Motion to Take Note (Continued)
Adjourned debate on the Motion of the Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) that this House takes note of the outcome of the European Union referendum.
My Lords, the main reason why I want to leave the European Union is because I want to restore as the supreme constitutional authority in our country the Parliament and the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, both of which are at present subordinate to the institutions of the European Union, including the European Court of Justice. I greatly look forward to the day when we become an independent, self-governing country again, in common with practically every other country in the world except the remaining members of the European Union.
I want to concentrate my remarks on my view of the objectives we should seek to achieve in the negotiations for our exit. I am very confident that our country has a bright future—a much brighter future—outside the European Union than inside it, but to secure that future we first have to sort out our relationship with the European Union. I do not believe that that process need be anything like as complicated nor take anything like as long as is sometimes predicted.
This whole subject has been bedevilled by the confusion which exists over the single market. The term “access to the single market” is often used to mean participation in or membership of the single market, but the two are of course quite different. We do not need nor should try to remain participants in or members of the single market. The advantages of membership have been greatly exaggerated, as was pointed out yesterday by my noble friend Lord Lamont. In any event, it seems as though the European Union would not agree to our continuing membership without requiring the continuation of freedom of movement.
Access to the single market is a very different matter. Everyone has access to the single market. The Foreign Secretary was quite wrong to say in his article in Monday’s Telegraph that there is a range of outcomes between no access and full, unfettered access. No one has no access; the question is on what terms this access is to be agreed. The range available to us extends from access on WTO terms—probably the worst available option, but not a disaster—to access with a no-tariffs free-trade agreement.
A free-trade agreement is eminently achievable. In fact, all non-EU countries in Europe, except Belarus, have free-trade agreements with the European Union. It is manifestly in their interests as well as ours, and not just because they have a large surplus in their trade with us. Consider a company such as BMW. BMW not only exports very large quantities of cars to us; they also export large quantities of Minis from the United Kingdom into the European Union. BMW, which is very important to the German economy, is hardly likely to allow the German Government to agree to a deal which impedes this two-way flow.
Of course, any exports into the European Union would have to comply with the regulations of the single market, just as exports to the United States or Japan or China have to comply with their regulations. The vast swathe of our economy which does not export to the European Union would be freed from the regulations of the single market. That would be a considerable advantage. It would also mean that we could decide for ourselves whether and to what extent we should change or abolish the tariffs we currently charge, under European Union rules, on goods from the rest of the world.
Concern has been expressed about the position of the City of London, but, as Barnabas Reynolds, partner and head of financial institutions and regulation at the prominent law firm Shearman & Sterling, has said:
“The vast majority of banking and investment banking activity should be largely unaffected even in the worst scenario, and the ultimate situation is likely to be considerably better than that.”
One of the reasons is that the UK is currently compliant with the regulations and directives which govern the provision of financial services in the European Union. This makes the basis of a trade deal simple: so long as neither party changes the relevant rules, passporting will continue after exit in the same way as before. This would give both parties the right to change the rules in a relevant area, bearing in mind that a rule change might affect the continuing passporting rights of those businesses which export from the UK to the EU or vice versa. There is every prospect of a negotiation which would reach an outcome which is perfectly satisfactory to both sides.
I will say a word about immigration. During the debates on the referendum, I frequently made the point that the referendum should not have been about the level of immigration into our country. It should have been, and to a large extent was, about who should decide the level of immigration into our country. There are those who think we need our current level of immigration. Others differ. Let us argue it out and decide it here in this country as does every other country in the world except the members of the European Union and Norway and, for the moment, Switzerland.
As so many of your Lordships have said during this debate, let us not begin to entertain any suggestion that immigrants who are here legally, including those from the European Union, should be used as bargaining chips. That is a matter of common, simple decency. I do not believe for a moment that any of our European neighbours will want to round up and deport citizens of the United Kingdom who live and work within their borders. If I am wrong, and they do, let them wear the badge of shame which will for ever be associated with such actions. Let such a badge of shame never be allowed to besmirch the reputation of Her Majesty’s Government.
My Lords, I wish to explore the question raised in this House by the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, on the case for a referendum on the precise terms of Brexit. The referendum on 23 June was unusual, even unique, for 1 million reasons. It was clear what leave supporters were voting against, but nobody knew what sort of alternative future they were voting for. None of their leaders explained this. Boris Johnson, for example, began by insisting that remaining in the single market was essential, then moved to supporting a Canadian-type trade deal. When the deficiencies of that option were exposed, he stayed silent until the Monday after the referendum when he published an article readvocating UK participation in the single market, only for an aide the next day hastily to withdraw that explaining he was too “tired” when he wrote it. So confused were leave leaders that Michael Gove actually suggested we model ourselves on Albania. Is that really the best this great intellectual of the leave campaign could do?
If we end up maintaining a trading relationship within the single market, voters are entitled to know the consequences, such as any, or no, limits on freedom of movement. They should also know the cost consequences. For example, on the Norway model, the net cost to the UK of full access to the single market was estimated by the Library last year at £7.5 billion per annum, compared with a net cost of £10 billion per annum for full UK membership of the European Union. Yes, it is less, but it is still considerable and leaves very little surplus for filling the multibillion pound gaps in subsidies to farmers and areas such as Wales and Cornwall in receipt of European funds which Brexit campaigners airily promised to maintain.
Immediately after the vote, Brexit leaders also began shamelessly reneging on what direct experience from weeks on doorsteps told me was the overwhelming reason for people voting to leave; namely, to reduce immigration—not just to “control”, but to “reduce”. That was a betrayal if there ever was one, as was the brazen denial by the leave leaders after the vote that the “£350 million for the NHS” poster on their very own Brexit campaign bus actually meant that. I know for a fact that people on doorsteps believed that. People are entitled to know and to have their say on all this when the outcome of the negotiations is clear.
Let us consider other referenda sanctioned by Parliament. In 1997 in Wales and Scotland, referenda on a Welsh Assembly and a Scottish Parliament respectively were crystal clear. From the White Papers published beforehand, people knew exactly what they were voting for. The same was true of a referendum on a north-east England regional government in 2004, and in the more recent alternative vote referendum of 2011. But, last month, nobody on the leave side had a clue what they were voting for. That is why there is a strong case for having a second referendum, not to rerun the first one—for the result of that was clear, even if narrowly so—but for the British people explicitly to decide whether they approve of the terms of exit. This is emphatically not some ruse to overturn the result on 23 June, but instead to seek the verdict of the people on the future of the UK, on our trading relationship, if any, with the European Union, and on the implications for our prosperity and migration. This is fundamental to democratic principles.
Perhaps a straw in the wind, or perhaps not, came yesterday with an ITV Wales Welsh Political Barometer poll conducted by Cardiff University. It showed an almost exact reversal from a 53% to 47% leave vote in Wales to a 53% to 47% remain vote. Professor Roger Scully commented:
“When we look at the details of the results … There appears to be a small cohort of voters who voted to Leave, but who may now be experiencing what some in the media have termed ‘Bregret’”.
If, as we might all agree, the Brexit vote was a salutary one of no confidence in the whole political class, will that not be made even worse, perhaps creating a dangerous mood of betrayal, without a referendum for voters to decide whether they support the final Brexit deal?
I turn to some troubling questions over Northern Ireland. John Major and Tony Blair in their joint appearance in Belfast last month were trenchant about the dangers to Irish stability and the peace process if we left the EU, and as architects of the peace process, they should know. The settlement I helped negotiate in 2007 reinforced the Good Friday cross-border institutions which are important to both republicans and nationalists in supporting that process. What exactly will now happen to these, especially since Brexit means that the two parts of the island of Ireland will be on opposite sides of an EU border for the very first time in history? Remember that the UK and the Republic joined together in 1973.
Leave advocates ask why the common travel area, which has existed since the early 1920s, would be threatened when it even survived the Troubles. However, there were tough security checks and border controls between north and south during the Troubles, which under the peace process have been dismantled. The border today is invisible, with substantial cross movement and increasing business, cultural and economic links, which are all to the good. This is especially important to republicans and nationalists, and vital for businesses of all colours.
If we left the EU, that same 310-mile border would be the only land border between the UK and the EU. Surely it is unthinkable in today’s world of jihadi terrorism, mass migration and desperate refugees that it would not have to be made secure. Indeed, after the leave campaign’s pledges for even more stringent border controls, how could they with any credibility allow the current open crossing to survive as a back door into the UK? Surely it is hard to envisage how the common travel area between the Republic and the UK could remain.
I have one other point. EU funding and investment have underpinned the peace process. Over £2 billion will have gone to Northern Ireland in the six years to 2020. Are the Government guaranteeing to replace it? Perhaps the uncertainty over Northern Ireland could also be a case for a referendum on the negotiated final deal of the UK’s exit from the European Union.
My Lords, the decisive event for Britain in Europe in the 1970s was not the 1975 referendum but the six-day House of Commons debate that ended on 28 October 1971. By 356 votes to 244, the House approved the,
“decision of principle to join the European Communities”.
