working throughout the European Union institutions, many of whom are in a state of near despair, not only at what they perceive as the Government’s neglect of them over many years but at the situation now and what remains to be resolved.
I draw attention to the fact that one of my roles in life is as chair of the Members of the European Parliament pension fund. This puts me in a similar position to many other public servants in EU institutions. The fund covers all the member states and my duty as chair of the fund is to them all. So I will be effectively on the other side of the negotiating table, because it is my duty to ensure that, in leaving the EU, the UK does not escape its duties and liabilities and leave them for other member states to pick up.
There is a saying going round Brussels at the moment and it is very true: “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu”. We are on the menu. There are many UK citizens working in Community institutions who are rightly concerned for their future. They have acquired rights and legitimate expectations which HMG must assume as part of the negotiation process. We are not just talking about Commission officials; we are talking about the whole spectrum of UK citizens involved with the EU and its institutions. Some are still working there, some are retired, some are the partners of deceased pensioners and some are married to citizens from other member states. On my books from the UK I have two widows in their 90s. I have another pensioner who has a daughter with Down’s syndrome. Under our regulations, the daughter gets a pension; the mother is needlessly worried about the future, which was assured but is now thrown up in the air. HMG must face up to the consequences of this foolish decision.
Vice-President Georgieva has been in charge of this in Brussels. At a meeting with staff representatives, one of them said:
“I am coming up to retirement, will my pension still be protected by the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities? And what are the ‘red lines’ for negotiations with the UK regarding UK officials?”.
They then went on to point out that many staff have worked in London and in other places and agencies all their lives. She was asked whether she could reassure them. The Commissioner’s answer was not reassuring. She said:
“All Member States bear responsibility for the pensions of EU officials”.
So far, so good. But, she continued,
“there is no guarantee that pensions will remain protected, such a discussion will have to be factored into the negotiations. As long as the UK remains a member of the EU pensions will be paid from the Community budget; if the UK becomes a third country, it is clear they cannot be bound by the protocol”.
In other words, these civil servants are in a position whereby not only are their jobs under some threat—although, as they are engaged by the Community, they are probably okay there—but their futures are under threat.
I said earlier that many different institutions and groups of people are affected. Most Community officials live in one of the two main places of work, either Brussels or Luxembourg, and most of them work for the European Parliament or the Commission. However, there are the other institutions, such as the European Court of Justice and the Court of Auditors, and the specialist agencies spread throughout the EU, including the European Medicines Agency based in London, which is now the subject of a bidding war to move it from London, with Italy currently in the lead to take those jobs away. All those bodies have UK staff members and they have people who are dependent on the protocols and immunities that we have agreed.
I have mentioned marriages and civil partnerships between UK nationals and those from other countries. The head of administration for pension funds is married to a Swede, who has never lived in the United Kingdom and works for the Commission. She has a reasonable right to expect her pension to be paid when it comes due, through her husband, if he predeceases her. So there are many instances of marriages—and, of course, most staff working for the EU have properties in Brussels, Luxembourg and other places, and children in school there. We are inflicting a huge upheaval on our staff.
What I am looking for from the Minister is three short things. First, I would like to hear a word of sympathy and understanding, which has not been heard from this Government. Secondly, I would like an acceptance that the negotiating mandate when drawn up will include an acceptance that all the acquired rights and legitimate expectations will be met. Thirdly, I know that it is presently too early, but I would like the agreement of the Minister to facilitate a meeting between representatives of the affected personnel and others with the appropriate Minister for the exit negotiations at the appropriate time.
This whole issue has sent a shiver down the spines of servants of all our international institutions. One of the candidates for Conservative leadership is pledged to withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights—or she was until she rewrote her manifesto. But there are numerous institutions. I serve on the pension fund board of CERN, the leading physics laboratory in the world, where people are worried whether Britain will withdraw from it. She could withdraw from CERN. We need to get our act together and remember that if we want the best civil servants to go from Britain and represent Britain in international institutions, they have to be treated with sympathy and decency, which I have not yet perceived as part of this debate. I look forward to it arriving.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Balfe.
Speaking to a fellow Peer last week on the Lords Terrace, who I knew had a great interest in all things European, I said, “I suppose you’ve read Article 50”. He said, “Read it? I wrote it.” Only in the Lords.
A week is a long time in politics, as Harold Wilson once said, and two weeks is a lifetime. In that time, nearly all my adult certainties have dissolved around me. As a former MEP, like my noble friend Lord Cashman, representing Birmingham in the 1980s and 1990s, I wonder what it was all for. Were the last 40 years the high-water mark for our country’s environmental, social and workplace rights? As someone personally involved in the original EU maternity leave directive in 1992—one of its midwives, if you like—I am particularly angry that we are turning our back on such EU legislation, which has helped hundreds of thousands of British women each year, enabling them to enjoy substantial time off with their newborn babies and to get paid while they are on leave. They are entitled in law—that is, EU law transcribed into British law—to have their job back when their leave ends.
British Governments have not always been enthusiasts for EU workplace rights. In fact, they had to be dragged kicking and screaming even to abstain on the original maternity leave directive, as I recall. So what will future workplace rights look like for a Government now burdened by a slowing economy? Like so much else, we do not know. Will our major cities and conurbations see again the great surge of infrastructure projects and renovation that Birmingham and the West Midlands saw in the 1990s and 2000s—activities made possible by the partnering of EU funding with public and private investment, leading, as it did, to new road and rail infrastructure, the extension of the NEC, the new Symphony Hall, the indoor athletics arena and of course the complete restoration of the city’s 18th-century canal system? “More canals than Venice” was our boast—in a Brummie accent.
No, we will probably not see such partnership again, which is a pity because it was that surge in activity and the jobs that came with it that helped cities such as Birmingham recover from the recessions of the 1980s. It also brought new hope, new prestige and inward investment into that city from firms, many of them European, setting up their HQs there and using the EU rules of free movement of people, goods and services to do so: rules that we rejected on 23 June—indeed, which a majority of the voters of Birmingham and the West Midlands rejected on 23 June. Understanding the underlying causes of that rejection is a huge responsibility for those of us in political life as we move forward, listening ever more closely and acting on inequality and alienation.
The people have spoken and, as a democrat, I must accept the result. However, I am incandescent that such an important question as our membership of the EU, impacting, as it will, on our lives for many decades, was decided in such a simplistic, binary manner and that so many falsehoods and downright lies were allowed to become popular wisdom, leading to so much xenophobia in the campaign and giving a licence for it to continue beyond the campaign, with the police recording an alarming increase in race-hate incidents in the last 12 days.
Where do we go from here? I understand that Andrea Leadsom has called for Article 50 to be triggered as quickly as possible. This is a bit like Captain Smith telling the harbourmaster to let the “Titanic” sail from Southampton as quickly as possible. It is as if we have forgotten that we live in a globalised economy—an economy which may bring prosperity to us all in the UK but will also certainly bring some disruption and harm. We cannot deal with this global reality by declaring UDI for Milton Keynes—for that is precisely how so many global forces, such as China and the USA, will be interpreting Brexit. It will seem to them like an act of provincial suicide, cutting off our neighbours to spite our future and retreating into a cardboard fortress that will be of no help to any of those left inside. My belief continues to be that the EU is an economic NATO. Its much-derided officials keep us from harm while we work, just as our soldiers keep us from harm while we sleep.
In conclusion, I echo the countless questions being asked tonight in families and businesses up and down the country. Will there be an end to present financial uncertainty—Aviva’s decision today is a case in point—or is this merely phase 1? Are our mortgages, savings and pensions safe? Who is going to invest in all those UK businesses exporting to Europe? What is Parliament’s ultimate role in our leaving the EU? What is to become of London’s special financial status? What about the Brits living abroad? Can our farming communities remain robust? Will our young people’s opportunities expand or contract? Will those workers and their families from Europe who are here now be able to stay? Like many noble Lords, I most certainly hope that they will be.
As the daughter of an unskilled Irish immigrant who remembered those signs on the windows of boarding houses in the 1950s, “No blacks, no Irish, no dogs”, I feel particularly aggrieved at the whipping up of fear over immigration during the campaign. I hope that in the coming months we will take a calm, collective deep breath before rushing headlong into Brexit and get the very best deal possible for this country after the deluge. That will take leadership, which is lacking today in the Government and, certainly, in Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition, but I hope that I shall still be around to see a future Labour Government take us back into Europe—a Europe and a UK no doubt chastened and reformed by this searing experience.
My Lords, in my 37 years in your Lordships’ House, I have never known a time of so much uncertainty and public division as in the run-up to the referendum. Now is not the time for post-mortems—judgment has been passed—but now is the time to address the future with a positive approach. While I was firmly in favour of remaining, despite my many misgivings and the many failings of the efficacy of the European Union, I respect the result and feel that it is highly unlikely that we will have another referendum. I share the concerns of many of your Lordships—especially those of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who made a most moving speech—about the need to stand united to counter threats of xenophobic behaviour and hate crimes. Now is the time to promote unity and tolerance, provide a clearer road map for the future, attempt to dispel the many uncertainties and consider all the viable options—not that there are many.
The choices facing the United Kingdom form a spectrum. Clearly at the one end is sovereignty and control of immigration and at the other end is full access to the single market. There is no perfect solution. Everything depends on what the UK regards as vital and what the European Union is prepared to agree. I agree with noble Lords who have cautioned about being in no rush to trigger Article 50. We should not forget that we are the fifth-biggest trading country in the world and the second-largest economy in Europe.
On 9 September, our new Prime Minister will face an epic balancing act to interpret the meaning of the referendum, weigh it against what is economically desirable and politically workable and turn it into a negotiating plan. In the past week, among the mass of media coverage, we have heard of various options before we potentially trigger Article 50. There is the Norway option of joining the European Economic Area; there is the Swiss option of being a member of the European free trade area; there is the third option of trading with the EU as a member of the World Trade Organisation, creating a relationship similar to that which the United States, Australia and China have with the European Union; and finally, there is the option of leaving the single market, with the UK negotiating a preferential trade agreement with the European Union, which is sometimes referred to as the Canada option after the comprehensive economic and trade agreement negotiated between the EU and Canada. Each of these options has its major shortcomings, and clearly there are no easy choices, but we should not underestimate the value of passporting for international companies that have decided to have their headquarters in London and the United Kingdom. I understand that several major law firms have been working around the clock providing contingency plans for many international companies that have their headquarters here, are seriously concerned about what will happen if we trigger Article 50 and are potentially looking to move their headquarters to Frankfurt, Paris or Dublin, which will obviously result in thousands of job losses.
I hope that, in addition to the reassurances given by the Governor of the Bank of England, the Chancellor will deliver on his hint to reduce corporation tax and encourage more multinationals to invest in the United Kingdom. Concerns have also been expressed about the collapse of the property market. To this end, I hope the Chancellor will consider the option of reducing stamp duty, which has had a major dampening effect on property trading.
A point that has not been discussed much today is how will Brexit impact on the United Kingdom’s technology sector. The United Kingdom has been a leader in promoting a digital economy, and so much has been achieved in job creation with Tech City and the digital single market. Big data, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things, as well as nanotechnology and robotics, are all set to change the workplace of tomorrow and the future of skills, employees and managers. I declare an interest as advisor to the board of Silicon Valley Bank. It is well known that, since the Brexit vote, many international investors have hit the pause button. Confidence is seeping with this uncertainty. It is imperative that, just as the Governor of the Bank of England has given assurances to the financial sector, so too should there be a lot more reassurances to the tech sector.
Coming so far down the batting order, most of the points that I wanted to address have already been covered by other noble Lords. My children, except for my stepdaughter, all voted to remain in the EU. They were, and are, all concerned about the younger generation’s job prospects after they leave university. They were all concerned about the impact that Brexit would have on university funding and grants—a point that has been raised by my noble friend Lord Bilimoria and the noble Baroness, Lady Royall.
I would like to reinforce the strong calls by my noble friend Lady Kidron and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, that our Government need to promote hope for our youth, who need their voices to be heard.
In summary, I repeat my call at the beginning of my speech, that while we have taken a large step into the unknown and into uncharted waters, now is a time for promoting tolerance and unity, for a more considered and realistic roadmap for the future and for strong leadership.
In the words of the late Jo Cox in her maiden speech,
“we… have far more in common than that which divides us”.—[Official Report, Commons, 3/6/15; col. 675.]
My Lords, at the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979, I had the good fortune to be elected to represent Liverpool, my mother’s home town. Those were the days of single-member constituencies, which we all regret. One bright spot when the results of the referendum came through 11 days ago was to hear that Liverpool, unlike many other northern industrial cities, had, overall, voted to remain. This is, of course, in part, because Liverpool, as a once-great port, is internationally minded and outward-looking. But I like to think it is also because the funding from both the Social Fund—which kicked in after the Toxteth riots in the early 1980s—and the European Regional Development Fund had been appreciated.
It was a privilege to serve in the first directly elected international parliament in the history of the world. It was an aspirational place, motivated by all the possibilities that a united Europe, a peaceful Europe and a dynamic Europe could be a new force for progress, development and good in the world. There are a number of former Members of the European Parliament and indeed commissioners in your Lordships’ House, but I think only my noble friend Lord Balfe and I represent the 79-ers. One of the key successes of that first Parliament and of the European Union, the single market, came out of that first Parliament. I still call it a key success in spite of the persuasive words to the contrary from my noble friend Lord Blencathra.
I can remember how the late, lamented Bos Ferranti and the German Member Dieter Rogalla started the campaign for the single market in the early 1980s. It was pounced on by others, notably Margaret Thatcher, who felt that this was a policy to which she could give wholehearted support. Indeed, I made my maiden speech on the freedom of the skies. This illustrates that, when the United Kingdom took a leading and positive role, it led to benefit for all. There are other rare examples of this but, on the whole, the United Kingdom has seemed a reluctant and negative member and this has influenced the general public.
Like many others, I worked in the remain camp and was bitterly disappointed by the result, in spite of the fact that almost half the voting population voted to remain. It was a close call, but it was clear. Like others, I deplore the exaggeration and vehemence that characterised the campaign and particularly the false and misleading representations which I heard from some Brexiteers who, as has been remarked already, planned for exit without having and exit plan, and who now seem largely to have disappeared from the front line. If there was a Project Fear, it was on that side.
Today, however, we are faced with the result and we must look ahead to our future outside. Whatever is negotiated to define our relationship with the remaining members of the European Union, I hope it will be as positive and constructive as possible. It is, after all, breaking new ground for a country to secede, so we should not feel constrained in considering all possible options and aspirations. The important thing is that the negotiations should be carried out calmly and courteously. I agree with much of what has been said about our place in the single market, world trade, not turning our backs, immigration and all those who must be rejoicing over the weakening of what had appeared to the rest of the world as a successful, solid, democratic and united bloc.
There are a few particular issues I wish to raise in the context of negotiating the new relationship. The overseas territories, for which we have responsibility— 11 tiny territories, from Bermuda, now the largest, to Pitcairn, the smallest—all made it clear that they hoped we would remain part of the European Union. The one most greatly impacted and the only one geographically within the European Union is, of course, Gibraltar. The people of Gibraltar are still in shock, because the result of the referendum puts at risk Gibraltar’s current successful economic model and exposes it to new threats from Spain. There are two key issues for Gibraltar: the freedom to provide services and a free-flowing frontier. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend Lady Anelay, in her unenviable task of winding up this huge debate, can give us some reassurance that Gibraltar will also be able to participate in the negotiations and will form an integral part of whatever agreement is worked out between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Can she also give us her reaction to the novel suggestion that constituent parts of the United Kingdom, notably the nations that voted to remain—and of course that includes Gibraltar, Scotland and Northern Ireland—could together continue their European Union membership under a new definition of the term “member state, United Kingdom”?
My other particular area of interest is Latin America. The noble Lord, Lord Brennan, made reference to the trade opportunities in that region. Any country with which I have had recent contact is completely incredulous that we should have chosen to leave.
The European Union has treaties with Mexico, Central America and Chile, and negotiations are ongoing with Mercosur, whose members include Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. I now challenge the Government to give priority to negotiating new trade treaties with many of these countries, and perhaps especially with Mercosur, where the European Union has found things very challenging.
This debate has, quite rightly, concentrated mainly on general principles and major issues, but many other issues also require special consideration. There is so much to unravel. I trust that this debate will be seen as an important early contribution to the thinking and preparation of our new status. As the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, said, it would indeed be nice to know who our negotiators will be. Whoever they are, I wish them the very best of British.
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper. On matters European, she brings to this House both knowledge and wisdom. She may also still be the most popular Conservative in Liverpool—admittedly a relatively small cohort but still a great distinction.
I wish to headline my comments with a question. Where does Parliament stand in all this? I propose to address some of the comments raised by, for example, the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, and others earlier in the debate, but I want to focus on the process that follows the referendum, especially the role of both Houses of Parliament. In that context, we in this House are entitled to assume that Her Majesty’s Government have assessed the legal and constitutional consequences, and I believe that in the closing of this debate we are entitled to hear what advice the Government have been given about those consequences. I will not hold my breath but it will be astounding if they have not been analysed properly.
What concerns me, among other things, is the relationship between democracy and democracy. We do not legislate by referendum but it is part of our democracy. I suggest to your Lordships that, in adopting one expression of our democracy—the occasional referendum—we should not supplant another, permanent element, which is the deliberative democracy we have in Parliament.
I wanted, and voted, to remain but I recognise that we must respect the result of the referendum. However, that does not mean that we slavishly leave the European Union whatever the terms may be. I suggest to your Lordships that the clear duty of the Government and of both Houses is to attempt in good faith to give effect to the will of the majority expressed in the referendum. However, I also suggest that it is absolutely clear, as a matter of law, that Parliament would not be bound to give effect to the referendum if the only terms on which the UK could leave the European Union were shown to be seriously damaging to the national interest. Indeed, I cannot believe that the leave campaign wanted to damage the national interest.
To put it another way, I invite the noble Baroness, in responding to this debate, to confirm the following: that, despite the referendum result, if empirical analysis of negotiations shows that the disadvantages faced by the United Kingdom on leaving the European Union are disproportionately damaging to the national interest compared with the advantages of remaining, Parliament will properly have the right to show its will accordingly. I believe that the answer to that must be, “Yes. Parliament would have that right”, but we are entitled to know the Government’s view.
Perhaps I may be forgiven. I turn now to some narrower legal issues. I ask the noble Baroness, in responding to the debate, to explain the effect, if any, of Section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972. As I understand that section, if the trigger to leave the European Union, as seems to be agreed, is the Article 50 process, that process falls squarely within Section 2, and I shall explain in a sentence what that means. To pull the trigger of Article 50, Section 2(2) requires the Government, at the very least, to obtain the consent of both Houses of Parliament to a requisite statutory instrument. If that is so, does not Parliament have a legitimate expectation that considerable detail of the proposed terms of exit from the European Union will be disclosed as part of the relevant statutory instrument, or at least in the Explanatory Notes, and that it will therefore be a transparent part of the proposed Article 50 process?
Do the Minister and the Government agree that the ultimate decision to leave after the Article 50 process has been completed is one for which legislation is required and for which, therefore, the views of both Houses of Parliament are necessary? At the very least, even if legislation is not required, can the noble Baroness agree in due course that for so momentous a decision as leaving the European Union, which I suggest—I hope without extravagance—is comparable to a decision to be involved in a war in some part of the world, the Government should accept that a fully informed decision must be required of Parliament, or at least of the House of Commons, the elected House? In sum, I am saying that we need to know the legal position. This House and the other place need to understand the legal rules behind this process. An attempt was made to explain them in a paper published a couple of months ago but a host of questions have arisen ever since.
Finally, I ask the Minister to explain how this House and the other place are to be informed on a real-time basis of the work of the team led by Oliver Letwin MP, as announced by the Prime Minister. We have an excellent House of Lords committee, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Boswell of Aynho, who spoke earlier, but that is surely only part of the picture. Would it not be sensible for a Joint Select Committee of both Houses to be established for the specific purpose of providing scrutiny of this most important process?
A complex historic process has been commenced by what I regard as a simplistic binary question. Many untruths and half-truths were told during the referendum campaign, possibly by both sides. Now, we need confirmation that, in contrast, the parliamentary part of the process will be legal, decent, honest and, if truthful is too much to ask for, at least reasonably well informed. Pericles, one of the great originators of democracy, said:
“Although only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it”.
I suggest to your Lordships that Parliament should be allowed to judge this issue in an informed way—not one that is slavish to the referendum—before a final conclusion is reached.
My Lords, we are living through a molten time for our people, our politics, our society and our country. We are living in the aftershock of an extraordinary event of a magnitude which, in my judgment, none of us has experienced in peacetime. In my lifetime—I was born in 1947—there has been but one geopolitical shift that comes near to it. I refer to the disposal of the British Empire—another dash for the exit. That remarkable transition, however, was very different from the caesura of Thursday, 23 June 2016, as it took place over several years, its timetable was largely, if not wholly, in the hands of UK Ministers and it left remarkably few scars on the surface of our country’s emotional geography.
The decision to leave the European Union, although its ingredients were long in the making, was, by contrast, sudden and breath-taking. It was as though all the dials needed resetting almost in one go. Whitehall departments were unprepared, as other noble Lords have mentioned. Apart from the Treasury, which had plans in place with the Bank of England to stabilise the markets, government ministries were expressly forbidden to draw up contingency plans for exit.
We may pride ourselves on being a back-of-the-envelope nation, but this was excessive. Never have I encountered so many people with so few ideas about what to do in the face of a first order crisis. The litany of post-war crises, which, as a professional historian, I write about from time to time—the sterling devaluations of 1949 and 1967, the Suez affair of 1956, the IMF crisis of 1976 and Black Wednesday in 1992—seem mere blips on the radar screen in comparison.
Never in my lifetime has our politics seemed so envenomed, poisoned still further by a palpable dearth of trust between the governed and the governors. All this at a time when our two major political parties give every appearance of eating themselves, with copious tranches of nervous energy absorbed by their internal stresses and strains.
In my judgment, the referendum result was like a lightning flash illuminating a political and social landscape long in the changing, exposing yet again fissures we knew about—disparities of wealth and life chances—but whose depth and rawness I admit I had not fully fathomed.
What can be done? Winston Churchill, that supreme wartime crisis manager, had a favourite phrase about “rising to the level of events”. That is our pressing duty—all of us in public and political life and the civil and diplomatic services too.
It is time to stand back and take a long, candid and careful look at ourselves. May I suggest that we need two separate but related inquiries? First, our place in the world. Can we, should we, still aspire to punch heavier than our weight in the world in the way that we do when on autopilot as a nation with a remarkable past and a continuing and sustained appetite for global influence? Secondly, we need to look at our internal constitutional arrangements—the relationships between the nations, regions and localities of the United Kingdom. In my darker moments, I think that 23 June lit a fuse beneath the Union. I profoundly hope not, as a man who loves Scotland deeply and cherishes the union of the United Kingdom almost beyond measure.
My preferred instruments for these inquiries would be a pair of royal commissions—an ancient institution, rusted by disuse, but it is time to unsheathe it. Failing that, perhaps a brace of Joint Committees of Parliament.
Of one thing I am certain: now is the time to think above our weight, to draw deep from our wells of tolerance and civility; perhaps even to fashion a new political vocabulary to help us think aloud together as a people and a nation about what is to become of us; to rise to the level of events; and perhaps even to surprise ourselves and the watching world by the quality, the care and the foresight of what we do.
My Lords, the Government need to start talking up the UK economy now. The UK has had the most remarkable success in recent years in the explosion of new businesses in new technology areas, offering huge scope for the future and huge opportunities for investment. The eventual result that I believe will come about will leave us trading much as before with the EU, but there are huge trading opportunities with India and China. America, interestingly, is coming round to proposing free trade with the UK. The Chancellor has promised to lower corporation tax to 15%; 12.5% would compete with Ireland and be very attractive for company headquarters here. However, the Government need to spend the next two months explaining urgently why Britain cares deeply about attracting investment and jobs and what we have to offer.
I declare my interests in the register and it would be appropriate for me to talk specifically about Brexit and the City. At a macro level, the importance of our financial service exports to the EU should not be exaggerated. Some 50% of our total financial services are exported, of which only 30% go to the EU—that is, 15% of the total. This represents about 1.2% of GDP. The largest exporter is investment management, of which 80% is non-EU. As to those firms that wish to engage in the retail business in the EU, most already use Luxembourg or Dublin UCITs. Eighty-eight per cent of insurance exports are to locations other than the EU—North America and Asia. The most affected sector is investment banking and related banking, where 80% of EU capital markets business has been done in London. The big players in London already have operations on the ground in continental Europe but may look to move significant numbers of staff out of London to their continental European operations if we do not end up with access to the single market.
The financial services industry overall is of major importance to the UK economy and our largest industry. In aggregate it employs 2.1 million people and raises £66.5 billion a year in tax. Together with other related services, it accounts for a total of £75 billion of overseas income. There are also obvious multiplier economic effects from the expenditure of those working in the sector. It is, therefore, a valid point that we do not want our biggest industry damaged as a result of Brexit.
Therefore, the issues are: what sort of deal should we aim for; how should we organise and negotiate it; with whom should we negotiate; and how strong is our negotiating position? First, we will need a tough negotiating team under the Cabinet Office, which has been set up. I note that it is under the Cabinet Office and not the Foreign Office. I suggest that this should also include experienced senior politicians—for example, the two ex-Chancellors in this House, the noble Lords, Lord Lawson and Lord Lamont, and, potentially, Peter Lilley, who handled the introduction of single market regulations in the first place. It also needs to contain talented business representatives such as Luke Johnson. From a domestic perspective, it might be worth while including Nigel Farage or his successor. Among other things, this would give representation to the many who voted for Farage. It would also help to deflate the elitist attack on ordinary folk who voted for Brexit.
Before we activate Article 50, we would be wise to work closely with Germany in formulating what I will call a “heads of agreement”. Our negotiating position is, in principle, strong, reflecting both the EU’s huge trade and current account surpluses with the UK—the latter in excess of £100 billion per annum—and that the EU could not impose a harsh settlement on the UK to prevent a domino effect while, at the same time, seeking to manage a major banking crisis in Italy and to nurse the eurozone back to health. Failure to mend fences with London would risk a financial and economic crisis in the EU, exposing the disastrous economic and financial effects of monetary union. As Italy’s Finance Minister has commented:
“There is a cocktail of factors that could lead to disintegration”,
“We face a double reaction from Brexit: financial and political”.
Clearly there are also domestic political considerations. While there was a clear Brexit majority, 48% voted to remain, and there is a need to get whatever will be the required measures through the other place, where there is obviously a substantial remain majority. The new Government would be wise, therefore, to opt for a sensible and broadly acceptable compromise package for the next few years and, certainly, to achieve single market passporting.
If required as a sweetener, we should be willing to agree to contribute a reduced amount to the EU budget. The loss of the UK contribution, which net will be about £10 billion next year, is a serious financial issue for the EU.