Of former Members of Parliament who voted on that occasion, nearly 30 sit in the House of Lords and several will have spoken in this debate. I was one of those who voted and one of the 69 Labour Members who voted for Europe across a three-line whip. I was as opposed to the idea of a referendum in the 1970s as I am now. A referendum fractures and distorts the parliamentary system and feeds populism. It is very different from a general election, which is a regular event when voters can change their minds and reverse the political direction.
But once the 1975 referendum was over, with a two-to-one vote, I assumed that was that; we were there in Europe to stay. I was naive. I believed that, despite the ups and downs of politics, we would win any new referendum with figures similar to the previous occasion. That was my view until early this year, so I was dismayed and profoundly shocked by the result of 23 June.
I am of a generation that grew up just after World War 2. On a cross-party basis, we dreamed of a better and more prosperous world and no more wars. We as students—Tory, Labour and Liberal—particularly cared about the relations between Britain and the rest of Europe, especially France and Germany, and similarly cared about relations with the United States. Like me, in 1950 my noble friend Lord Taverne was a member of the Strasbourg Club, linked to the new Council of Europe. Shirley Catlin, our mutual friend who became Lady Williams of Crosby, was already a persuasive European voice. If I had not been fully committed, the events of the Suez war totally convinced me that Britain’s future lay across the Channel.
Harold Macmillan had a deep and acute sense of history and place and he took the initiative in seeking membership of the European Community, the Common Market. He was the author in 1938 of The Middle Way, subtitled “A Study of the Problems of Economic and Social Progress in a Free and Democratic Society”. There are lessons here for today’s leaders of the Conservative Party.
Apart from Ted Heath, who took the country into Europe in 1973, all Prime Ministers have been half-hearted about what became the European Union. Harold Wilson was for Europe, then against, then for again. Sir John Major, who made passionate and moving speeches during the referendum in favour of remain, lacked as Prime Minister the strength to stop the drip, drip of hostility to the European Union. Tony Blair, who also endorsed remain, lacked the will to identify himself as a good European when he was at No. 10.
In the 1975 referendum, among other issues, there were arguments about food prices, farming, fisheries and the Commonwealth. Immigration was never an issue. I am not adding to the discussion of numbers, but I am disappointed by the absence of a serious, consistent and significant campaign by Governments over the years to help and understand those communities faced by and fearing incoming migrants, and in turn, to help migrants learn about the rules, customs and conventions of their hosts. But immigration is not enough to explain the reversal of the yes vote figures of 1975 to the leave vote figures of 2016.
Hostility to Europe was shorthand for all the economic and social grievances about jobs, homes, schools and health, especially in deprived areas. The awkward reality in Britain is that the rich are getting richer but many of the poor are slipping back or marking time. Since 23 June there have been marches, rallies and petitions in support of the losing side, remain. The irony is the absence of cheering crowds for leaving. Those who regret voting the wrong way feel very uneasy and insecure.
Whatever is done is done. The referendum took place and the votes were counted. We cannot reverse the outcome by stealth. But within the moving political scene, I hope that Parliament will assert itself through the interpretation of Article 50 and the process and complicated procedures of withdrawal. I hope, too, that continuing members of the European Union will recognise and understand that Britain will take some time to sort itself out. Many of us want to stay as close as possible to our European partners in friendship and to mutual advantage.
My Lords, I speak as a committed European who regrets the breach with the European Union, accepts the referendum result as the will of the people and believes that we can overcome the challenges that face us if we do our duty as a Parliament and work together as a united country. It pains me to say that we are currently failing on every front.
Parliament is paralysed by a lame-duck Government who have lost the country’s confidence. We have a leaderless and divided Opposition who are the despair of those who expect better of the Labour Party. Many decent people feel that they are outsiders in their own country: forgotten also-rans in what they perceive as a race for obscene wealth by many fat cats in big business, finance and property development. We shall need to rebuild trust in what this country stands for and foster the qualities that made it great. We can no longer use slogans to accuse the European Union of holding us back when the exit button is pressed. People have had enough—they are sick to the stomach of the sloganising of recent weeks. We need more than slogans to rebuild trust and restore confidence both at home and overseas.
I was brought up on the fail-safe mechanism of our democracy, which used to be a Commons Motion of no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government and a general election. It is a measure of our weakness that neither side dares risk that now. There is no Churchill in the Tory party to lead us, and Jeremy Corbyn is no Clem Attlee. He falls far short of the leadership Attlee displayed when the country pulled together to save our way of life in 1940. Alas, I am afraid that statesmanship is in short supply, both here and overseas. Politics has become toxic—but fortunately not so far as this House is concerned. Here I pay tribute to the detailed work that our committees do, and in particular the European Union Committee, which has captured great respect beyond the walls of Westminster. It will be invaluable during the negotiations and amended legislation that will have to follow.
The electorate pointed us in the direction they want to go, but the Brexiteers failed to agree the route to get there and fed us falsehoods during the campaign which they no longer bother to deny. It will be left to the next Government to find the best way forward, and it is Parliament’s responsibility to approve and monitor it.
In this connection, I hope that the procedural dispute over Parliament’s right to vote on the referendum result does not reach court. All my experience tells me that whatever the merits of the argument, it will be another symptom of our debility if we breach the separation of power between the legislature and the judiciary. While I commend the noble Lords, Lord Owen and Lord Lawson, on their ingenuity in short-cutting the separation procedure set out in the Lisbon treaty, I suspect that it would be further grist to the lawyers. Parliament, not the courts, is the forum of the nation, and I would dread the consequences if we no longer were. If the British Parliament is not sovereign in this sovereign country, what was the referendum all about?
I will say a word—a couple of words—to those who think the Government can settle big issues by executive action. I say to them, “Think again”. We need to bind the wounds that still fester after weeks of bitter campaigning and we need to remember that in our democracy the winner does not take all. We govern by consent—the consent of Parliament and the people. This House has its own constitutional role, which is now more crucial than ever. I hope that the Government—whoever leads them—will recognise that and stop interfering with us. If I may say so—recalling my years as Speaker in another place—it has to be acknowledged that the powers of scrutiny of this House are more dispassionate than they are in the Commons, which is why we are frequently asked to make sense of what they do.
Restoring confidence in Parliament will not be easy. The “either/or” choice on the ballot paper was illusory and the referendum was a blunt instrument which suited the dominant mood. It is obvious that the Government were unprepared for defeat, but that is no excuse for legislation based on a first, second and third reading of the Daily Mail.
Our duty now is to help our country through these perilous times so that we may eventually reach the sunny uplands that we have been promised.
My Lords, it is an honour to follow the speech of the noble Baroness. I must say, having listened to many of the speeches by your Lordships yesterday, it is crystal clear to me that this House has a great deal to offer towards the lowering of tensions and finding the nation’s way through the thicket of complex issues confronting us.
However, one aspect of the unfolding scene was not, as far as I can see, mentioned yesterday, or even today. While we wrestle with our European neighbourhood problem, the wider world is going through a gigantic and revolutionary transformation in the whole pattern of trade, commerce and exchange. It is not just goods’ trade which has been globalised. In this digitalised world, almost every product and process has become part of a vast connected supply chain that winds from one continent to another. Whole industries have been upended, corporates and middle-men bypassed and smaller businesses given a unique entry into global supply chains they never had before. This is creating major upheavals, both of peoples and employment patterns, which are already shaking the EU to its foundations with populous upsurges, breakaway and secessionist impulses and a migrant movement of millions coming from failed states, poorer and war-torn areas up and across into Europe of which I am afraid we have only just seen the start.
Not only is almost everything nowadays made everywhere, but everyone can sell into every market if they can compete. Tariffs hardly make any difference and where they do, are cancelled out by exchange rate differences. The non-tariff barriers are the remaining defence.
I did not agree with everything my noble friend Lord Lawson said yesterday, especially the rather winner-takes-all, slightly uncompromising attitude. However, I believe he was right that when it comes to trade nowadays in its modern form, you do not have to be a member of the EU to sell successfully into the European market, and so was the noble Lord, Lord Howard, right when he spoke just now. China pours massive flows of goods into France, for example, and is investing everywhere from Warsaw to Cardiff and from Athens to Lisbon. Looking at it the other way—from within the EU—Germany is far more deeply embedded in the supply chains to Asian markets than we are.
The single market of today is nothing like the original protected cocoon of the last century. No one is copying that top-down economic model round the world, because it does not work in the digital age. It is clear that the ruling minds in Brussels have not grasped all of this, although shrewder people in the national capitals have certainly done so. That is why I personally believe that Jean-Claude Juncker’s days are numbered, together with those of an inward-looking EU Commission, which is trying to keep yesterday's EU afloat in the modern world. So, do we face some insoluble dilemma of single market access versus free movement, as it was suggested in the debate yesterday? Not really.