The ideal package would be a free trade deal between the UK and the EU, with the UK withdrawing from the free movement of EU citizens, and passporting of financial services based on equivalent regulation applying to the UK financial services that are exported to the EU and as provided for under MiFID2, which is effective in 2018. Such a package is achievable and would be in the interests of the EU as well as the UK. It may be that it would be packaged as EEA membership but that would clearly work only if the EU agreed that there would be no free movement of EU citizens to the UK. That could be achieved by going back to the pre-Maastricht rules guaranteeing only the right to work, or by following the model of Liechtenstein, which is a member of both the EEA and EFTA but has been allowed to opt out of the migration issue.
The City has indicated that that it could live comfortably with the EEA option or a hybrid version that safeguarded EU passporting for financial services. But I repeat the point that others have made: as the leave campaign promised, we need to agree and clarify the rights of EU citizens already resident in the UK to remain when we leave the EU. That is something we might be able to agree with the EU right now.
My Lords, I suppose it is a pleasure to follow my old friend the noble Lord, Lord Flight, but as usual, I disagree with almost everything he has said. However, it has been a revealing and worthwhile debate and I was particularly struck by the analyses of the noble Lords, Lord Butler, Lord Kerr and Lord Carlile, all three of whom have a higher regard than I for the result of the referendum. I consider it to have all the legitimacy of a transaction based on a false prospectus. Of all the deeply depressing aspects of our country’s current prospects, the one that I find saddest and most disturbing is that we have chosen to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme by rekindling the fires of nationalism. What a horrible message to send externally or internally—and internally, we have already seen some of its results.
A lot has been said about the economic damage of Brexit, and I will come on to that, but not much has been said about the non-economic assets that we shall lose if we proceed to Brexit. They are very important and I want to say a couple of words about them. We in this country essentially have two citizenships: our own and that of the European Union. The latter gives us the right to be treated as a citizen by 27 other countries, and to work and study abroad. At an earlier stage of my life, I had the wonderful experience of working and living in Paris for three years. All I needed to do was to put my things in the back of my car, drive over to Paris, turn up at an office the next day and start working. I did not have to apply for a work permit, to go through an Australian-style points system or to report to the police every three months; I did not have to deal with any bureaucracy at all. The younger generation will not have that benefit and their interests have been seriously betrayed in this matter.
Part of what EU citizenship gives us is the right to free medical treatment on the continent. Elderly people and those with existing medical conditions might not be able to travel on the continent at all without that assurance. That would be a very severe change in their quality of life, and a rather horrific prospect. There are all sorts of smaller things, too. If you are having a wedding or other major celebration you will not be able to go over to Calais and buy some drink at French prices. As a result a lot of those celebrations will not take place, or not in the same way. That will be very sad. We should think about these things now because within the next few years we will miss them very much when, if we are not careful, it is too late to do so.
I do not want to repeat what has been said on the economic impact. I think it will come home to people in the next few weeks. They will notice an increase in prices when they go to the supermarket, fill up with petrol or pay their fuel bills. Incidentally, the Brexit campaign told people that fuel costs would fall if people voted for Brexit because fuel duty would be reduced. In fact, the reverse is happening. People have been lied to, hoodwinked and cheated—no other words in the English language more accurately describe the situation.
The uncertainty being created is particularly damaging but over the long term, as the noble Lord, Lord Flight, himself acknowledged, it will be a very serious matter if we lose the banking and insurance licences on which some of the highest-value aspects of the City and London’s position as the capital of the single market are based. I think the noble Lord underestimated those important points.
The Brexiters and the Government say, “That’s all right, we’ll have a negotiation and everything will be fine”. We will get the best of all possible worlds, we hear: we will have full access to the single market as we do today, we will not need to pay anything to Brussels and we will not have freedom of movement. It is most unlikely that we could make such a deal. First, the Brexiters, including the noble Lord, Lord Flight, are completely wrong about the balance of advantage and disadvantage in the prospective negotiation. At stake in our trade within the single market is 14% of our GDP in exports. No country, other than the Republic of Ireland, has exports to the UK that are more than 3% of its GDP. We shall in fact have a discrepancy of four or five times our relative bargaining power in those negotiations. Why would the continentals agree the deal known colloquially as Norway-plus? I can think of at least five reasons why they would not, and there may be others.
The first is a matter of elementary logic: the Prime Minister was unable to negotiate such a deal in February when there was presumably an incentive for the continentals to make concessions, in so far as they wanted us to stay in the European Union, as I believe they genuinely did. Why would they not make such a deal when there is an incentive but make one when there is none? Secondly, the European Union as a whole has made it clear for many years that it is not interested in bespoke deals. It did one with Switzerland but that has not had a happy outcome and it is not going to do it again. It will want to maintain the credibility of that position and is unlikely to change it.
Thirdly, I do not think that the European Union will want to make a concession to us which will cause a precedent for other countries which might want to leave it. Fourthly, to give us a better deal or Norway-plus is an insult to Norway. I cannot imagine why in heaven it would want to do that at all. It makes no sense to me. Fifthly, any bespoke deal would take years and years to negotiate. At least if we have the Norway deal—the EFTA or EEA deal—the template is already there and the negotiations could be shorter.
We will find ourselves with a choice of three regimes: the status quo; the EEA deal that Norway has, which involves freedom of movement and financial contributions to Brussels; and the Lawson approach. The third of those would cut the ropes altogether, leaving us to sail away and deal with the European Union rather on the same basis that Paraguay does. Faced with that choice, what would a rational man or woman decide? The public can make a rational choice only when faced with the actual alternatives, which may be those that I have set out. But if others can be negotiated contrary to my expectation, so much the better. The public cannot make a rational and fair choice unless they honestly see the alternatives, just as you cannot go into a store and make a fair choice unless you see the range of goods available. The same holds for when you buy a house or make any other decision, such as an investment decision about going into gilts or equities. Of course you would want to look at the options separately, and the British public must be given that opportunity. On that, I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Butler, Lord Kerr and Lord Carlile.
It would be a denigration of democracy to deny the British public a say when we know what the real possibilities are from which they might want to choose. We can then be absolutely straight with them, and I hope there could be an honest campaign in which they look at the advantages and disadvantages of all those regimes. It may well be that when they actually look into the abyss, they will decide they do not want to jump in. But if they do decide to do so knowing what it is, at least that decision will have democratic legitimacy.
My Lords, I will try not to duplicate previous contributions to the debate. Unlike many of the comments I have heard over the past 10 days and again today, I am not going to indulge in spilt milk. I believe that we should accept the referendum result and move on. I should like to comment on two issues that arise as a consequence of the result, both of which are extremely important and relevant to the debate. The first is the impact on agriculture and the second is about legislation. My interests are as recorded in the register, but let me refer to three. I farm in Northumberland and I am a beneficiary of the EU basic payments scheme. I chair the Prince’s Countryside Fund and until the end of last year I was the chair of the Better Regulation Executive.
Some 40% of the EU budget is spent on supporting agriculture through the much-maligned common agricultural policy, so Britain’s farmers have a keen interest in the withdrawal process and life after the CAP. The common agricultural policy has dominated agricultural policymaking for almost 40 years and reforms have taken place every five years or so. The consequence of this process is that no sooner did we complete a round of reform than we began on the next. For those not familiar with the agricultural sector, let me explain why support from the CAP is so important.
We no longer subsidise food production in Britain, with a minor exception in Scotland. Farmers continue to receive an annual payment, which has certain obligations attached known as cross-compliance. The principle, which was promoted in a report I was responsible for in 2002, of justifying public support only for the public goods that farming provides which the market does not deliver is important. This principle was endorsed in the recently published report by EU Sub-Committee D of this House, of which I am a member, on the resilience of the farming sector in the light of commodity price volatility. Farmers care for the countryside and the landscape of Britain, they deliver environmental management and habitats, contribute to food security and are critical to a successful tourism sector. These are outcomes for which the market will not reward.
The basic payments scheme is the tool to reward farmers for these outcomes. Most farmers would prefer not to be dependent on this payment and accept that it will be diluted over time, but for now and for the medium term it is essential. As noble Lords will be aware, there is currently huge pressure on farm incomes due to prolonged low commodity prices, particularly for milk but for other commodities too. A recent report commissioned by the Prince’s Countryside Fund found that 20% of farming businesses are in fairly serious financial difficulty, with more than 50% dependent on other sources of income outside farming—and this with the benefit of the EU basic payment scheme. Without it, at present a significant proportion of farmers would have to shut up shop, so a sensible transition from the current system of EU support to whatever emerges from the negotiations as a domestic policy to replace it is essential.
Despite the red tape, the form filling and the bureaucracy, the funding is important. Farmers are rightly concerned that with the attitude taken by the UK Government in successive EU reform negotiations, this support could be at risk. The UK Government have led the pack of EU member states trying to drive down the costs of the common agricultural policy, so the concern is real. I am not demanding a continuation of subsidies for farmers, but I am requesting that future policy design is cognisant of the need for a smooth transition, otherwise we could seriously undermine confidence in what is a vital component of the UK’s largest industry sector by far, the agri-food industry. I understand that last night the candidates for the Conservative leadership did commit to continuing support for agriculture, which is very reassuring, so why do I still feel uneasy?
An additional factor which is of concern is the vital access to EU markets for our produce. Of course this is reciprocal and EU member states will want access to our market, but I should remind the House that approximately 40% of our sheep-meat is exported to other EU countries, particularly France. No other commodity is so dependent on EU markets. This market has been developed over a period of 20 years and is vital to our sheep farmers. Members of the House may recall that we have had a few problems in the past on this issue. We do not want a return to the dark days of lamb wars.
I am very encouraged that the response to the referendum by the National Farmers’ Union is to take a positive approach and begin to debate the key issues that should be considered within a new policy framework while we wait for the new Prime Minister to pull the trigger on Article 50. I have listened with keen interest to contributions from many wise Members of this House on this subject today.
I am, however, extremely concerned about the potential for delay in the timescales involved in the negotiations. This was commented on earlier by other speakers. The sooner we communicate the process, the better in my view. The scope for negotiations to become extremely complex, to miss deadlines and to drag on for years and years with continuing uncertainty for the entire business community, including the agri-food sector, is a real and unwelcome prospect. We need a plan with realistic but stretching deadlines as a discipline to frame our negotiations so that not only industry and institutions can plan and monitor progress, but the public can too. This is hugely important.
I also endorse the comments made earlier on the essential need for scientific funding which is currently available from the European Union for our research institutions. If we are to address the productivity challenge that we face here in Britain, we need to invest in science. We need a commitment that the Government will continue to meet that science obligation.
Let me address the concerns I have about the regulatory world, having only recently stood down as the chair of the Better Regulation Executive. Others have already expressed concerns about this subject. Approximately 50% of our regulation originates in the European Union and all of it will have to be reviewed and retained or replaced. Let us take the opportunity to try and reduce regulatory burdens in the process. One of the reasons for the support to leave was that of perceived intrusive EU regulations, so we now have a unique opportunity to design “fit for purpose” regulation that supports business growth and positions the UK as a great place to do business.
My second concern on this subject is that of regulation that is currently in the pipeline from the EU or likely to be progressed during the exit process; it is an interesting dilemma. Having read the helpful report of the EU Committee, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, on withdrawal from the European Union, I note that it is silent on the subject of whether we as a member state have to adopt EU regulation that is introduced during the withdrawal process. It would seem bizarre that we should introduce regulation that we might conceivably abolish soon afterwards. I hope that the Government have a view on this subject.
I could go on but other speeches have covered areas of concern. Let me just emphasise a point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely. Immigration policy must recognise how important seasonal labour is to the agri-food sector. Our highly efficient food producers, processors and manufacturers will have to move production overseas if they do not have access to seasonal labour. We actually have a great opportunity to increase our self-sufficiency in food and to reverse the current downward trends, as well as to increase our exports, but only if the key components are in place, including seasonal labour. I hope that the Government will recognise these important issues.
My Lords, I agree wholeheartedly with the views expressed by my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal in her opening remarks. It is not helpful that some noble Lords seem to be suggesting that the question of whether we stay in or leave the EU can be reopened or should be subject to additional conditions being met such as a parliamentary vote or a referendum on the terms of our departure. The position is clear. One year ago the Government were elected on the back of a promise to hold a referendum on the subject. The Prime Minister stated that the question was of such importance that the people should take the final decision. Your Lordships’ House and another place assented to the Prime Minister’s view and the referendum was held. It produced a clear majority vote to leave. Members on both sides of the debate have made exaggerated claims. Surely it is now incumbent on noble Lords to play their part in securing the best way forward for this country and to make the most of the new opportunities that our decision to leave offers us.
The country needs a Government who are confident in our future and will act with confidence. I was fortunate to represent a British bank in Japan during most of the 1980s. The high regard in which the United Kingdom under Baroness Thatcher’s leadership was held by Japanese leaders of business and government during that period was of inestimable assistance to me in my task of securing access to the Japanese financial markets for the firm I represented, and through the British Chambers of Commerce and the European Business Council in Japan for other foreign businesses. I will travel to Japan next week and will meet the leaders of several companies that are major investors in this country, and shall carry a positive message about the future opportunities for them.
Of course I do not want to give the impression that I think it will all be plain sailing. Like other noble Lords, I welcome the creation of the new unit of government under my right honourable friend Oliver Letwin to negotiate Brexit. The unit must immediately be given powers to obtain full information from all departments of state on our interactions with the EU so that decisions on how to proceed can be based on hard facts and not on myths. I agree with the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, my noble friends Lord Lawson and Lord Lamont and others that the Government should give immediate and clear assurances about the endurance and permanence of the rights of residence of the citizens of other EU states who are living here and who have made this country their home.
There is much anxiety about the single market and what will happen to our trade with it in both goods and services if we leave. Some people argue that we should leave the EU but remain a member of the single market. They argue that our trade in goods and financial services will be seriously harmed if we do not negotiate continued access to the single market. If membership of the single market is so important, why has its trade with many non-EU countries grown so much faster than ours has? We can continue to grow our trade with the EU under WTO rules as a fallback position in our negotiations. If free movement of people is a prerequisite of access to the single market, we should walk away from it.
In any case, why is free movement of people essential to a free trade area? Is it only essential because the leaders of the European Commission and other European institutions think that the EU is a state and that its citizens obviously therefore have the right to live and work anywhere within its borders? Freed from EU procurement rules, the UK Government will again be able to level the playing field and award infrastructure contracts to British companies rather than state-owned foreign companies which can circumvent state aid rules. There are many harmful directives governing the way we run our businesses, such as the EU utilities directive. Social legislation, such as the working time directive, which is damaging to job creation, can be repealed or amended.
I was delighted to learn that the Chancellor has continued his policy of lowering corporation tax in a giant downwards move of 5%, to a rate of 15%. That level is not so different from the Irish level of 12.5%. Perhaps the Irish will decide to rejoin the United Kingdom, with equivalent status to Scotland, when their EU membership requires them to harmonise their corporation tax rate at a much higher level. That would of course remove any talk of a “hard border”.
Freed from EU regulation the Government could do more to help the economy. How about creating tax-free enterprise zones around ports and airports? And the Government really cannot put off a decision on the third runway at Heathrow any longer. The Government could create tax-free or low-tax enterprise zones, some of them linked to the northern powerhouse project. We will be able to take many such new initiatives when freed from the shackles of EU rules.
Trading with the EU under WTO rules as a fallback position would not be so bad, given that the total paid in tariffs would be considerably less than the cost of our EU membership. The lower pound would also help our exporters reduce the deficit. It is highly questionable whether the single market in services is about trade liberalisation at all. As the late Ronald Stewart-Brown of the Trade Policy Research Centre concluded in his excellent report of March 2015, the single market in services, especially financial services and insurance, is much more about EU integration through EU-wide supervision and regulation.
As for passporting, the European regulator has recommended that the EU’s fund management passport should be extended to Guernsey and Jersey. If the regulatory regimes in these two non-EU states are good enough for ESMA, surely our own FCA should be good enough too. In any case, passporting rights are significant only for the fund management and insurance sectors, whose aggregate exports to the rest of the EU, at £5.9 billion in 2013, were less than 9% of the UK’s financial services and insurance exports worldwide, at £68.5 billion.
The Swiss Government are shortly to start renegotiating their trade agreements with the EU, following the decision of the Swiss people in a referendum to end free movement of people. That means that the two largest financial services markets in Europe will be setting up new arrangements for trade at the same time. This will surely provide an incentive for EU negotiators to honour the commitments they have made under the GATS, which confers rights on all WTO members.
We will have a very strong hand in negotiating a comprehensive new trade agreement with the EU covering goods and services. It should not be as difficult as many claim. After all, we start from a zero-to-zero tariff position. Furthermore, we might decide not to terminate our annual net contribution of some £10 billion immediately but to run it down over a reasonably small number of years. We will surely also wish to remain a member of European programmes such as the Horizon 2020 science programme, of which there are 15 non-EU members.
I hope that the new Government will move swiftly to start to work out a new relationship with the EU, which is what the people voted for and what many on the remain side also want. That would be good for industry and for the City and we will even get on better with our European neighbours, too.
My Lords, the referendum result has provoked much instant comment. The response of the continental Catholic churches is, however, perhaps more thoughtful than some. The bishops of Poland saw a threat to European unity. A spokesman for the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU wanted to see a commitment by all to a Europe of the spirit, based on human and moral values. Another bishop pointed out that such values demand better care for children and old people, rather than just ever-increasing average incomes.
European states within and outside the EU should pay much greater attention to two key concepts. The first is solidarity, which means that we support each other in meeting common needs: for example, the issues arising from refugees and migrants, or climate change. The second is subsidiarity, which means that decisions are taken at the lowest level consistent with the nature of the issue and the resources available. Subsidiarity calls on the higher levels of authority to help the lesser ones.
Pope Francis himself, in one of his airborne conferences, spoke of the common good of the British people being linked with peaceful coexistence for the whole of the European continent. This prompts me to think of the six states of south-east Europe that are not already EU members, which would greatly benefit first from association and then from full membership.
I turn now to our response to the vote. Some of our institutions might be thought to have become redundant: for example, the EU committees of both Houses and the British Members of the European Parliament. In a debate on 27 June, and again today, my noble friend Lord Boswell of Aynho stressed the continuing importance of our EU Select Committee. He might have been expected to say that, but I am glad that the Leader of the House agreed with him. I see the committee having a vital role in challenging policymakers and interviewing witnesses about our disentanglement from our existing membership. They, and indeed British MEPs, are likely to have an important role in clarifying issues for the sake of our national interests, and for the benefit of Europe as a whole.
Assuming that the vote to leave has to be accepted, I would like to see this country positioning itself as the EU's best friend, able to interpret Europe to the Commonwealth as well as to the USA. Britain should remain, as it traditionally has been, the supporter of small states. In any case, we should enhance our role in the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, NATO and, of course, the Commonwealth. The latter, I believe, should seek to enhance its skills in mediation and conflict resolution. In trades and services, we should move closer to non-EU member states such as Switzerland, Norway, Turkey and Israel. At the same time, we should seek the maximum possible free trade with the USA, India, China and Japan.
In the interests of the continuity of our own soft power, we should maximise our links with the continent—all the more so if we seek to be the best friend of the EU. There are many ways to do this: for example, the twinning of towns and cities, exchanges of all sorts, and through science, sport and culture. We should not be afraid to encourage people-to-people connection with Russia, as we began to do even in the semi-frozen conditions of the Cold War. Détente can come from knowing each other at a personal level.
I trust that when the new Government are formed, they will strive to reunite this kingdom and to keep us related in the closest possible way with our continental neighbours and friends. As we used to say, “Vive l’entente”. We should reject stereotypes and work to understand each other, both at home and abroad. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury struck just the right note in calling for new vision and old values. We must surely rise to the occasion.
My Lords, all of us at Westminster are responsible for the tangle we are in, and have only ourselves to blame. As we think about getting out of Europe, we should think of how we got into this state.
We pushed on as internationalists with a well-intentioned daydream of a united republic of Europe. We set out to minimise the distinction between natural citizens and outsiders. We gave complete disdain to patriotism, which—inescapably—is the tribal loyalty that gives the social cohesion that glues society together. We wilfully overlooked the democratic deficit that is the inherent weakness of the European Union and which, coupled with the demise of the euro, will lead to its eventual downfall.
We, the economically privileged, preached about the benefits of immigration, and damned as racist those who disagreed and moaned about the inadequacies of the health service. But we refused to face up to the effects of population growth of half a million a year. I have sat here most of the day and hardly anybody has mentioned the horrendous problem we will have in this country of trying to accommodate a further 5 million people over the next 10 years, in the same way that we have been bottlenecked by 5 million over the past 10 years. It is nothing to do with race, creed or anything else. It is to do with the huge overload on our services. We have not faced up to this, and to the effect that it is having on our hospitals, schools, prisons and housing, and not least on the wage levels of those less fortunate than ourselves. The silent majority who have had to suffer the consequences used Brexit to express their concern. They voted for reasonable control of immigration and there will be riots if this is not implemented.
Then we come to the problem of the young. Everybody says that they voted to stay in. The problem there is that they have yet to experience that democracy is a frail concept. Democracy when it works gives social stability while it is believed in, but it is incompatible with the coming reality of a centralised, unaccountable governance of Europe. The noble dream of ever-closer union is having the opposite effect. Many of those who voted for Brexit felt that their views were being ignored, particularly by the party that hitherto represented them. They felt deserted by the Labour Party and theirs was a cry for help. They were patronised and assured, but not convinced, that all was well and that, being at the heart of Europe, we could influence policies. Little did they know that at the Council of Ministers, where we have only 14% of the votes, of the last 72 proposals put forward by our Government, none was accepted. So much for having influence. The EU is a dysfunctional system that depends on arm-twisting and the pressure of a thousand lobbyists. It is a perfect example of regulation without rectification—an updated version of “no taxation without representation”—that has caused those who care about democracy to demand the bringing back of self-administration.
On a more positive note, trade crosses all borders. Tariffs may hinder trade but they seldom stop it. The Woolsack in front of us is a symbol of our timeless trade with the continent. Some 14 million jobs in the EU are partly dependent on our custom. They need to trade with us—and will. You do not have to be a member of the single market to trade with it, so the only obstacle to trade is tariffs—which on average are less than 2%, except on cars where, as we buy so many more cars from them, a deal is bound to be done. Of course, we never did get, in spite of trying, free trade for services.
Meanwhile the good news is that the pound has dropped some 7%, so that the tariff cost is now well offset. Our pound has been overvalued for years. A lower pound will help correct the huge imbalance of trade and borrowings. It will make our manufacturing industry, and farming, very competitive. That is greatly to the benefit of all those out of work who have good manual and dextrous skills—skills, incidentally, that are unsuitable for coffee shops, through which it is difficult to get the productivity that the economy needs.
So now we have the perfect moment to get our economy moving along the right lines. A revitalised Government should encourage saving, not even more debt. We are borrowed up to our eyes, both personally and nationally. We should start a new form of infrastructure bond that is pension suitable, and use the proceeds to develop, as a priority for job creation, a massive investment in our decaying infrastructure. We should get on with Heathrow. We should scrap the entirely unsuitable HS2. We should get out of the engagement with Hinkley Point, which is already a dying technology. There are better nuclear ones on the immediate horizon. We should, regretfully, look at our wasteful overseas aid, every penny of which adds to our overseas indebtedness because we have to borrow it before we can spend it. We should use the savings to increase our defence expenditure, which sometimes is the best sort of aid we can give to other countries. We should now have the opportunity to borrow cheaply and to get on with the massive building of hospitals, schools and transport that our infrastructure needs. We should get Britain cracking.
Unshackled, in due course free from excessive EU bureaucracy, and with compliance only when needed, this great country—one of the largest economies in the world—will prosper, with control of its own borders and sovereignty restored, as a major trading nation on the right side of history.
My Lords, the fractures in the United Kingdom by region, education, class, age and race that have been so searingly exposed by the referendum are paralleled across the European Union. The referendum precipitated a crisis in Britain which has been long in the making. Identical pressures have also been building across the EU. The EU is blighted by the socially polarising effects of market forces, compounded by the deflationary effects of the single currency and the democratic deficit in its governing institutions. The EU cannot last as it is, but there is no prospect of fundamental reform. The far right is on the rise across Europe. The EU is not a safe haven. We are right to leave and to take full responsibility for ourselves.
The remain campaign urged the British people to vote for the status quo. It should not have been a surprise that a majority refused to do so. In the years since we joined the EU, people in former industrial communities have seen the destruction of their way of life. Jobs for life have been replaced for many by intermittent, precarious employment. Unskilled migrants have depressed wages. Training opportunities have been withdrawn. Homes for many have become unaffordable, while unearned wealth has piled up for others fortunate enough already to own assets. Steeply tapering benefits have blocked the way out of poverty. Those reliant on social security—social solidarity—have been jeered at as skivers and scroungers. The public realm—social services, libraries, parks—has withered. People now struggle to get an appointment to see their doctor. Mental health services have collapsed. The Resolution Foundation tells us that 11 million households have seen their living standards stagnate since 2002. In his powerful speech, the most reverend Primate spoke of the shocking extent of child poverty. Approaching a million 16-24 year-olds are not in employment, education or training. Many fear that their children and grandchildren will be worse off than they are.
This is not all, of course, the fault of the EU; we have made damaging policy choices in Britain. But the EU is inextricably associated with the ravages of market forces and globalisation, which have been among the deeper causes, along with the disruptions of the digital economy. The slogan “take back control” was profoundly appealing to people who feel victims of forces they are powerless against and that the politicians who should look after them have done too little to control. The referendum was a vote of no confidence in the powers that be—in the major political parties as well as Brussels.
What should we learn from the referendum? What are the implications for British politics? The neoliberal orthodoxy that has prevailed since the mid-1970s, in Britain and in the EU, has run its course economically and politically. Weakly regulated and greedy bankers led us deeply into debt, both private and public, wrecked the public finances and the Government’s capacity to ameliorate social conditions, and left the people to pick up the tab. The extreme inequalities and excessive rewards for the few generated by global capitalism have weakened consumption and investment. The centre-right may try to persist with this toxic orthodoxy, though even the Chancellor seems to be in retreat. The centre-left must now reinvent social democracy, as the SNP, subsidised by English taxpayers, has done with political success in Scotland. This will be difficult to do with the overhang of debt, but the lesson of the referendum is that we must share wealth and opportunity more equitably. We must rebalance the economy away from financial services and away from London. Policy must sustain demand and investment where the market shies away. An interventionist state must provide security, addressing the sources of poverty. The damaging dichotomy between public and private must be put behind us.