First, access—if not membership—is always there, although with special and practical arrangements in our case, since we are by history and geography in Europe and we clearly need to sort out the banking passports issue. We need to have our daily power supply through interconnectors keeping our lights on as we trade every half hour with the European continent. That is an area—energy—where we need more “Europe” in physical terms and a lot less in policy interference.
Secondly—the other side of the argument—the unfettered free movement principle is anyway bound to collapse or be vastly modified as migrant millions swell and swell. It is already being re-examined through Europe at this moment. It is not a forecast—that is happening at this moment.
Meanwhile, I agree that the die is cast. We are now on a separate track and for us the broad direction is quite clear. First, we and especially if I may so—there is irony in this—the Brexiteers, must become really good Europeans who are supportive in the EU’s hours of trial, friendly with every member state and supportive even as the basically unworkable euro staggers from crisis to crisis—as it is about to do again—until it eventually shrinks back to the old deutschmark zone. I strongly agree that trying to bargain over the status of EU citizens here versus our citizens in the rest of the EU is absurd. It is a typical Home Office ploy. All should be reassured, perfectly amicably, and there is no need to go on with this argument.
Secondly, we must focus on our really big and new markets as never before. The US is by far our largest market outside the EU, but China and Japan—our best friend in Asia, as we often forget—are catching up fast, as are Latin America and Africa. The immense Commonwealth network is the gateway to most of these areas.
People ask me whether the Commonwealth could be an alternative to the EU market, but that is to compare apples and oranges on a grand scale. They are completely different in character, nature, structure and behaviour. Yet, strangely, it is the unstructured grass-roots-driven Commonwealth network, with its common language, common commercial law and common accounting standards, which is probably more favourable to this age of knowledge and data-dominated trade in services than the more centralised EU model.
To cope with all this, even to get a coherent position together from which to initiate Article 50, we need a leader and a Government of bridge builders to build new bridges and get old ones repaired. Bridges there have to be with our real European friends, who are to be found in the member state capitals, where they realise that the fundamentals have to change and that the era of centralised integration is over; bridges between leavers and remainers to bring this nation together, showing that the winner does not take all, as the noble Baroness who has just spoken reminded us; and bridges between the overwealthy and those who feel left out—bridges which some of us have been arguing for four decades should be built through wider capital ownership and new forms of sharing capital. That is how we can meet the concern of too much inequality, as the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury rightly spoke about yesterday, although too little wealth creation is part of the same problem. Then we need bridges with Scotland to support it in its dilemma of wanting to remain within the EU, yet finding itself inside a Brexit UK. We need bridges, too, to Northern Ireland and Dublin.
The task requires consummate skill but it is possible. Disraeli said that Britain was an Asian power. We now have to become an arch-network power to survive and prosper. I remain resolutely optimistic that it can be done.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. At number 82 on the speakers list, I fear that there is little new ground for me to cover. However, like many noble Lords, I want to take the opportunity to express my dismay at the outcome of the referendum, my anger at much of the tone and content of the campaigns—mostly, but not limited to, the leave campaign—and my incredulity that the Government have undertaken no contingency planning for this eventuality. I am clear that the primary responsibility for much of the turmoil that is now engulfing us —economic, social and political—rests with our current Prime Minister, who has gambled on the future of our country for party-political reasons.
As for our economy, it was already in choppy waters, exacerbated by the uncertainty created by the referendum—an uncertainty that looks likely to continue for another two years and possibly beyond, with the contagion spreading beyond our shores and those of Europe.
But we are where we are and we have to get the best out of the current position. We need to make it work in terms of the practical and legal negotiations that we have to undertake, as well as restoring some social cohesion to our country. I leave it to better brains than mine to opine on the legality of the courses of action available to us, especially concerning Article 50 and the European Communities Act 1972, but I believe it is incumbent on government, as quickly as possible, to set down the process it considers should operate to remove at least one layer of the uncertainty which is damaging our economy. Surely this does not have to await a new Prime Minster. In any event, there will be only two contenders by the end of the week. If today’s Times is correct and this matter is heading for the courts, what impact does the Minister consider this will have on the timetable and process?
There are formidable issues to address and, as my noble friend Lady Smith instanced from our Front Bench yesterday, that will put a strain on the capacity of government and Parliament, as well as business, trade unions and many others, to deliver, with all the lost opportunities that that entails. It is not only the big issues of the single market and freedom of movement that have to be addressed, but the multiplicity of matters that are part of our interlinked history with the European Union. I would instance just one area—health and safety—where the EU has established the general system of safety in health management under the framework directive, with a whole range of supporting directives. It is vital that this system, which has helped save hundreds of lives over the years, can be retained. Can the Minister say what approach, including the parliamentary approach, is to be adopted in securing this and a raft of other vital secondary legislation implementing EU law and directly applicable EU regulation?
We are told that the referendum was advisory. If this is the case, I do not think that that was made particularly clear during the campaign. It would nevertheless be foolish to ignore the outcome of the referendum and second-guess what voters did. We do not know why people voted the way they did, how they weighed up the factors that were important to them, what information they took into account, and the extent to which they ignored or accepted the assertions of one campaign or another. They may have gained some insights from the various public debates, or perhaps from the pollsters and, indeed, our own discussions and campaigning.
I spent most of the run-up to the vote engaged in traditional canvassing, working in areas of Luton that have typically voted Labour—with some deprivation, but emerging prosperity—where Pakistani, Kashmiri and Bangladeshi communities predominate, but Polish and Romanian communities are beginning to settle. This can only be anecdotal, but I found voters genuinely trying to get to grips with the issues, even on polling day itself; households not slavishly following their traditional party line; and households that would typically vote together not all voting the same way. One might say that was a healthy democratic process, if uncomfortable for a political activist.
If there was a common theme, it was immigration. That was sometimes a peg for a wider range of issues or shorthand for problems involving housing and the state of the NHS in particular, notwithstanding the fact that members of those communities, their parents and sometimes their grandparents are living proof of the success that can flow from immigration. Some expressed the belief that controlling migration from the EU would enable the Government to take a more relaxed stance on immigration from Commonwealth countries, despite the severe restrictions in recent years. Can the Minister say whether this is or is likely to be government policy?
The voters told us that as far as Europe is concerned they do not want the status quo, but as my noble friend Lord Hain said, they have not told us what they do want. It is not their fault: they were not offered a clear proposition even on the big issues of membership such as access to the single market and freedom of movement. This argues for a return to them on some basis for their endorsement of the outcome of the negotiation. It is not easy because until we start the two-year clock ticking we may not get meaningful negotiations. Once we invoke Article 50, the process will largely be out of our control and may not provide time for a meaningful return to voters, rather than just a parliamentary process. What happens if, whatever process is involved, they reject the proposed agreement? We should urge the Government to seek a timetable that will enable any agreement eventually reached to be endorsed by or on behalf of the electorate in the broadest possible manner.
As important as this all is, however, a more fundamental matter should engage us now. As the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury told us yesterday, the referendum has shown in the starkest terms that we are a divided country. Mending it should be our highest priority.
My Lords, I have been asked to contribute to this debate with regard to the law and order impact of the decision by the British people to leave the European Union. I make it clear from the outset that I want to be positive and helpful in pointing out the areas where I believe the Government need to focus. I do not believe in Project Fear, and my record shows that I never did—but, for the record, I supported and voted for the UK remaining in the European Union.
My understanding with regard to the exchange of highly sensitive intelligence relevant to national security and the combating of terrorism is that it tends to be shared on a bilateral basis with some of our European partners and not others. I see no serious impact on those bilateral arrangements as a result of us leaving the EU. But the same cannot be said with any degree of certainty about the sharing of other intelligence in relation to serious and cross-border crime, the operation of the European arrest warrant and the operation of Europol. For example, until recently, the UK Government decided not to participate in the Prüm Decisions. This EU agreement allows member countries to rapidly match unlimited numbers of fingerprints and DNA profiles found at crime scenes with databases held by other member countries and to check foreign vehicle registration plates. Although we have agreed to participate now, there is at least a two-year lead time. The recent decision to join in this initiative is now in jeopardy unless the Government can make alternative arrangements. There are existing routes to carry out these checks through Interpol, but these take weeks and sometimes months instead of seconds—or, at the most, 24 hours—using Prüm. Will the Minister ask the relevant team how we might secure the advantages of participating in Prüm despite leaving the EU?
No doubt the Government might say, as the noble Lord, Lord Howard, said this afternoon, that it would be in the interests of both the UK and EU member states for such co-operation to continue. Conversely, EU member states may argue that we should not be able to enjoy all the benefits of EU membership without being a member.
Does the noble Lord not agree that actually our European neighbours—still partners but about to be erstwhile partners in the European Union—benefit enormously more from those arrangements than we do? They make many more requests to this country for co-operation then we make to them, so they would be the losers if these constructive co-operative arrangements were not to continue.
Clearly, both the UK and the European Union would be the poorer without having these arrangements, but at the present time we are not members of the Prüm agreement. Therefore, we do not benefit at all from this rapid exchange of data, whereas other members of the European Union do. I cannot personally foresee how we are then going to become a member of the group that shares in those tremendous benefits when we are outside the European Union unless the Government can negotiate a deal.