New politics as well as new policies are needed. The campaigns on both sides were ruthless and angry. Many found in the referendum that their sense of personal identity was inseparable from their sense of national or European identity. The result was anguish for the losers. Some of them have lashed out in demeaning, snobbish contempt for those they see as ignorant, bigoted, selfish leavers. It also produced vicious racism from some of the winners. There was a moment, however, during the campaign, after the murder of Jo Cox, when everyone paused and people realised that crude antagonism, abuse and threats will not do. We need to nurture that recognition. The challenge for the new political leadership is to appeal to our better nature, abate the politics of anger, reconcile our people and heal our national psyche.
We have to start by demonstrating respect for those with whom we disagree. Like it or not, the decision to leave the EU was an expression of sovereignty by the people to whom Parliament had referred back this great constitutional issue, and it must be accepted without demur. Any other course would disastrously intensify disaffection from Parliament, deepen the gulfs in our society and stir up street and mob politics.
After the parties have resolved their leadership issues, and after we have held a thorough debate about the options for establishing new relationships with Europe and the world, there should be an early general election. A new Parliament is needed, predicated on the new reality. A new Government need to be equipped with a mandate for the negotiation.
At the election, the parties should also explain how they plan to renew our politics, to rehabilitate democracy across the UK. We must fund politics differently, so that the parties are not seen to be beholden to sectional and remote interests and the aura of corruption is removed from Westminster. Real decentralisation of power and resources is needed throughout Britain. The Scots can be won back for the union. Opinion is far from monolithic in Scotland and the economic prospects for an independent Scotland would be dire.
This is a critical turning point. We must build confidence among both remainers and leavers in our future outside the EU. We must remake our politics and democracy. We must find ways to uphold democratic values and authority in a global economy so that markets are servants, not masters. We must recreate our international friendships and trading partnerships and cherish our cultural links with Europe and the world. We must attract investment and talent, raise skills and transform our productivity. We must convince people who are fearful and pessimistic that politics will work for them and that prosperity will be fairly shared. We must support vulnerable communities and instil confidence within them that immigration is not to be feared; and, among minorities, that they are welcome fellow citizens. We must find shared principles and ideals. Britain can be liberal and kindly, purged of xenophobia and hate crime. With leadership, all these things are possible. If politicians, spiritual leaders, community leaders, social activists, journalists, opinion formers and citizens fail in this, we will see the debilitation of parliamentary government, insurgent fascisms of the left and the right, a crumbling of our society and a disintegration of the United Kingdom.
My Lords, the European Union is something to which the United Kingdom has belonged for 43 years. I cannot see that it has done harm overall to the United Kingdom. We are one of the most productive and wealthiest countries in the world. The referendum, which has numbed us because it was intended to bind Parliament, has left out of the count two nations of the United Kingdom—Scotland and Northern Ireland. That is something we ought to consider in thinking about the future.
We have experienced peace in western Europe for more than 70 years, and that seems to me a justification of the building up of connections within western Europe. Despite the fact that Parliament is the sovereign power in the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister decided to call a referendum which was not advisory. The campaigners for Brexit did not spell out what the relationship with the European Union would be if vote leave won. In consequence, a future relationship with the European Union has to be negotiated together with the withdrawal agreement. If, during the course of the negotiations, the terms of the future relationship seem disadvantageous to the United Kingdom, and to the European Union as well, we are permitted under Article 50 to withdraw from the negotiations. An example might be if the United Kingdom had to revert to the World Trade Organization rules and have tariffs imposed on our exports to the EU. It would be a similar situation if we had to impose tariffs on EU imports.
As a number of noble Lords have mentioned, since there is a multiplicity of directives which have changed the law of the United Kingdom, it will take a long time to analyse what needs to be reformed. Consequently, as this is a matter for the United Kingdom itself, triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty should be delayed until that analysis is completed. Furthermore, as individual member states of the European Union will have the power to veto elements of the agreement on the future relationships of the United Kingdom with the Union, it would be wise to promote those discussions before invoking Article 50, which is the only way of withdrawing from the European Union consistent with EU and international law.
Before the referendum, the EU Select Committee of this House produced a very clear report on the process of withdrawing from the European Union. It was advised by two heavyweight lawyers, Sir David Edwards and Professor Derek Wyatt QC. They advised that, if the withdrawal negotiations did not proceed to the advantage of the United Kingdom, Article 50 would not prevent the UK withdrawing from those negotiations. In that process of weighing up the interests of the United Kingdom, Parliament, as the representative and democratic body of the British constitution, should be given every opportunity to assess the progress of the negotiations. If Parliament decides that what is proposed is highly disadvantageous to the economic, social and cultural future of the United Kingdom, it might call for a second referendum, which should be advisory only.
My Lords, I am always comforted by the words of the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, who knows more than almost any of us about the workings of the European Union. I have detected a degree of referendum worship in this debate, and that worries me. I am one of those who is unwilling to accept the so-called people’s verdict. I never wanted a simple majority vote of this kind. My gut feeling tells me that the UK is not suited to referendums: they are unnecessary and divisive. As has been pointed out, they are advisory and do not, and should not, formally bind Parliament.
Secondly, we know that we can correct the mistake in due course. Other referendums have had to be replayed, most prominently when Ireland rejected the Lisbon treaty in June 2008 and had to repeat the exercise the following year, with a swing of 20%. Better than that, like the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, I believe that there should and will be another general election. Thirdly, it was a neck-and-neck result. It was a protest vote, full of sound and fury. The British public and media love a good horse race. The Scotland poll was the same; it is like penalty kicks or goals in injury time. Either way, half the people remain dissatisfied. Compare that with votes following a sensible debate in the House of Commons. Parliament should represent people every four to five years and make decisions. Democracy does not require referenda and there is now a strong legal opinion that only Parliament can get us out of the European Communities Act 1972.
Fourthly, referendums can be manipulated by Prime Ministers for their own ends, to unite their parties. Harold Wilson did it in 1975; David Cameron did it in 2016, having fulfilled a promise to Eurosceptics. Then you get distortions: the referendum may not be about Europe at all. Popular issues like immigration, which surfaced in France in 2005, and abortion, as in Ireland in 2008, can skew the result. Again, we have heard the simplistic, xenophobic voices of anti-immigration. What happens after a referendum? Everyone is still reeling from the shock. Politics and family life are turned upside down. This is not how our affairs should be conducted.
Millions have signed up to the petition to reverse the referendum and to require a two-thirds majority. On the day before the vote I had the chance through the IPU to meet election observers from Europe. I talked to a young Swiss MP who was astounded that I should reject referendums since Switzerland is ruled by them. They can even have three on a given Sunday. Switzerland has its own political character and each canton may differ on policy.
Brexit has undoubtedly shaken the dice in Europe but most leavers conveniently forget that the EU is not monolithic. Closer union is not the unanimous view of member states and there are many countries outside the eurozone. Only last week, the Visegrad group of four eastern European countries warned the Commission against more euro-based integration. There is a spectrum of opinion in Europe. During the coming negotiations we should stay close to countries like Poland and the Czech Republic, not with any intention of breaking up the EU but in order to arrive at a more practical arrangement of the Union in which national parliaments take more initiative. In the EU Sub-Committee we spent some time on recommendations that would strengthen member state parliaments, and these should be followed up.
There is another dimension: international development, mentioned earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce. I have always regarded part of the task of the first 12 or 15 member states to be to reach out to former communist countries and to assist them towards the democratic Copenhagen principles. To me, enlargement has been a formal responsibility of the Union. There are several practical examples of aid going to projects such as EULEX in Kosovo. We also need to keep the needs of applicant countries in mind. They are at this moment stricken by migration and terrorism.
We must assist the EU in achieving a better migration strategy. That should not be difficult. We need to realign ourselves and renegotiate the whole question of the single market and open frontiers. I celebrate our diverse society and our economy’s need for migration. The right wing all over Europe has taken encouragement from our exit vote and must be resisted with strong arguments. We should have learned something from the Dutch example in keeping down Mr Wilders.
I doubt that the EU will be hostile to us because we matter much too much to them. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, made the powerful case earlier for keeping our communications intact. The initiative must come from our own Government as soon as the leadership question is resolved. We must not enter the formal Article 50 negotiation but must set out a new manifesto with a view to a general election. A new start will not necessarily overthrow the referendum result, but it should provide a mandate for renegotiation on our own terms.
A referendum is neither a fair process nor a way of determining policy. It is an appalling muddle-maker. We must stop the in-fighting, support a stable new Government not dominated by Brexit, get closer to key European nations, come to terms with the EU, make use of the Commonwealth and the WTO and focus outwards once again on our relations with the Middle East, Russia and the rest of the world.
My Lords, it has been an interesting and informed debate, which I will approach perhaps from a more factual perspective, in line with the approaches of the noble Lords, Lord Vinson and Lord Howarth of Newport. I have always detested referendums in so far as our democratic system evolved in a manner where it was intended that the United Kingdom will be led by knowledgeable and principled parliamentarians who are meant to be known and elected locally, not by polls conditioned from above by faceless party manipulators.
It was a risk and a folly that the Prime Minister and Government would cede that privilege to the conditioned prejudice of the masses rather than to reasoned and honest logic. It was even less justifiable that the Prime Minister offered this referendum merely as an incentive to sway the electorate at the time of the last general election. Now, inevitably, in the Brexit case we have the nonsense where the losers are clamouring for a rerun. What comes after that—and again after that?
Despite the fact that our Prime Minister neither made the right decision nor succeeded in negotiating a tangible alternative deal with our EU partners, let me say that I am quite ecstatic at the outcome. Yes, ecstatic in so far as the old morality, the “auld decency” with which I grew up and which I have tried to represent as a schoolmaster, as a soldier, as a businessman and as a parliamentarian, seems to be dying on the vine of political correctness and internal party convenience. We now have the opportunity of a lifetime to reform and to ensure that our Britishness is rejuvenated, and that we do not flounder from tactic to tactic but relearn the value of strategic thinking and planning before setting out tactics in motion.
I hope that we in the United Kingdom now recognise how we have let democracy slide by allowing law-making powers to pass to non-elected foreign civil servants we cannot kick out, and that this has happened without popular consent. Subsequent transfers of British power have been made by a series of stealthy EU steps deliberately disguised as technical changes. Undemocratic diktat at the expense of our national sovereignty lies—or lay—at the heart of the EU.
So before we overindulge in self-flagellation in relation to our decision, we should strive to find out how Europe came to this undemocratic state. We surely understand the complex personality of Commissioner Juncker, President of the unelected European Commission. This is the crook, cheat and self-confessed liar from a country the size of Norwich who for 20 years dominated Luxembourg politics, running the grand duchy as his personal fiefdom.
Herr Juncker used Luxembourg’s security service to blacken rivals while he lined his pockets by conducting lucrative sweetheart deals with multinationals. Under his premiership, the duchy reinvented itself as Europe’s secret tax haven on an industrial scale. He was eventually forced to resign after a scandal involving telephone tapping of political opponents. Such basic standards of government would disbar Herr Juncker from any public office in the United Kingdom. Yet what was Herr Juncker’s comment on becoming President of the Commission? “I don’t have to worry about mere Prime Ministers any more”.
Interestingly, our Prime Minister initially objected to him but found Mrs Merkel in his way and failed politically to stifle the dubious Luxembourger. In so far as Mr Cameron is no longer a major player, it is the same Mrs Merkel who now moves to give the said Herr Juncker his P45. Ironic.
I wish I had time to develop my argument, but the clock defeats me. Suffice it to point out—others may expand on this caution—that the political parties in the UK, like Juncker’s European Union, have become or are becoming the property of bureaucratic academics, many of whom have emerged after university from little more than glorified bag carriers to their elders onwards to elected appointments and to run the country. However decent they may be, they are too often lacking in real practical experience, so that we have become dominated by diktat, not democracy. Internal party manipulation dominates practical objectivity and common purpose—the Leader of the House will, I know, be able to put that in context.
Today, Prime Minister Cameron’s political mismanagement has been fortuitous and opportune in so far as it opens the way for reform here in Parliament. The return of “auld decency”, and strategic purpose rather than tactical U-turns, awaits. We neglect this opportunity at our nation’s peril.
My Lords, it has happened: Project Fear, for which my side was mocked and sneered at, has become Project Fact. The pound has plunged, with terrible short-term consequences for businesses which import large quantities of stock. The FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 both took hard knocks. The vast overseas operations of the former have brought it back up but the FTSE 250, far more indicative of our economy, is still being battered by the markets. However, I will not dwell on this. I fully accept that the will of the people is sovereign, and the power that this and the other place have is entirely sourced from them. There can be no talk of a second referendum or of overturning the result. That would be a democratic outrage and poison British public life for generations. The people have spoken and it is up to us as lawmakers to implement their decisions. That said, there are important choices to make ahead.
We will need to renegotiate our position not just with Europe but with the world. We are now free to make trade deals and should move quickly to get into contact with our Anglosphere colleagues and the Commonwealth, so that we can make up more of our trade with countries that are proving to be channels of global growth. Having been in the EU so long, and not in control of our trade policy, our own departments responsible for trade have been run down. We will need to take on far more trade negotiators, up from the 40-odd that we currently have. A sensible idea would be to have the trade department set up a training scheme in conjunction with friendly countries, so that we can get negotiators learning the skills from those with experience.
I noted recently that yields on our 10-year gilts have fallen under 1%. Now is not the time to be making swingeing cuts to the trade department and Foreign Office, which will be crucial to our future success. I encourage the next Prime Minister to rethink these savings and recognise that investment in diplomacy yields significant economic rewards, not just political capital. Furthermore, we will need to rethink our European policy. The people voted to leave the EU but they did not vote for a recession. If we were to leave the single market, which was pushed for by the late Member for Finchley, we would do tremendous damage to our economy. I have heard numerous friends in this place say that the single market is an anachronism, shrinking and burdensome. This may be right but an essential fact remains: the single market is the only existing free-trade bloc built for the demands of the British economy and designed to cover high-value service industries. Without financial passporting, the City of London would suffer huge movements of banks from the UK to those jurisdictions with access. Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris are already making overtures to banks domiciled here.