Europol has been important in tackling cross-border crime. Close European co-operation to deal with such serious crimes as child sexual exploitation is essential. Europol, headed at the moment by a UK citizen, has successfully facilitated joint operations involving police forces from many EU countries. These joint operations may no longer be possible unless alternative arrangements are put in place. The European arrest warrant has been valuable in bringing people swiftly to justice, including terrorists who have fled the UK. Will the Government explain how they will prevent southern Spain from becoming a haven for fleeing fugitives, as it was before the European arrest warrant came into force?
This House has on many recent occasions debated the issues around racism and xenophobia, and the status of EU nationals currently resident in the UK and of British residents currently resident in the EU. Many noble Lords have concluded that the EU referendum has given people the confidence to give effect to feelings harboured for some time. What action will the Government take to tackle the root causes of such feelings and to restore a climate where racists feel unable to act?
Another difficult issue that needs to be addressed is the one mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hain: that of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. There appear to be conflicting principles. If the principle of free movement of people within the EU, including the Irish Republic, is no longer to apply to the UK, but the free travel area enjoyed by UK citizens and citizens of the Irish Republic, but not other EU citizens, is to remain, I urge the Government to address now the question of how the border is to be controlled in such circumstances.
Parliament passed legislation to delegate to the British people its power to decide whether the UK should be a member of the European Union. The British people, by a majority democratic vote, decided that we should leave the European Union. I believe that we cannot now decide that we want to take that power back just because we do not like the result.
My Lords, it is said that you must know where you come from to know where you are going. Sadly, the campaign’s simplistic and rose-tinted retrospective views and promises of a dream have now resulted in many people feeling that they cannot believe the reality they have woken up to. Shakespeare must be spinning in his grave, 400 years after his death, at the missed opportunity to write several powerful plays about recent events.
I shall focus on the areas that I know a little about—research and health. They must be addressed in planning our exit, and the devil is indeed in the detail. Overall the UK currently contributes around 11% of the European Union research budget and receives around 16% of the allocated funding. Europe’s “co-operation pillar” health theme brought in over €570 million to the UK, representing 17% of the whole EU contribution.
But we must not focus only on money: the EU has shown commitment to the environment, consumer safety, food quality, human rights and social policy. All have powerfully contributed to better health and well-being, and 10% of the UK’s health and social care workforce are European. Many bring unique and essential skills to fill our gaps. Addressing our healthcare staff shortages requires freedom of movement—and these people need to know that they are welcome and that they are wanted, not just that they are tolerated.
Infectious diseases do not respect political barriers, nationality or passports. Our public health threats range from increasing resistance to antibiotics, to potential epidemics and pandemics. Shared learning across borders, as currently organised, allows rapid co-ordinated European responses to health crises, and European-supported public health powers are important to our security. Where will we be in future in relation to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control? The European Medicines Agency, which registers and approves pharmaceutical products for the entire EU, is currently based in London. Will it remain here? Its efficiency and predictability make it the world’s best practice regulator, with leverage through the EU’s position as the largest bloc.
The environment cannot be controlled at state level either. Air and water pollutants, like the climate, are not restrained by political borders. Current environmental legislation is almost entirely an EU competence. It will take time and money to build up institutions and skills to deliver responsibilities as organisations are relocated and have to reframe their working.
The Government of tomorrow, and in coming years, would do well to draw on the expertise in this House for the monumental task ahead in our legislative review. We must all shoulder the burden of that: we are where we are. The Government, whichever Government they are, and however they look and are shaped, must establish the impacts on science, health, education and infrastructure well-being, and decide how best to manage these, and the changes. There is an urgent need to assess and address our decreased influence on European research priorities, and the areas where a lack of regulatory harmonisation is at its most damaging across all domains. Access to European programmes is essential for research and innovation. Future collaboration requires the free exchange of talented individuals and the expertise that they bring to the UK.
Let me turn briefly to Wales and then to examples from my own university. The balance of loss versus any potential gain matters greatly. Overall, Wales receives £600 million support each year from the European Union—£240 million of that in agricultural support. Infrastructure funding for 2014-20 is estimated to be £1.8 billion. Losing this is a major loss, unless it is replaced. With one-third of the EU budget going towards poorer regions, Wales has been a beneficiary. Cardiff University ranked sixth last year in the Research Excellence Framework and, for impact, ranked second in the UK. Like other leading universities it contributes to the prosperity and growth potential of the UK.
I shall give a simple example on the human side. Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre—CUBRIC—was built with £4.6 million from the European regional development fund and has another £4 million coming from EU research funds. That equipment and expertise allows it to be a global leader in understanding neurological and psychiatric conditions. A link to that is almost €6 million of grant, which allows the BRAINTRAIN project to deal with addiction and other disorders. Across the UK’s universities there are thousands upon thousands of such examples. Failure to address what the universities are facing will threaten our ability to reach our potential and, I believe, will threaten our very economic viability.
As the First Minister of Wales has said, however we move forward and however we produce things, continued access to the single market is vital for the future prosperity of Wales. We may all be deeply sceptical about polls, but as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Hain, a 6% swing towards remaining in Europe that has happened in Wales since the referendum must sound a warning. Those misled by false promises will feel deeply disillusioned in the future. Those who voted either way will demand a say on the future that we sign up to. The leaders of the devolved nations must be at the very top table, not just consulted through different offices and routes if we are to find out where we are going now. Our legacy, on which we will be judged, will be the country that we leave for future generations.
My Lords, tonight Wales is playing, and we all hope it will win. But if by chance it loses, I take it we will not be asking for a replay.
We left Aquitaine and Calais some 500 years ago and since that time we have been the power broker between Germany and France, and France and Germany, in order to protect the empire. We had no ambitions in continental Europe itself. It is interesting that we keep using the word “leave”. I do not think that we are leaving. There have been only 41 years out of more than 500 when we have not been involved in the continent. If we had not regrouped and taken our troops from Dunkirk in 1940, where would the continent of Europe be today? In practice, it was the regrouping—fighting on alone, right the way through, with Churchill’s determination—that allowed us to fight again and, with our allies, to regain Europe’s freedom. That was the base of what Britain was about. We went back and helped continental Europe.
In talking about Chilcot, we have also talked about our military forces. As some noble Lords will be aware, I am very involved in that area. It is vital now, if we are not to be considered a bunch of little Englanders, to ensure not only that the armed services are maintained but—as I have strongly recommended, as did Sir Christopher Meyer to the Foreign Affairs Committee the other day—that the budget is increased to 3% of GDP, not 2%, so that they can do their job globally. We unquestionably need more frigates, as the admiral has often said, if we are to maintain our place in the world. The armed services must have the right kit for unknown eventualities, as no one can have any idea today what might happen in the future.
On top of that, our finest soft power has always been the foreign service. There have been cuts to the foreign service but, if anything, its budget should be doubled so that it can do the job that it needs to do globally.
I switch now to a subject that I know a wee bit about—the car industry, which the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has often talked about as well. Forty years ago we started Motability, which is by far the biggest fleet of its type in the world. We have 12%, and sometimes 15%, of the whole market. We have had discussions with the manufacturers of Mercedes and VWs as well as with others and the idea that they will allow their businesses to be destroyed by the Commission’s eventual decision is absolutely ridiculous. These companies have no interest whatever other than continuing the business that they do with us. As has been pointed out before, the ratio of their imports into this country is close to three to one. There is now a division between what is happening in Brussels and the politicians who have to run their own countries, such as those in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and so forth.
We are talking about creating wealth. I have heard a lot about what might happen next week, what we might do and how we might do it, and how we will exercise Article 50. We are looking 100 years ahead, not just at the immediate future. When we lay down the keel of a ship, we are taking a view on the next 30 or 40 years. We must consider the long-term future of this country.
I return to the armed services. The one thing that is sure is that our armed services will be a key part of the most powerful hard power within Europe today, except even more so. If Europe gets into trouble, the Europeans know that we will come to help them like we did in 1940. That is our job, and the armed services know their role in fulfilling that responsibility.
Returning to international trade, I had the honour, as many noble Lords may be aware, of running P&O for 25 years. For 180 years it has been doing huge international trade. How many noble Lords have looked recently, when doing the washing, at the label on the back of their shirt collar and saw where it was made? Was it China, or Taiwan, or India? Nearly everything you can think of is not necessarily sourced in Europe itself. This morning, I checked with many of the container groups to ask what is coming into this country, from all the different parts of the world, and what they think the effects will be. They are not troubled. What they are concerned about is more bureaucracy as against how simple it is to bring goods in today. However, that will be sorted out in time.
I was thinking the other day that if the euro had not been created in 2003, we would not be having this debate. The straitjacket of the euro has caused a huge number of the problems that we are considering today. Subsequently there has been a massive economic migration—not just of refugees—running into the tens of millions. All countries will have to address that aspect of the issue.
Many noble Lords have talked about aspects of racial hatred that have come out recently. I think it worth reading, very quickly, Dominic Lawson’s comment on it—last week it was in the Sunday Times, but it was also in the Independent some years ago:
“In September 1958 nine young men were found guilty”—
in the court of Mr Justice Cyril Salmon, who happened to be his cousin—
“of what they had called ‘nigger hunting’–chasing black citizens around the streets of Notting Hill, while armed with iron bars and table legs. They were, said their defence lawyer, in attempted mitigation of their crimes, ‘victims of the society in which they live’”.
As it was recorded, Lord Justice Salmon “was unimpressed”. He said:
“Everyone, irrespective of the colour of their skins, is entitled to walk through our streets in peace with their heads erect and free from fear ... As far as the law is concerned you are entitled to think what you like, however foul your thoughts; to feel what you like, however brutal and debased your emotions; to say what you like, provided you do not infringe the rights of others or imperil the Queen’s Peace. But once you translate your dark thoughts and brutal feelings into savage acts such as these, the law will be swift to punish you, and to protect your victims”.
Lord Justice Salmon,
“sentenced all nine youths to four years’ imprisonment. Shocked at the severity of the sentence, relatives and friends in the courtroom gasped in dismay, and burst into hysterical sobs outside. Two of the boys were so shaken they had to be helped down the 32 steps to their cells. But that night, all was quiet in Notting Hill”.
My Lords, in retrospect and in the light of 52:48—or more or less half for in and half for out—it could be argued that the people of this country should have been given a third option in the referendum. There should have been some variation of—if I may play with words—half in, half out, which is what a huge swathe of people probably wanted. To put the point another way round, the binary question “In or out?” is not the only way of looking at the question in people’s world view, or economic view for that matter.
One of the many questions is whether there is—certainly now at least—such a viable option, either economically or politically across the European Union. What I am saying is not, in one respect, a million miles away from what the noble Lord, Lord Maude of Horsham, was, I think, arguing in an interesting speech yesterday. He pointed out that we are already not fully in, in the sense that we are not in Schengen or the euro. Whether you call that 65% in, 75% in, or any other per cent in, I think that, as a nation, we probably want to be at least more than half in. Stated in those terms, I think it is what the noble Lord, Lord Maude, referred to as “variable geometry”. The question arises: why should people in the Council of Ministers not take fright if they think that Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, Greece, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Slovakia, et cetera, can also do their own thing along such lines?
What is the brief that the Cabinet Office or No. 10 will have ready for the new Prime Minister in only a few weeks’ time? Presumably whoever it is—let us say Mrs May—will go to see Mrs Merkel within days and put on the table an agenda for something such as staying in the internal market but somehow having fewer obligations. I think that the first reaction would certainly be that there is no such thing as a free lunch. I say that because it is contrary to the shameful propaganda of many Brexiteers who presented their fraudulent prospectus as if indeed there were. They deluded themselves and the voters that there was such a thing.
What emerges from these reflections? I think that it is the need to drill down into what people think it means to be a member of the European Economic Area. That is indeed, it could be said, half in and half out—let us call it 60%—paying country fees but not green fees, doing perhaps like the Norwegians do in terms of subsidising agriculture and fish. But Norway obeys all the rules of the internal market, paying something like half per head, proportionate to what it would be paying if it were a full member, but not sitting in on any of the meetings—at least not formally.
It should not be beyond the wit of man or, in this case, woman, presumably in a private talk with Mrs Merkel—as I have said, there will have to be such early contact; indeed, the Prime Minister in the first sentence of his Statement on the outcome of the referendum said that there were already informal discussions—to discuss what on earth, politically, is possible. They will have to bring the politics of Brussels and the so-called contagion argument, as one has to acknowledge that we cannot make a formula so attractive that everyone would like to follow it. In any event, the fact is that more and more things—far from opting out of them—have to be done together and be subject to common standards, whether in the field of energy, trade, investment, the City of London, running railways or airlines, pharmaceuticals, big science, not to mention agriculture, consumer standards, and so on.
This is not, I say in passing, in contradiction to the European Union’s role in the wider world, to which the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and others have referred. Much of the growth in the third world will of course be higher than ours—that is what we want; that is what we have been trying to do in international development all my life. Some of that is to do with differential population growth, but we also want to help with growth in productivity. That will of course help to reduce the push factor.
I am wearing my trade union hat to talk about workers’ rights. Some people do not seem to understand that the reason we have things like part-time workers’ rules across Europe is precisely because employers in single countries do not want to do it on their own, because they could be undercut. The social programme still, in my opinion, has to be taken further forward on such things as information and consultation rights and, indeed, on zero-hours contracts. This will also help with the labour migration question. Finally on that, I think that, yes, there is now scope for considering free movement. Let us take the new candidates in the Balkans. Some of us met the ambassadors of all the Balkan countries yesterday. Two, as we know, are already EU members—Croatia and Slovenia—but there were also Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania. The discussion touched on this question of whether a seven-year transition period would now be enough or whether some economic criterion—GDP per head—or other criteria, which would reduce the push factor as well as the pull factor, might be some sort of ceiling. Again, all these ideas have to be put in the pot. Who knows? Some may well be welcomed in some European capitals as helpful rather than disruptive.
We have to give what we think is a positive lead to what will happen in the autumn. I have made this attempt to begin setting out the bare bones of a programme. The Brexit campaign, ludicrously enough, did not have to be pinned down on a programme, unlike in a general election campaign. One Brexiteer said the other day that they had won on their manifesto— that is clearly one thing that they did not do. They did not have a manifesto. That is why, as the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, opined—and I share his view—referendums are not really, on this sort of issue, our cup of tea.
My Lords, we have had some amazing speeches during the last couple of days. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury was especially profound and moving. Others have brought their huge wisdom to this debate. When the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, says—as a political historian—that nothing on this scale has happened in his lifetime, we should pay attention.
Knowing what we are doing, we seem to be heading towards something that almost all of us deeply regret and which will profoundly change this country and its future. My noble friend Lord Marks mentioned his children’s devastated reaction. They see themselves as European. My children, too, were horrified. One of them is doing a law conversion course. Of all ironies, on Friday 24 June she had an exam on EU law. Never had an exam seemed more irrelevant.
The young are overwhelmingly in favour of staying in. As you progress through the generations, that moves in the other direction. The long blaming of so much on the EU and the reluctance of political parties and business to counter that has had its effect. To me, as a Lib Dem, the outpouring of support for the EU, especially from young people, has been so welcome, so novel, but so sad.
Others have powerfully put across analyses of how we came to be where we are, and of our hugely divided society. But we should note that Scotland, even with the deprivations there, voted to remain. The irony is, of course, that the Brexiteers are not known for tackling poverty and that leaving the EU is likely to reduce, not increase, the life chances of those who feel most excluded.
I wonder, as did the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, how on earth we ended up with a referendum with a simple majority. What was proposed could not be a more profound constitutional, social and economic change. Our now divided country shows how unwise it is to undertake huge constitutional change on a simple yes/no referendum with a simple majority. Those who led for leave had no agreed plan—hence the poster at Saturday’s march, “Even Baldrick had a plan”. There is no manifesto and no agreement on what relationship we now want with the EU: like Canada’s, Norway’s, Switzerland’s, Albania’s or something else?
Do we face inwards or outwards? The most reverend Primate rightly expressed a wish that the UK reaches out,
“with a forward foreign policy to the poorest around the world”.—[Official Report, 5/7/16; col. 1861.]
The UK should be proud of its record on development. We are the first country in the G8 to commit 0.7% of GNI for aid, as my noble friend Lord Bruce pointed out. Our aid must now be at risk. Our economy is projected to weaken: therefore, our 0.7% will be smaller than it otherwise would have been. In the circumstances of a weak economy, the right-wing campaigns that have wrecked our place in Europe will take their wrecking ball to our aid commitment. If we did not manage to defeat the voices of little England over the EU, where our own interests are so directly affected, how will we fare on aid?
Then there is the impact within the EU itself. We, along with other northern countries, were instrumental in persuading our other EU partners to contribute. The EU is the largest and strongest economic bloc in the world. It is also the largest and strongest contributor to development around the world. Our outstanding Department for International Development has been disproportionately effective in helping to shape what the EU does. The noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes, as EU Commissioner, completely shook up what the EU was doing. In more recent years, DfID staff quietly and systematically aligned the EU with UK aims, not the other way round. We led, but we will no longer be there.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, said, those whom I have met recently in developing countries were not arguing for Brexit. In the last month alone, in Nigeria I was asked why the UK was being so isolationist and in Angola I was told that it would be “a big mistake” for us to leave the EU. As we speak, the African Union is seeking to join up Africa, looking to the model of the EU. It seeks to remove customs and visa barriers between countries—the reverse of what we seem to be doing. A Foreign Office civil servant said to me that he was not sure he would want to stay in his job if we left the EU because he would be in the business of managing the UK’s decline.