Since we have only two years to negotiate a new deal before our time expires under Article 50, it makes sense to go through a stop-gap while we negotiate a more comprehensive settlement. The EEA is off the shelf and can be an effective placeholder. We would have uninhibited access to the single market and regain control over our own agricultural, fishing and trade policies.
I will make one final point. Now is not the time to turn away from the world. Global challenges face us which can be faced down only by governmental co-operation. In a way, I am glad that we have left the EU. The new European integration will be characterised by more governmental co-operation. The age of integration, meaning ceding powers and sovereignty to Brussels, is over. We must be a part of that change and work with our European allies for a better future for all our citizens.
My Lords, the British electorate have given the political, financial and business establishment a massive kick in the teeth by voting to leave the European Union. The vote will plunge Britain into uncertainty for years to come. It also reverses the solidarity on which the European continent’s stability was based—that great vision for peace and justice which excited so many of us when we were young, and which undoubtedly still excites so many of the young who have taken to the streets in recent days.
Warnings came from every quarter but, if anything, those warnings goaded a defiant mood in people. Europe's failings—undoubtedly there are many—were simply not sufficient to explain what Britain has done to itself. This was a revolt, as the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, and others have said, against global capitalism and neo-liberal economics. I say that as someone who firmly believes in pluralism and mixed economies, and that you cannot create the kind of chasm that we are creating between rich and poor in the world, but also here in Britain. We have left too many people behind. They know it, they feel it, and they are angry.
A majority of people showed their disdain for politicians who had embraced an economics that caused the 2008 financial meltdown, forced austerity upon them, gave them stagnant working-class wages, increased immigration, denied them decent housing, made them wait longer to see doctors, made them have difficulty in getting their children into schools, and allowed tax havens and tax-fiddling for the rich. They also knew that many of the people seeking to come here, wanting asylum because they are fleeing persecution or war, do so as a direct result of that disastrous war in Iraq, and what we have done to the Middle East. The fact that some of these issues had no direct link with the European Union did not matter. It was a convenient target in a febrile angry moment, much like the makings of Trump in the United States. We now may see Europe unravelling. Our vote got a hurrah from Geert Wilders in Holland and Marine Le Pen in France, who want to follow suit, and no doubt there also was applause from the right-wing party that is back in the running in Austria. We also know that Putin, Trump, Sarah Palin and a whole collection of people who do not bring down much admiration from me are also celebrating. We have leapt into the dark, and it is truly dark. Jettisoning the status quo for an unknown is full of risk of financial downturn, possible recession, higher unemployment and political turbulence.
I want to speak about law because it is my area. I have just come from a European Union Select Committee that met this afternoon in the later hours, and there heard from the Minister, David Lidington, and from Oliver Letwin, who is of course in charge of the Brexit unit. Mr Letwin described a review of law that began eight days ago—law in huge quantity. The whole of the Government Legal Service has been mobilised to map the statutes and the statutory instruments, the “by direct effect” instruments, the jurisprudence—all of it—and it will be kept to that work for a long time to come. Yet what we did not tell people was that many of those laws have greatly improved their lives, particularly in employment law, providing protections for part-time workers, agency workers’ rights and people who are in fixed-term work. Then there are the rights to holiday leave, collective redundancy, maternity and paternity leave, equal pay for women and anti-discrimination in employment. All those things, which would not have happened because of the Thatcher attacks on trade unions, were protected by our involvement in the European Union.
The European Union has given us environmental protections and climate change targets. I know that they are not attractive to the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, a denier as he is of climate change, but they are very important to many of us and to future generations. Then think of the collaborative work that has been done on crime and security, terrorism and trafficking. If, as the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, suggests, we leave all that behind, we will be cut out of the Euro warrant, Eurojust and Europol, and out of the mutual legal assistance that is so important. The intergovernmental work on harmonising, for measures such as the Sale of Goods Act and protection for consumers, copyright law and digital commerce, is all to go out the window, along with data protection law. Then there is all the stuff that we know about in relation to education—the ways in which long-term research will be put in jeopardy.
Then there is the issue of sanctions. I chair the Justice Sub-Committee of the EU Select Committee, and sanctions is one of the issues that comes before us all the time. Think of how effective those have been in bringing Mr Putin to heel. It is all much more effective when done at the European level. Think of the contracts that have been entered into in trade relations, which reach beyond any leave-by date, and how we are going to have to revisit that. And now there are constitutional arguments about who gets to trigger Article 50, and so on. We are grieving; we are all going through that passion of grief, when people are told that they have a terminal illness, they start off in shock and are numb and then get angry and reach for other alternative possibilities that might keep them alive. That is what we are all going through—a terrible process of grief, for those of us who want to remain in Europe.
The Minister said today that the Government agree that there is a role for Parliament. There has to be one, because we have to repeal the European Communities Act 1972. There has to be one because of all this legislation. I am afraid that we have opened a door on turbulent times for our Parliament but also for our society and, I suspect, for the whole of Europe. I want to invoke to all noble Lords the Latin mantra of festina lente—to hasten slowly—and to be very careful of what we are doing, because we do not know where we are going. I echo something that my noble friend Lord Howarth said—that this may provide an opportunity for us to rethink where we went wrong, across our political parties. It is a responsibility that could be put at the doors of previous Governments of any colour. We failed to look after a whole section of our communities and now is the time to think again about where we went wrong.
My Lords, were the referendum campaigns a great exercise in democracy, or were they a great exercise in talking past one another? I fear that the disarray which we now witness and the retractions, revelations and recriminations that spill out every day suggest that large parts of these campaigns were not even an exercise in communication, and that the public were not offered adequately described alternatives or the means to judge the real options, opportunities or risks.
This sorry situation is the fault not of the electorate but of the political class and the media. The options were not set out adequately or responsibly by those advocating them. The public did not believe the Government’s economic forecasts, which is not surprising since such forecasts are a specialised art form based on complex assumptions and quite unsuitable for mass communication. One has to say that even those who voted for leave may not have been convinced by many of the claims made by the Brexiteers, some of them since simply retracted. What opponents dubbed respectively Project Fear and Project Fantasy failed to explain either accurately or simply what was at stake or what would happen in the event of each outcome. Neither the process of invoking Article 50, and the role of Parliament in that process, nor the constitutional risks for the future of Northern Ireland and Scotland, and thereby to the integrity of the UK, were adequately communicated to voters.
Independent information was impeded rather than provided. Institutions charged with presenting expert and independent evidence—the Bank of England and the Institute for Fiscal Studies—were accused of being partisan when they did so. Publicly funded institutions such as the Office for National Statistics, the research councils and others whose task is to present evidence-based views were placed in purdah. The BBC often gave equal time to differing opinions but seemingly could not provide sober and informative challenges to the claims that were bandied around, so the elementary conditions for checking and challenging claims and arguments that democracy requires were simply ignored. Nor, it appears, did the Government make preparations for the contingency of a majority for Brexit. A civil service unit for negotiating was not established until after the referendum. Expertise in trade negotiations had been run down and was not being repaired. There was no explanation about the process for invoking Article 50, and the findings of the admirable report of your Lordships’ European Union Committee on the process were very little known.
How did this damaging decline in democratic standards come about? The causes are quite complex and I shall mention only two. One is an everyday matter but the other is fundamental. The everyday matter is that social media make it possible for people to think that they are in touch with a wide range of views and information, even when they are not. Unless the media ensure that the range of views, evidence and arguments is available and taken seriously, public engagement cannot flourish. If the media ignore, caricature or rubbish some positions, democratic decision-making is hardly likely to work well.
Last year at a meeting of an all-party group on hate speech, I realised how insidious this can be. Facebook gave evidence to the group that it removes postings that incite hatred after a certain number of complaints—the informants thought it was about 20—but it also reported that these postings are promptly reposted and recirculated, creating a continuous torrent of abuse and incitement. We are all aware that social media create echo chambers that contribute to the radicalisation of extremists, but perhaps we are not sufficiently aware of how they can undermine democratic debate. Crowdsourcing is, no doubt, a fine way to find out about consumer products because each contribution is independent and the results are cumulative, but it is a rotten way to source judgments when inputs are repetitive and the opinions that surface and prevail are echoes.
Additionally, there seems to be widespread confusion between rights of self-expression and press freedom. Both are covered by the term “freedom of expression”, but they differ. Rights to self-expression are for individuals. We often follow John Stuart Mill in thinking that rights to self-expression protect individuals and should be restricted only when their self-expression is likely to harm others. His classic example was shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre where there is no fire. However, Mill did not think that institutions or the powerful, including the press, have rights to self-expression. After all, they have no selves to express. He supported a free press for different reasons: because it can support freedom of discussion and debate, and enable citizens to encounter a wide range of relevant views and opinions—and to check and challenge what they read and hear.
What is past is past. Looking ahead, I have two questions for the Minister. First, will the Government make it a red line not to agree to any settlement with the European Union that damages the very people who were led to believe—or misled to believe—that Brexit would address their concerns, their interests and what they felt to be their exclusion? Secondly, will the Minister consider whether to make it a red line not to agree to any settlement with the European Union that abandons the common travel area we have with the Republic of Ireland, and have maintained since the 1920s, and that risks destroying the peace process in Northern Ireland and the UK?
My Lords, my European involvement started in 1963, when I joined the Young European Managers’ Association. I followed it up after being elected MP for Northampton South in 1974—with princely majorities of 179 and 142—and I campaigned hard in 1975. I imagine a number of your Lordships also took part in that campaign. The staying in Europe side was behind in the early polls, yet the campaign was successful. I also spent eight years on the Council of Europe, in particular on the health committee. I was the proud chairman of the group that set about drawing up a European-wide protocol for autopsies after the disaster of the “Herald of Free Enterprise”, when over a dozen nations had separate procedures for autopsies.
Understandably perhaps, I voted for remain. I did so not for reasons of trade, but primarily because of my belief in the importance of security and peace across Europe. The Prime Minister decided for his own reasons to call a non-binding referendum. He must have known it would be a huge risk; it was a huge risk, and one we now have to deal with.
The people have spoken, 33 million of them. They have spoken with great clarity about what they want, and they want out. It is Parliament’s responsibility to make that happen. It is the responsibility of Back-Benchers like myself to probe and ask questions of those who will make it happen. First, there is that short word, “time”. Time is not on our side; it is a luxury no one can afford, particularly when it comes to choosing the next Prime Minister.
I have to ask: why can we not speed up the whole process? Clearly, the chairman of the 1922 Committee has speeded up his element of the process and I congratulate him. Just eight days after the result, we have had the first round of voting this evening. As I said, he is to be congratulated, but I am afraid I do not congratulate the chairman of my party for resigning the minute the decision was made to choose Brexit. When it comes to the responsibility of people in my party—and I have been in the Conservative Party for over 50 years—I thought the top of the party would show leadership. There is not much leadership when there is a bit of gunfire and you disappear out of the trenches. I am appalled, quite frankly, that the chairman disappeared. But it goes deeper than that.
I rang my association early last week and asked, “Have you heard anything from central office?” The answer came: “No, nothing”. I ask the same question of the Front Bench. As a paid up member of my party for 50 years, I do not know who is running central office at this point in time. I have had no communication, nor, to the best of my knowledge, has my association. Frankly, that is not good enough.
Why do we not speed up the second stage? It is pretty clear that there will be another vote on Thursday and one of the remaining four will go. If one looks at history, one suspects that we may be down to two by the weekend.
My noble friend has information that I am not aware of. If we are down to three, then it is certainly true that by Thursday night we will be down to two. If we can run a by-election in four weeks when somebody dies in office and there is no candidate—we have done it several times in recent years—and if we can run a general election campaign in three weeks, why on earth are we waiting for eight and a half or nine and a half weeks to elect a future leader of the Conservative Party? I do not understand why we have to wait. What is so magical about 9 September?
I am quite prepared for Parliament to sit an extra 10 days until the end of July. We used to sit until the end of July and most of us made our plans on the basis that that was likely to be the case this year, so why on earth do we not have the recess start 10 days later? We would then know that we had a Prime Minister in situ who had the whole of the long recess to sit down quietly and deal with the huge challenges that she—I imagine it will be she—will have to face. As I said, why is there so little urgency?
Do the Government not understand the fragility of the confidence out there? I can understand why people are sceptical: the Prime Minister has never made a decision on London airport, and that is a tragedy in itself because it is central to the whole development of this part of England. We need to get on and make some decisions.
Finally, what should we do now? I believe that we have to have a leader who stood up for and believed in Brexit. I make it clear—there is no point in hiding it—that I believe that Andrea Leadsom is the right person. I worked with her on my Private Member’s Bill. She is tough and intelligent, and she fought a good campaign for Brexit. One key issue was immigration, and I question whether the present Home Secretary, who is dealing with that policy—and how disastrous it has been—is really the right person to take us forward.
I ask the Front Bench whether it would not be better to clear up this whole process, get the Prime Minister elected, leave it to her to decide what initiatives need to be taken, and not set up all these mini-groups at No. 10, the Cabinet Office and BIS. It should be left to the incoming leader to do all that. If we choose that route, we will have a Prime Minister who has the time, the energy and the resources to deal with these things. To me, the statement that Andrea Leadsom made about the 3 million EU citizens here having their position safeguarded was an indication of the leadership that she can and will give us.