As my noble friend Lady Kramer made very clear, we are already damaging our economy. That damage will continue, even if, as my noble friend Lord Carlile suggested, we take a judgment, down the track, that it is not in Britain’s interests to settle for an inadequate agreement outside the EU. Clearly, we must redouble our efforts to trade with the rest of the world, but part of our strength came from our membership of the EU and, with it, our political and economic stability. I have to hope that we have as close a relationship as we can with our EU partners. As we embark on this long and dangerous journey, if that is what we must do, it is surely vital that we now work together and that Parliament plays a key role in charting us through these dangerous waters.
My Lords, many speakers in the last few days have used the word “historic” about the vote on 23 June. It is historic in one particular sense. It marked the end of an era. Up until that vote, for the past 70 years, Britain’s relationship with Europe and the European Union was very clear. We have been part of the European Union and both parties have worked very hard to make it work. As the result of that vote, that era has changed. It reminded me rather of dynastic changes in medieval England. When a dynasty changed, a new guard came in and an old guard went out and some poor wretch was executed in Pontefract Castle. The only difference today is that political assassination takes place in primetime in television studios.
The Tory party is bearing some of the wounds. In my party now, reputations have been lost, careers ended and friendships shattered. It is a not unfamiliar scene for my party; it happened when I was party chairman. But we have a capacity to recover. My only regret is that the Labour Party has lost its capacity to recover—I hope temporarily, because we do need it.
We should accept the finality of the vote on 23 June. Some have argued for a second referendum. That is wishful thinking: a fantasy. It is as absurd as saying that if Wales lose tonight, let us play the game again tomorrow to see if they can win. There is a finality about certain decisions and there was a finality about the vote on 23 June. I have some concern about a group of businessmen who are going to encourage Members of the House of Commons to vote on whether Article 50 should be activated or not. I think that could lead to a constitutional and political crisis. The constitutional crisis is that it would pitch referendum democracy against parliamentary democracy—a very unhappy clash. I think it was Gladstone who said that when it came to a clash of the masses and the classes he would always back the masses. There was a masses and classes element in that vote on 23 June. The classes were the elite, and we do not want that replayed again and again. It is very damaging to society when that happens.
The simple fact is that we are all leavers now. The era has changed and it is the task of everyone in this House to try to get the best possible deal. My own belief is that that is unlikely to lie in the single market because that involves the free movement of people. Several people, including my noble friend Lord Howard, spoke of the resourcefulness of British industry. We are a resourceful country and British industry is resourceful, agile and energetic. I hope that we will negotiate bilateral free-trade arrangements to promote the flow of goods and services to and from many countries, inside and outside Europe. As a country, we have fared rather better in our history when we have been on the high seas, roving over the whole world, rather than being concerned with just the narrow waterways of Europe.
I do not believe that the British public want to shut the door on immigration. I certainly do not want that, but we want it to be slightly less open than it has been in recent years. It emerged during the campaign that the net increase in immigration was 330,000 people last year, which is the size of a London borough. If that went on for four years it would rise to 1.2 million, which is the size of the city of Birmingham. That rate of immigration is difficult to absorb into any country at all. It obviously creates enormous pressures on housing, schools, hospitals and wage levels, and this has to be addressed. The only effective way of addressing it is to have a system of work permits applicable to European nationals, as we have for the rest of the world. I certainly want those people who are needed by British industry still to come here.
The other point we have to recognise is that there is great uncertainty about how long this will take, which is affecting the level of investment in our country very seriously. I think that certain investments from overseas are being held back and certain companies are not bringing forward investment programmes. The Government of today—this Government, not the next Government or the next Prime Minister—have a duty to act. Before the House rises for the Summer Recess, the Government should announce a major housebuilding programme for councils, private builders and housing associations. More money must be provided immediately for that.
I remember that this was done by Harold Macmillan when he appointed Ernest Marples to build 300,000 houses a year. Dear old Ernie did build 300,000 houses a year and we need that drive and determination. It should not have to wait until September or October; it should be done now. As the Government have now abandoned their target for a surplus by 2020, that should also allow them to bring forward other, much wider infrastructure projects. This would give a tremendous stimulus to British industry. It would make us expand again and thrive, which is needed in this period of uncertainty. The Government should do it.
My Lords, I never thought in 1972, when I was opposing entry to the EEC, that I would still be alive today to be debating in the House of Lords the question of leaving the European Union—but I am very glad that I am still here to do so.
I am very pleased with the result of the referendum and very proud of the 33.5 million British people who took part in it. That shows the great maturity of the British electorate and their ability to understand and give answer to complex questions. Their decision must be respected and acted upon. As the noble Lord, Lord Baker, and others have said, it is essential that it is acted upon quickly. I, too, agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, about the attempts being made to undermine this decision of the electorate. Those who now seek devices to set the people’s decision aside should be aware of the consequences of their actions, especially the possibility of further alienating the electorate from the political process.
What concerned me most during the referendum was the incessant talking down of our country and its ability to survive and thrive outside the European Union. I was also concerned that the government machine was used to promote the remainers and that £9.1 million of taxpayers’ money was used to circulate to every household in the country a one-sided leaflet. The Prime Minister promised us a free and fair referendum, yet it was anything but, due to the unacceptable behaviour of the Government. However, despite that and the campaign of fear, the people voted to leave the EU by a substantial majority of 1.25 million people. In England and Wales, the majority was more than 2 million; in other words, it was higher than in the United Kingdom as a whole. I remind noble Lords, if they do not already know, that in 1972 the European Communities Bill was passed at Second Reading by only eight votes. So when it is said that the balance between the remainers and the outers is too small, the decision to go into the EEC was very small indeed.
It is quite clear then that people have confidence in their country and its ability to be economically successful and a world leader. Above all, they have decided that they wanted to be governed by their own elected Government through their own institutions, fought for over the centuries, rather than by an oligarchy sitting in a foreign capital. When an electorate of such intelligence and sophistication have spoken, their decision must be acted upon swiftly and decisively. This should be completed in months, as has been said, rather than years. Backsliding and attempts to thwart their decision will not be tolerated by the people. The noble Lord, Lord Howard, was absolutely right in his remarks about the single market. Having the single market does not mean that we have to apply all its rules. Trade is between countries and not through blocs.
I believe that Britain is a great country with a great past and a great future. Our country has given much to the world in the past and still has much to give, provided that we have the confidence to grasp the opportunity given to us by the wisdom of the electorate. To those who doubt our ability to survive outside the EU, I say: look forward to the horizons ahead and embrace optimism, not pessimism. To quote from Matthew, chapter 8, verse 26:
“O ye of little faith, why are you so afraid?”.
Let us all set aside our fears and work together for the greater future awaiting our great country.
My Lords, much was said in the referendum campaign about the sovereignty of Parliament. Yesterday the Lord Privy Seal said, if I may paraphrase her, that the House will play a part and that the legal position is being looked at—but only now. It was thin gruel and the statement reflected the lack of preparation for Brexit. I am astonished. I expect the Minister replying to deal specifically with the role of Parliament in invoking Article 50. There are many other aspects that Parliament will be involved in, such as repealing legislation, but it is invoking Article 50 that demands clarification. Do we need a decision of Parliament for this?
The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, in his invaluable article in the Times, for which I am grateful, came down firmly that an Act of Parliament would be required. I agree. The contrary argument is that it can be done by royal prerogative. The preponderance of at least academic legal opinion is that the royal prerogative is an inappropriate mechanism, as the subject matter of membership of the EU is already addressed by an Act of Parliament, the 1972 Act. We have a constitutional requirement that legislation can be altered only by another Act of Parliament. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Millett, who in substance dissents, concedes that it would be impossible to implement Article 50 without the consent of the House of Commons. This is good law and good politics as well.
Let me underline the political dimension, the realpolitik. The late noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, and I, as former Attorneys-General, were invited some years ago to give evidence to the legal and constitutional committee of this House about whether it was for Parliament to decide before we went to war, rather than the Government relying on the royal prerogative, as in the past. The view of both of us was that the royal prerogative—called “the people’s prerogative” by Churchill—was outdated for this purpose and that, today, the case for the House of Commons to decide, as the provider of supply, was overwhelming. The Select Committee of this House agreed. Since then, the convention has been established in the case of both Iraq and Syria. If Parliament—in this case, the House of Commons—has by convention to approve an issue of this magnitude, is not the decision to invoke Article 50 on the same scale, following what the Lord Privy Seal yesterday called “a momentous democratic exercise”? Therefore, both on legal grounds and grounds of political reality, parliamentary consent would be necessary.
There are two industries that I want to mention briefly. In the debate on the Queen’s Speech, I raised the problems faced by the steel industry. I compared the actions of the United States and Brussels in tackling the dumping of Chinese steel. I questioned whether the problem was the lack of vigour by the Government in their representations or the hidebound processes of the Brussels bureaucracy. Be that as it may, what is the position now after the regrettable result? There are real people, real pensioners in the Port Talbot area, my former constituency, who want to know whether Brexit makes the position better or worse.
The second industry I want to mention is agriculture, about which little has been said in this debate. My first job when I came out of the Army was as legal adviser to the Farmers Union of Wales. That was more than 50 years ago. Last December I spoke at a dinner in Carmarthen to celebrate its formation and longevity. All I could tell them was that, if they lost the Brussels subventions that they had become particularly dependent upon, then we should return to the principles of the agricultural system before we joined the EU: the Treasury would have to take over. I quoted the Agriculture Act 1947, piloted by that great Labour Minister of Agriculture, Tom Williams. Section 1 promised guaranteed prices and assured markets. Section 2 provided the machinery of an annual price review. The Act was rescinded as late as 1993. If the referendum were lost, my advice to the farmers was that they should lobby their political representatives to have their place in the queue for machinery to ensure proper returns for the industry.
I fear that there is, again, no plan B, but there is an urgency in providing assurance to a much wider circle than farmers: those who love and use the countryside will want to ensure that the countryside flourishes. I think that it was irresponsible of the Government not to have a contingency plan at all.
My Lords, I speak for the Liberal Democrats on energy and climate change and it is to that portfolio I wish to speak this evening.
We had been doing so well during the coalition years, but, from a position where Britain was already a world leader in offshore wind and could have become a world leader in other areas, we are now already falling away from the global race. In the six months since I came to this House, this Government have undermined Britain’s growing green industries by destroying investor confidence in the long-term policy framework needed to support the sector, including the precipitate withdrawal of support for many forms of renewable energy, the planned privatisation of the Green Investment Bank, the abandonment of previous commitments to investors in the carbon capture and storage programme and much more, the effects of all of which will be magnified by the result of the referendum on EU membership.
The message that has been sent out is deeply concerning, not just to Liberal Democrats but to environmentalists, the renewables sector and members of the public across the United Kingdom. The decision to leave the EU raises a huge number of questions which the Government need to answer urgently, to mitigate the uncertainty and to make it clarion-clear to the world that we are open for green business and completely committed to decarbonisation to tackle climate change.
Will we continue to be part of the EU’s internal energy market? Will EU targets be maintained, including the UK’s contribution towards 40% reduction by 2030 and the renewables directive? Will the Government commit to continuing to work with other nations in Europe and the rest of the world to achieve the best possible global response to climate change and the fulfilment of the Paris agreement, even from a position of independence? Will EU climate policies be protected? Will the Government commit to continuing the phasing out of coal? How will they increase investor confidence in renewables following the huge uncertainty of Brexit, especially as none of the Conservative candidates for leader are particular advocates of renewables?
Britain’s future prosperity depends on developing an economy that is innovative, entrepreneurial, internationally open and environmentally sustainable, and where the benefits of growth are shared fairly across our country and with future generations. Our membership of the EU guaranteed our commitments to the climate change agenda and was a safeguard against any Government that appeared to be undermining our ability to deliver on our legally binding targets. Outside the EU, what or who is the guarantor of delivery?
Let us take the Brexiteers at their word and show that we are world leaders on climate change. Let us commit to do equal-no, let us commit to do better than if we were still in the European Union. I have to say that we do not need to negotiate on this; we can just forge ahead ourselves; we can lead the world. However, I do have to inject a bit of realism into this because, the way things are currently, we will not even be able to deliver on our existing targets. We have to improve the efficiency of resource use and decarbonise the economy. That will help to create high-skill, high value-added industries able to compete in the new global markets for low-carbon and resource-efficient products, technologies and services and create hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the country.
So I am asking the Government to come forward with a new, green industrial strategy targeted at technologies that underpin emerging green industries. Let us establish a clear and consistent commitment to policies that create long-term demand for low-carbon transport and energy efficiency, thus giving investors the confidence they need.
Even at this late stage I implore the Government to end the planned privatisation of the Green Investment Bank. If that has already passed the point of no return, use the Government’s special share to ensure that the bank supports ambitious green investments. Either way, the Government should increase its capitalisation, allow it to raise funds from capital markets independently, enable it to issue green bonds and expand its remit to a wider range of technologies.
The Government need to strengthen their support for green innovation, encourage the creation of new financial products and bring consumer capital into green industries. The green agenda will be worth trillions over the next couple of decades. Everything I have said must happen whatever our relationship with the EU in future.
Lastly, moving beyond matters green, yes, of course, 52 to 48 means Brexit won—no doubt about that—but we 48 need to be reflected in the tone and approach of how we leave the EU. As a Liberal Democrat, I am committed to working with Europe, to internationalism, to working across borders for the greater good of us all on peace, on security and prosperity and—because united we stand, divided we fall—against the rise of the right across Europe and here in our country. We need an open, tolerant, outward-looking society. How on earth did we get to the point where we cannot disagree, hold different viewpoints or come from different backgrounds without resorting to bullying and violence?
An element of Brexit has unleashed the unacceptable face of old hatreds, and we all have a responsibility to work to eliminate that lurking underbelly now exposed in all its ugliness. And that starts with us, the politicians. Perhaps the positive will be for us to learn a lesson from the EU referendum campaign. Shameful things were said and done by some, but if we cannot argue our case without lies and downright racist insinuations, we have no right to be in the positions of responsibility that we hold. Let us learn the lesson and seek to provide an example of behaviour that sets a tone of respect and tolerance, for the well-being of future generations relies on us so doing.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow a Liberal Democrat, because they seem to be a little unhappy about the outcome of this referendum. Do I not remember a time when Liberal Democrats were in favour of referenda? Perhaps it is only referenda that go the right way as far as they are concerned.
The noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, made the point that Jeremy Corbyn is no Clem Attlee. All I would say is they share two things in common: they both have immaculate manners and both seem to want to nationalise everything that moves.
My noble friend Lord Ridley is very sad that he cannot be with us today; he is up in the north-east where, no doubt under his influence, the vote was 70:30, I think, in favour of leave. As we know, he knows an awful lot about the scientific community and he believes, as do I, that the EU has increasingly stifled innovation in digital, biotech and financial technology. He feels that it is very important that we are able to recruit experts from all round the world—the Americas, Asia and elsewhere—rather than have to accept less-qualified EU nationals, which we will be able to do if we get control under a points system of our immigration policy.
This has been a sad moment for my right honourable friend the Prime Minister—that his premiership, which I think has been very good, has ended in this rather sad way. I went back and read the Bloomberg speech given in January 2015, when he set out an extremely ambitious programme for reform in the EU. In one phrase in his speech he said that he would join others in looking for a new treaty. I do not know who the others were whom he was joining with. They would not have included President Hollande of France, who always made it quite clear that there was no question of having a new treaty for the simple reason that he would have to put it to a referendum in France and Madame Le Pen would beat him. I suspect that other countries, such as Holland and Denmark, did not want to do that because they have to have referenda on a new treaty. Therefore, I do not know what he was basing his very ambitious reform programme on, but if it depended, as it would seem, on a new treaty, it was not going to happen and is not going to happen now. One of the main problems is that there was not going to be any major reform from the EU. The result was that he came back eventually from the negotiation having set the bar extremely low. He had a serious problem when that renegotiation was met with derisive laughter from a very large number of people.
The other thing that always struck me as rather strange was that you would think, when you are going to hold a referendum on our membership of the EU, that you would look back on the last time it happened in 1975—agreed, he probably was not born then, but somebody must have been able to advise him. He would have found that Harold Wilson was in a very similar position to him: he had a divided party that he wanted to unite; he went off to renegotiate in Europe and came back waving a piece of paper with almost nothing written on it. And then what did he do? Harold Wilson said: “I believe that the United Kingdom should stay in the EEC”—as it was at the time—and then stood well back and let the others campaign for in or out. For some extraordinary reason, the Prime Minister decided not to do that and got totally involved, presumably on the assumption that he could win, and of course it all went wrong on him.
My role in Vote Leave was very low down the food chain. I found myself down in North Devon delivering leaflets; we did not even have enough people to canvass properly, so all we could do was deliver leaflets. At one house I called at, the bloke was just coming out and I said, as I did to many others: “Are you going to vote leave on Thursday?”. His response was: “No, certainly not, you racist”. I mumbled something about control of immigration, and he said: “Goodbye, racist.”. This raises an interesting question, to which I should very much like a response from the Minister when she winds up. Is hate crime extended to people who call old-age pensioners racist for delivering leaflets and asking them if they are going to vote leave on Thursday? Is that a hate crime? I did not bother the Devon and Cornwall Police with the matter, but it strikes me as slightly concerning, whichever way we look at it.
The real problem with this vote is that it was only to some degree about the EU. An awful lot of it was about globalisation and the fact that banks across the Western world are printing money, so everybody who happens to own assets get richer and the gap between rich and poor gets greater and greater. To a large degree, this vote was a protest from the have-nots against the haves. I wonder how many votes were won for the leave campaign by Sir Philip Green and his treatment of British Home Stores employees. We cannot continue to live with the enormous salaries being paid to people running international companies. It is creating a very sharp division in this country, which must be addressed by the next Government.