My Lords, as someone who wished to remain, I join in supporting the many speakers who have already expressed their disappointment and concern that the referendum voted narrowly for out. There undoubtedly will be—there are already—major problems for our economy, which means that our financial situation and, most importantly, jobs are at risk.
In a letter published in my local newspaper, I referred to the need, in voting, to consider the future for our families, our children and future generations. This still applies. For our young people in this country, when it comes to jobs, the economy, trade and the ability to travel easily, it still applies. There have already been marches by young people in great numbers throughout the country, and notably there have been very large protests in London.
Our youth have to be considered. I joined in one of the young people’s marches in London and spoke to many of them individually. They said to me that the politicians in Parliament must do something. I said, effectively, “I wish”. I also said, “It is down to you people to keep up the protests. It is in your hands”. I have certainly encouraged—and will continue to encourage—young people to keep making their voice heard.
Having caused such disruption and instability, the two main leaders of the out campaign, Farage and Johnson, have resigned from their roles and washed their hands of it all. The campaign for out, in particular, told untruths, such as money for the NHS which, it has been acknowledged, will not happen; and about the numbers of migrants, saying that 1.5 million would come from Turkey, which was scaremongering and not true. It is deplorable and disgraceful that they lit the fuse, caused a lot of the problems and then ran away.
I support the call from my colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who talked about the need for transparency in the negotiations when they are carried out, and the right of both Houses to consider the terms for dealing with the future when it comes to Article 50 and otherwise. This is a very important point.
I agree with the point made by the last speaker that we must have clarity on the future of EU nationals who already live in this country.
With those pleas and those points I shall finish early because it is getting late.
My Lords, like many in your Lordships’ House, I did not expect a few weeks ago to be speaking in a debate today on the UK leaving the EU, but that is what we are now doing.
Formally, of course, it is the EU but, for all intents and purposes, there is little difference between the EU and Europe. In that regard we are joining the outsiders: Norway and Iceland, Switzerland, Albania—that country much beloved of Michael Gove—and the rump states of the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro. We cannot build our future on relations with this small band of countries. It is abundantly clear that our non-European allies and economic partners, such as the United States and Japan, saw our future within, not without, the EU.
We now have to find our way in an uncertain and even dangerous world with few friends. Even before 23 June, it was clear that the Obama Administration was becoming increasingly critical of the present UK Government. Leaving is a rejection of the other, and a rejection of our long-standing partners in the European Union. In the United States it is often said that leavers are losers. History is full of departures with unforeseen results—among these, the Confederate States, which left the United States in 1860 to be defeated a few years later in a bitter civil war; and the League of Nations, of which the great Woodrow Wilson was one of the architects but whose country, the United States, refused to join, dooming the League of Nations from the start. President de Gaulle took France out of NATO, only to readjust a few years later when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia. What sort of outcome is it when it is difficult for the friendliest foreign ministry in the world to find anything positive to say about a retreat from the world which, in itself, directly imperils the union of these isles?
I warn, too, as a former UN Under-Secretary-General, of the threat to our position as a permanent member of the Security Council. We are now the smallest and weakest of that group. Three members—the United States, Russia, and China—are great continental states with economies and populations much larger than ours, which is set to decline even further. Then there is France, which is soon to be the only EU state permanently on the Council. On its own, France will, I believe, increasingly seek to use its position to claim de facto to be the voice of the European Union. There is a real danger that just as our political strength has been depleted and our economic future looks uncertain, our moral authority and influence in the UN will decline.
It was not the Prime Minister of a Middle Eastern autocracy or a Latin American dictatorship but the Netherlands’ Mark Rutte who sadly said of the referendum outcome:
“That country now has collapsed—politically, economically … and you will have years ahead of you to get out of this mess”.
Those are harsh words but they are harsher when they come from one of our closest allies and a fellow member of NATO. They move me to ask the Minister what measures the Government anticipate taking to repair the UK’s reputation and global influence, and how they will counter the perception of UK isolationism, which is now, I believe, widespread.
The situation is complicated even further by the current Conservative Party leadership campaign, as noted by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby. It is taking place at a pace that is incomprehensible for any other country. That in the 21st century we are taking a month or more to elect the leader of one of our great democratic parties, and our Prime Minister, is incomprehensible to anyone outside of these isles. We cannot live, especially at this time, without an active Prime Minister. He frankly cannot hide behind the closed doors of No. 10. On the contrary, there is a strong case for him visiting key allies and economic partners such as the United States and Japan, to calm nerves in Washington and Tokyo. This cannot be left for two months. And when I speak of two months, September is the opening of the General Assembly of the UN. Every Head of Government in the world will be present and we cannot be unseated.
My Lords, for the House’s information, the Prime Minister is attending the NATO summit this weekend. To suggest that he is not attending the current global summits is inaccurate.
I am grateful to the Minister. That is exactly the sort of thing I would like to hear and I hope the Prime Minister can do more in that regard in the coming weeks. We must be conscious, too, of NATO. In these times, when we are set to leave the EU, we must pay it greater attention, and I am glad the Prime Minister will be going to that summit. It is true that the vast majority of NATO members are also in the EU; that is, aside from Norway, Iceland, the US, Canada and Turkey. It is particularly important to make it abundantly clear that though we may—quixotically, as historians are likely to note—be leaving the EU, our commitment to the UN and NATO, and, for that matter, the Commonwealth, is as strong as ever. I call on the Minister to consider an action plan to demonstrate our internationalism at a time when most of the world will be agreeing with the Dutch Prime Minister.
My Lords, Europe has a long history of being a turbulent continent and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, that it could return to turbulence again if we are not very careful. As we have recently remembered, 100 years ago, as so often in earlier times, Britain’s influence on affairs on the continent was through the gun, bullet and bayonet. A further conflict occurred some 20 years later, but then there was a massive change. For the past 40 years our influence has been at the negotiating table, and that influence has been considerable.
Looking back, it is to our discredit that as politicians who served in Government, we have failed to sell the message that we were influential and there were good things that came out of the EU as well as irritations. Indeed, it was often worse. We have tended to blame Europe whenever possible. Most of the press and broadcasters are equally to blame, with headlines that bear little reality to the truth. For 40 years there has been a steady drip-drip negative effect on people’s perceptions of the EU. The referendum campaign was bitter, negative and divisive, as was the one in Scotland a couple of years ago. Due to the exaggerations and lies told, there is increasing distrust of the “ruling elite”, and that is a negative of the referendum; it will make government harder.
Politicians are held in even less regard than they were before the campaign, and it was then at a disappointingly low level. In business life those politicians who made such outrageous claims would probably have been sacked. Regrettably they remain MPs, and unfortunately will doubtless come here in due course. Given the inaccurate propaganda campaigns, will Her Majesty’s Government now amend the remit of the Advertising Standards Authority so that in the future it has influence over non-broadcasting advertising during election and referendum campaigns and can act in a way that it cannot now?
In another respect the referendum campaign has been a huge success. It has enabled a revolution to take place through the ballot box without there being violence except for the tragic death of Jo Cox and without one side imprisoning the leaders of the other. In how many other parts of the world would that have been possible? Unusually, I disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, on the question of how well aware those who voted were of the implications of the vote. The EU Select Committee highlighted in its recent report the fact that numerous surveys have shown the UK to be the least informed member state on how the EU works. The Electoral Commission confirmed this in its polling during the referendum, which showed that 69% of the public were not well or very well informed about the EU and that 16% said they were not contacted about the referendum. Our democracy is indeed a flawed vessel and we need to learn lessons from that.
Now that we have decided to change our position in the EU, we are moving into uncharted territory, and we badly need a plan and leadership. This afternoon in the Communications Committee we received evidence on how important it is for the Government to give that leadership. London is the centre for the creative industries in Europe and they, like other businesses, are already seeing contracts lost and concerns raised about the future. People need to be reassured that as we change position, the UK is open for business now and will still be a good place for business in the future.
Inevitably our debate has been centred on UK interests, so I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, for reminding us of the implications of our actions on the rest of the EU. Too often we overlook that. Most seismic shocks have ripple effects and the EU is reacting in different and unexpected ways. One area is that its budget will have to change dramatically. Change is already starting to happen as the Commission and member states jockey for positions as a result of our decision. Who knows, it might become a very attractive unit of which we want to be a part in the future, but before that let us not forget that we cannot demand what we like. We will soon have to negotiate with the Commission, the EU Parliament, other member states, probably the WTO, EFTA and the EEA while keeping the devolved Governments on side as well. It is not an option for us to say how those negotiations are going to take place. It will be like playing chess against more than 30 people at the same time. That is why continued regular contact and good relationships with them are so important. Sadly, Mr Farage has served this country ill by his rudeness.
When it comes to trade and renegotiations, our position will a tricky one. I gather that we have only 20 active trade commissioners, compared with the 600-odd specialists working for the EU. Can I ask my noble friend what plans the Government have to recruit from the private sector? Indeed, how many are needed to help the brightest and the best of our Civil Service in this endeavour?
I add my name to the questions posed by the Leader of the Opposition and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, on Article 50. I also ask my noble friend whether she expects the EU to invoke Article 128 before or after Article 50 is served. Can the Minister confirm that the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, is right in saying that under Article 50 a withdrawal agreement must include the outlines of the future relationship and therefore the Swedish Commissioner is wrong to say that they are separate? Can an Article 50 notice be withdrawn and, if so, what is the procedure for that?
I have some other quick questions. What discussions have the Government had with the European Banking Authority about moving its headquarters from London? Has the leave campaign submitted a list of laws that they claim have been imposed on us by the EU and which they would like to see repealed immediately? Given the importance to Scotland of universities and scientific funding, what steps are being taken to ensure continued participation in programmes such as Erasmus and Horizon 2020? Given that these are delegated competencies, what action can Scotland take on its own in these areas? I have been told of provisional contracts and courses already being cancelled. What are our liabilities and commitments with regard to the EIB when we withdraw from the EU? In relation to the EU budget, what are our liabilities and commitments if we withdraw from the EU before 2020, and what will our position be if we have to help negotiate the next budget?
We are now a divided country, and today’s debate has shown that. Sadly, the leave side are showing no signs of understanding the concerns of those who wish to remain. That needs to change. While I regret that we will no longer be at the top table in the EU, influencing decision-making, we have to move forward positively and together as a country.
My Lords, I am very glad to follow such a challenging speech. The Lord Privy Seal, in introducing this debate, laid great emphasis on her desire to see us starting the task of restoring confidence, trust and the credibility of politics in general. Of course we must do that. It is, however, a huge task, because it is very difficult to estimate the scale of the damage done by the recent campaign, which included a false prospectus, a total lack of any thinking about what was to happen if there was a vote to come out, and the gay abandon with which so much of the prospectus was discarded when the result became known. That was almost deliberate sabotage of the whole concept of political responsibility.
I was able to go to some estates during the campaign. The estates had just lost any sense of being part of a political process, and here was a chance, whipped up by opportunists, to register their protest. That, of course, is what happened. We have to rebuild connections, not only with the estates but with a lot of people in society who feel that they are not part of the political process. It would be very difficult to say how badly betrayed many of our young people—among them the brightest and best—feel about what has happened. “Betrayed” is the right word. They feel that they were beginning to enjoy belonging to Europe, to enjoy the opportunities of working in Europe and of being in this wider community. They liked the sense of being part of an international community and they saw their hope being destroyed by what had happened. I asked myself how it contrasts with my formative political years, which were after the Second World War. What characterised the political debate then was that there was hope. People were thinking about what they were going to do for the future and how they would do it. There was a real political debate about that.
What is to be done? I suggest that in one sense the task remains very much as it has been for a long time. I have said in this House before—and I am sure I will be forgiven for saying again—that the first reality of existence in the modern world is to understand its total interdependence. In economics, we must find international solutions. We cannot find them on our own. We are not the centre and in control of a great British empire. That is long gone. We must find our way forward with the international community.
Then there is the single market. I have never understood how you can argue for a single market and not have the free movement of labour. It is not a single market if you do not have free movement. If we say that the free movement of labour is not possible for all sorts of social and other reasons, what are we thinking about compensatory policies rather than this blind shibboleth about the single market?
Take climate change: the consequences of climate change are accelerating all the time. There is no way we can solve those on our own. We must co-operate with others. Migration will itself be accentuated and speeded up by the effects of climate change. We are not on our own with health, either. Look at the concern and rushed emergency measures that had to be introduced when there was Ebola in west Africa. That is a melodramatic example, perhaps, but it is an example of the reality of the international interdependency in health.
I feel strongly about security as I care for the security of my own family and of my country—of course I do. Anyone working in the sphere of security will insist that we must appreciate how it has become an internationally interdependent issue. Security and terrorism are not national but international issues. People trafficking is an international issue. Crime has become internationalised. How can we deal with these issues if we are not co-operating with others?
As we go on with the Brexit arrangements, I want to hear the positive thinking by the Government about how we handle our part in the world. We should not just react but contribute to finding the way forward for the world community. We want to know more about what our strategic thinking is about NATO and about our relations with France, for example, with whom we have been building close relations, particularly in the maritime dimension.
We also want to know not just about numbers of migrants—how many can be accommodated and what control we have over immigration. That is to underestimate the significance of the whole issue. We must hear the positive thinking of the Government on how you enable the communities to which immigrants are coming in disproportionate numbers to absorb them. What are we doing about schooling, hospitals and housing in the areas where most of them come? This is the kind of positive thinking we need: we must know why and how we can do it better not as members of the European Union. How will we improve the situation? We must start hearing those arguments from the Government. I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, emphasised so trenchantly that the European Union committees of this House, which have gained such high significance and reputation in the world, will have a key part to play in overseeing the whole process.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, rightly stressed that the European Union is so much more than economic affairs. He is absolutely right. The United Kingdom has not distinguished itself in its relationship with Brussels and EU member states over 40 or so years. Conceivably, our temperament was not conducive. The EU could have given us so much more if the relationship had been handled differently, with Britain taking partners through fewer disruptions and promoting the positive elements at home.
The undignified manner in which the referendum debate as a whole was conducted did not serve this country well. The upcoming Prime Minister and those charged with delivery on the mandate of the people might wish to display a degree of firmness, but in an appropriately polite manner now that the will of the people is known. We should encourage an immediate end to needless rhetoric. Within the European Union, we must build sympathy for our position, and not antagonism. We must establish an appropriate environment for relationship building and future negotiation success, not just with the Council and Commission, but bilaterally. Yes, we have a comparative advantage by being a major economy. Having access to it and by it will be key moving forward, but it is a new world order out there and maintaining our position of being the world’s fifth largest economy could become a challenge.
The new world, where many of the opportunities now lie, is competitive in spirit and determined to succeed under its rules. In parallel, we must focus urgently on putting our domestic ship in order. Lessons learned from the alienation of Britain’s working class by successive recent Governments in turn led the people to remind Westminster that they are sovereign. The Scottish vote, while appearing on the face of it to be wholeheartedly for the remain camp, did not deliver the strength of result many had expected.
The long summer ahead could become unsettled and a period of increased concern and tension. We should embark on an immediate national endeavour to understand the type of society we wish to become—one driven by social justice, forward thinking, innovative, successful, tolerant, inclusive and giving the citizenry the qualities they expect in life, providing aspiration with opportunity. Let us strive to put the respect factor back into our vocabulary. Let us be visionary about health and education management, job satisfaction and security. Let us take the aggressiveness and stress out of day-to-day living. Let us start to become far-sighted in our forward planning.
Priorities have changed. Emphasis must now be on a new set of challenges. It can no longer be business as usual. We need to instil a sense of urgency. A rapid national consultative process is underway and should be undertaken to determine tomorrow’s priorities. Now is the time to rekindle our relationships. Our ambassadors in EU capitals and globally will, I hope, be assessing developing local attitudes towards future Brexit negotiations in Brussels, and the scope for parallel bilateral and post-exit discussions.
In conclusion, government and negotiators must be held accountable, either throughout the process or at settlement stage. What will be the contribution of this Parliament to ensure the will of the nation is negotiated in the United Kingdom’s long-term interest? In what order will the difficult questions ahead be addressed; agreement on the least contentious issues first, or turning minds to freedom of movement and trade access, for example? Will Parliament remain sovereign on the exit negotiations? If, after all this, the Government fail to negotiate a settlement in the national interest, and a groundswell of opinion appears to oppose, what then? Testing times, my Lords.
My Lords, I am among those who, while accepting the result of the referendum, deeply regret that it will lead to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU. Of course, I share the frustrations of many about some aspects of the way the EU operates and the downside to us, as to others, often expressed as loss of some parliamentary sovereignty, which membership inevitably involves. But I certainly do not feel that it is in any of our own or our present European partners’ interest to see the entire EU project shaken, and perhaps collapse, which our departure conceivably might precipitate and which some seem to wish for. Europe as a grouping is as important as any other international grouping in a truly international world, albeit in this case with a European Parliament to bring effect to common purpose within it. Much hinges, therefore, on the terms of our withdrawal and the measures that can be put in place to allow the UK to retain an association with the EU and its agencies post-withdrawal which does not massively disadvantage the United Kingdom or diminish its voice.
I would like to raise one rather specialised area involving regulation, and ask the Government what thought has, or is, being given to it, even in these early days. Although I shall deal with just one area, I suspect that the principles apply to many other regulatory and regulated interests. As various entries in the register of interests have made clear, for many years I have been involved in the aviation industry. This industry, in its various forms, is very tightly regulated. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, referred to this earlier this afternoon. Our own UK regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, has over the last 20 or more years become an agent for a wider European body, although it still retains a national remit. Initially, the United Kingdom became a member of the Joint Aviation Authorities, based in the Netherlands but working across Europe and influencing much more widely than that. In 2003, JAA morphed into the European Aviation Safety Agency, reaching full maturity in 2008. This agency sets the regulatory regime for all aviation in Europe, covering aircraft type certification, operations, maintenance, licensing, simulators and a whole host of other matters, including approval of organisations involved in the design and manufacture of aviation products, which, of course, are created worldwide.
In addition to member states of the EU, the countries of EFTA and, I think, members of the European Economic Area, are granted participation under Article 66 of the basic regulation and are members of the management board but without voting rights—something we have been fortunate to have all these years. There are degrees of wider association with EASA for countries across the globe, because aviation in many forms is of course truly international.
The United Kingdom has played a substantial part in getting EASA to a point where it is mature and successful. I have had some direct personal experience of that through bodies with which I have been involved over the years. We have brought influence to bear to support sensible progression in regular and sometimes innovative fields of aviation. We support strict safety regulations but we also strive continually to influence the authorities to ensure that regulations are practicable, well thought through and able to maintain the viability of emerging advanced techniques in aviation. However, the United Kingdom, acknowledged as expert in its aviation manufacturing and operating standards and skills, may well not be able to play anything like such an effective part in future, by virtue of its withdrawal. Who knows, we might not ultimately even be a member of EFTA or the EAA. Then where would we stand? All I can say is that our withdrawal would be much regretted.
When she winds up this massive debate, perhaps my noble friend will be able to give some assurance that, as part of the withdrawal process, the Government will do all in their power to ensure that the influential and powerful voice of the UK’s aviation expertise and the experience of our own Civil Aviation Authority—and those who work with them—are not wasted or become less influential as we withdraw from the EU. A reduction in our influence on aviation regulation will be massively detrimental. Our expertise will be missed and its loss much regretted by those EU countries with which we have worked so closely and for so long.
My Lords, first it would be useful to analyse the causes and reasons for the unexpected and dismaying referendum vote. We know that large swathes of the poorer parts of the country voted out. These are areas of industrial retrenchment, mostly in the north and the Midlands. They are far from the south-east and London, which were more inclined to remain. It is job losses and deprivation, stemming largely from the mining and steel crises of the 1980s, which have made people disillusioned with the political classes of all persuasions here in London. They feel ignored and abandoned, unheard and cut off from the wealth that emanates and dissipates from our great capital city.
Earlier, the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, told us about the wealth generation that comes from the City of London. However, how many of the successful companies and enterprises based there have spread their wealth and success northwards? Have they sponsored or supported hospitals or schools, or any new housing? I think probably not. Globalisation is not working for many of the disadvantaged. The fact that big international businesses largely avoid paying any tax has been camouflaged by economic growth, so the better-off have not really noticed it. Austerity has also affected the lower-paid relatively hard.
It is secondary, and perhaps part of the media agenda, that migration has meant competition for jobs, access to services and housing. While I deplore and condemn the hate crimes that we have heard so much about this evening, I do not think it is always racism per se, but frustration and an easily identifiable blame target that is responsible. Far too many are disgruntled that the political and economic system appears rigged against working people. This perhaps explains why Mr Corbyn retains such high support among the Labour-voting non-elite. The massive long-term problem that a new Government need to tackle is moving wealth north and west, sharing it more equitably with all the regions of the UK.
We should also blame the unelected leaders of the European Union, Messrs Juncker and Tusk, for their arrogance, intransigence and head-in-the-sand attitude. Their failure to allow Mr Cameron any worthwhile concessions in his pre-vote negotiations is typical of their position of paralysis. Their fear of contagion ignores the increasing clamour for not only their resignations but changes of direction in EU policy, which might yet save the project from disintegration. This is what happened to earlier superstates such as the Soviet Union and the British Empire where regionalism and national identity were ignored. Some central European states reckon that our vote highlights the rejection by many EU citizens of increasing federalism, so any knee-jerk reaction by Brussels for deeper integration could create a two-speed Europe with the eastern countries wanting more repatriation of powers and more accountable democracy.
Freedom of movement is a fine principle but it has caused huge problems that have to be addressed. Improving housing and creating and encouraging jobs in our own deprived areas is one part but controlling migration is another. That we need overseas labour and talent is incontrovertible. The National Health Service and the food trade would soon collapse without them, so a points-based system that acknowledges our need for low-skilled workers may be best. This could be linked to a mechanism that limits overseas workers’ ability to claim some benefits, such as that for unemployment. However, it is not too late to remind ourselves that EU citizens have contributed £20 billion more in taxes than they have taken out in benefits.
We need a strong leader and a Prime Minister who will not allow us to retreat from the world or countenance isolation and intolerance. We must continue to embrace our European friends and strive to steer them away from the corrupt and largely unelected constitution that the disaffected people of the UK and Europe so despise. We can do this by being liberal and open with our future trading terms, minimising tariffs and, most importantly, giving immediate reassurance to those Europeans already settled and working in the UK. They contribute so much to our economy and must be allowed to stay here for good. Reciprocally, those British people living, studying and working in mainland Europe must be allowed to remain without restrictions or bureaucratic hurdles. Four of my children live in Europe or have European interests. One of them, in Naples, is translating between Italian doctors and Libyan and sub-Saharan boat refugees. Let us not condemn all our young to a narrow future of less opportunity, unable to work or to do good works outside this country.
Some noble Lords have suggested that we hold another referendum in two years’ time when our exit position is clear. Can the Minister comment on the legal status of this proposal, which would involve rescinding Article 50 at that point? Such a course of action would allow the country to vote and decide on a political choice where we know the exact ramifications, which were unclear to many this time round.
It appears that our strongest negotiating card is to delay invoking Article 50. We should postpone that until the most important question has been answered: the question of the future of citizens living abroad on both sides of the channel. One hundred years ago, we experienced a catastrophic political failure that culminated in the Battle of the Somme and the Great War. The EU was created out of that horror. Let us not compound today’s great political failure by not attending to this crisis without understanding and fixing the reasons, or by ignoring the potential of these islands to rise, shake themselves and point Europe towards a fairer and different route to prosperity, peace and optimism.
We live in a counterfactual democracy. What has happened to the admirable enlightenment and ambition for truth and clarity? Have modern politicians abandoned truth for dogma and half-truths? Where is this taking us?
My Lords, I bumped into the noble Lord, Lord Howell, before coming back into this debate, and he reminded me of the old Chinese proverb which says that it is important to have the last word. I am delighted to have the last word, and I am sure than noble Lords, whatever they think of my views, will also be pleased, after a very long day, that this is the last word this evening.
I thank the noble Lords, Lord Flight and Lord Blencathra, for their generous words about Nigel Farage, and disagree totally with the noble Viscount. Without Nigel Farage and his brilliant leadership of UKIP, the people of this country would never have had the opportunity to have a referendum on whether they wanted to continue to contract the government of their country out to Brussels or wanted to become a self-governing democracy again. It is thanks to Nigel Farage that we had the referendum, whose result was clear. There is no question of course of having a second referendum, as we have heard discussed tonight. That is absolutely off the table.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, that the Conservatives must now stop playing that popular parlour game Cluedo, whether it is Mr Gove in the parlour with the bread knife or Mrs May in the drawing room with the knitting needle—regardless of who did what to who, that is over. It is time that they organised themselves and elected a new Prime Minister as soon as possible, so they can get on with implementing the mandate given by the result of the referendum. That is absolutely clear. It does not really matter who is Prime Minister; they have the mandate and they must get on with it. That means there is no room for compromise on the basic arguments of the referendum: who makes our laws and who controls our borders. Those absolutely cannot be bargained away in some smoke-filled—or un-smoke-filled—room in the European Union parliament or any of the other buildings of the institutions of the EU.
I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, that we should not agonise too much over the single market. Let us just remind ourselves that we do not need to be a member of the single market to trade with the EU. We are a major economy, and all major economies, whether it is China, the United States, India, Canada, Australia or Japan, trade with the EU without being members of the single market—so can we.
I have a helpful suggestion for the Government at this stage. They should negotiate with the member states directly, leaving the entirely discredited Commission to wither on the vine. Nobody pays any attention to what the Commission says any more, particularly under the leadership of Herr Juncker, and we would get far quicker and better results if we negotiated directly with members states. I can already hear the objection that this runs contrary to the solemn and binding EU treaties, but of course the solemn and binding treaties have already been broken on many occasions. France and Germany both, in succession, broke the very solemn and binding stability pact. Later, “Mr Solomon Binding” was nowhere to be seen when the EU had to organise bailouts from some member states to others, directly contrary to Article 125 in the treaty of Lisbon. Mr Solomon Binding could be left on one side when it comes to negotiating with the EU. It is not the treaties that matter, but expediency, and the Government ought to remember that.
We have heard a lot tonight about the so-called misleading remarks made by the leave campaign during the referendum. That is an Oscar-winning case of the pot calling the kettle black. Let us just remind ourselves of what happened to all those absurd predictions made by the Prime Minister and his dream team of Mr Blair, Goldman Sachs and John Major. World War 3 has not broken out; we have not yet had an emergency Budget from the present Chancellor; manufacturers in our motor car industry have been at pains to say they will continue to operate here and not move their factories elsewhere—indeed some of them are opening new factories here; the stock market is at, what, a three-year high; the weaker pound has made our exports more competitive; and Andy Murray is looking very good at Wimbledon. I nearly missed one thing out: we can now run our own country. I do not think that is too bad a result.
Debate adjourned until tomorrow.
House adjourned at 10.05 pm.