But whatever problems there are in this country, they are nothing like those of the EU today. There is a very sharp sign of extremism emerging across the continent. The established parties should hold referenda like we have, listen to what the people say and react to it. If they do not—let us take France, for instance, where they say a majority would like to pull out of the EU—if the socialist party and the conservative party say, “No, no, there is no way we can do that, as we must stay in the EU whatever happens”, the only option is to vote for the National Front. I hope that our example will be emulated across Europe and civilised conclusions will be reached as to what is the future.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, spoke about divisions, and divisions in the economy. To me, these divisions were illustrated when, immediately after the referendum, international investment banks drew our attention to inequality, not on moral grounds but on the grounds that they had discovered that it was bad for their business. On the same day, others profited from our problems through totally unproductive betting against the pound.
This is as much an indication of our divided society as British Home Stores because our real problem is how to pay our way outside the single market. For better or for worse, our trading rules will be based, after 2018, on the EEA or the WTO rules and MiFID II, rules that we have always respected. This probably means competing against tariff barriers or imposing some of our own. This fall in the value of the pound can help us deal with some of these tariff barriers, but it is the quality and excellence of our goods and services that will enable us to pay our way.
Betting on the pound’s going down implies supporting a race to the bottom, a race that we can never win, especially outside the European Union with the full impact of globalisation. We had better get on with raising our productivity instead of just talking about it. Low interest rates should encourage this necessary investment, which we have been requesting for years.
Surely it would be far more productive for the fall in the value of the pound to signal encouraging exports and an opportunity to bring manufactured goods back to Britain—reshoring, as it is called. This has to mean depending less on cheap labour and much more on making everybody more productive and more skilled, especially using new technology and promoting green industries.
Much of this cheap labour comes from overseas. We will never control our borders, but improving rights at work, increasing pay and raising productivity will reduce the demand for migrant labour. It will also help businesses win back the public trust, about which the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, spoke. With his five-point plan, I think the Chancellor has given a nod in this direction, but at this stage his corporate tax cuts will do little. The concern is with profits, not with taxes.
Central to paying our way is keeping the people who have come from overseas, not only seasonal agricultural labourers but also the scientists who work in research and new technology—as many as a third in some of our laboratories. They are crucial to the Horizon 2020 funding, which I hope will continue.
This brings me to my concern about inward investment. Our balance of payments deficit is funded by money coming from abroad. If this falters, we will be in a real financial crisis. We are constantly told that this inward investment depends on our institutions, on our society, on our skills, on our stability as much as on our business management and on our trading rules. All these aspects were damaged during the referendum campaign. National institutions, such as the Bank of England, the Treasury, our business organisations, our research institutions—they were all rubbished during the referendum campaign. Their expertise and credibility were replaced by prejudice. Fortunately, the Governor of the Bank of England has—almost singlehandedly—put this right during the past few days, because he knows that this affects inward investment.
Hate crime has multiplied. We have heard all the dreadful details during this debate. For the sake of inward investment, this has to be stamped on to demonstrate that we will not tolerate intolerance. Many noble Lords have spoken about the status of overseas citizens. Their status has to be clearly defined, and quickly, because this too affects inward investment.
The uncertainties created by political divisions caused by the referendum need to be calmed. Many of them were caused by the abrupt departure of the Prime Minister and no contingency planning. This political uncertainty affects inward investment.
Business and trading relationships with the single market have to be defined so that supply chains, passporting, business co-operation can all adapt and be developed. Postponing this may suit an indecisive Government in disarray, but it will also postpone inward investment and throw it into disarray.
Ministers do not need to listen to me. This is what inward investors and the social media are telling us, media that are fast becoming a major influence in these decisions. Without inward investment we will not balance the books. Indeed, we need more inward investment as our own investment income from overseas is in decline. Now is the time to pay our way by borrowing to invest, raising our game, reshoring and exporting, rebalancing, rebuilding trust with those who have our best interests at heart and rethinking austerity, creating a sense of momentum to offset the impression that we are turning inwards on ourselves. I urge the Government to get on with it.
My Lords, as a lifetime committed pro-European, I have spoken increasingly over the past five or six years on my concerns about how things were developing in Europe and in our relationship with Europe. First, it seemed to me that the fundamental purpose of the European project was being forgotten. The purpose was not economic prosperity. It was not to provide a seat at the top table of world affairs for European politicians. It was not even the extension of democracy and human rights on our continent.
All these were instruments, but they were not the purpose. The purpose was to ensure that we never again descended into deep division, conflict and violence on our continent. The more we forget about the purpose and focus on the instruments, the greater is the danger that we will fail in our purpose and return to the kind of division and conflict that existed in the 1930s—and before and after.
I spoke about these things because I could see quite clearly that people were becoming more and more disenchanted with Europe. It was forgetting about the importance of local identity and national culture and history in its fever to develop something at the European level, not recognising that to do this at European level could provide instability locally and for ordinary people in their own communities if it was not properly attended to.
I said on a number of occasions that I believed that a referendum was almost inevitable, but we needed to work much harder at persuading people that the European project was so important. When eventually it became clear that the referendum was coming sooner rather than later, at home in Northern Ireland we developed a public conversation which we called EU Debate NI. I pay tribute to Eva Grosman and Conor Houston, the two folk from the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building that I run in Belfast. This became the major initiative in Northern Ireland: a public conversation, not campaigning for one side or the other, but enabling people from all sides and with all views to come together in public and engage on the legal, constitutional, educational, agricultural, industrial, economic—all aspects of the question.
It meant that in Northern Ireland the debate was able to be conducted without some of the rancour and vitriol that there was over here, and the outcome was an accepted outcome for remain. In a part of the United Kingdom so used to partisanship we were able to find a way of debating this difficult question without deep rancour. That was not the case on this side of the water, which is a serious warning that, not just in this country but more widely in Europe, the subject of our co-operation and collaboration in Europe is descending into vitriol, rancour and great danger.
On the afternoon of the referendum count, Charlie Flanagan, the Foreign Minister of the Irish Republic, was able to publish a contingency plan for all departments of the Irish Government on how they were going to address the problem of Brexit—Her Majesty’s Government, take note. The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, quite properly paid tribute to Prime Minister Cameron, because one of the first people whom the Prime Minister rang was Enda Kenny to thank him for his support and to make it clear that there was a preparedness to co-operate in succeeding days. Indeed, in Ireland north and south, there is an appreciation that, whatever happens, we have to find a way of working closely together.
Of course, that is for the sake of the Good Friday agreement, although I am encouraged that, rather than the Brexit result producing polarisation, it has been treated as a problem to be addressed rather than a dividing line among our people. But I ask the Minister to give an undertaking that Her Majesty’s Government will see it as a top priority, because it matters within the United Kingdom to ensure that the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly are involved in the conversations with the Irish Government to ensure that the Good Friday agreement continues to work effectively and efficiently.
There are many Irish people living here in Britain. They, too, wonder how relationships with the Irish Republic will be conducted. I trust that I can also seek an assurance from the Minister that Her Majesty’s Government will see the Government of Ireland as being what they are: the closest and best friend in Europe and in the European Union that this country has, and that they will be regarded not simply as one of 27 with whom we have to engage but rather the closest possible friend with whom we must work directly to ensure the best outcome for this country, the best outcome for Ireland—which, whether in spite of or because of our historic difficulties, is very close to us—and the best outcome for the United Kingdom.
I have much less concern than many of my colleagues about the economic survival of this country. It will go through difficult times, of course—not only because of Brexit but for other reasons—but I remain deeply concerned that what is happening is not just a cause but a symptom of deepening division not just in this country but across Europe and more widely. I plead with the Government and others in your Lordships’ House to spend time not focusing alone, although it is so important, on how we deal with the best interests of this country over the next few years in Europe but also on analysing and understanding more clearly the geopolitical developments which are leading us to a very dangerous place—in this continent, in North America, in South America, in sub-Saharan Africa, of course in the wider Middle East and in fact across our world. These are difficult times, but we must not focus only on ourselves as we try to address them.
My Lords, we have heard some outstanding speeches in this debate. The contributions of the Leader of the Opposition, of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, and of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury were compelling and memorable. Together, they expressed a sense of shock, of lost opportunity and of the need to heal wounds. But the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, was rightly remorseless in listing the questions which need answering before we can move forward.
I want to concentrate on one of those questions: Article 50 and the role of Parliament. There are those who say that we should trigger Article 50 immediately, but anyone who has ever negotiated with anybody on anything knows that if you do so against the clock and you are, as we shall be, supplicants, then when you run out of time you have to accept what the other side is prepared to give you. So the argument for invoking Article 50 without substantive preliminary negotiations and a route map is dangerous.
How might Parliament be involved in the process of triggering Article 50? Paragraph 1 of the article says:
“Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”.
For 27 of the 28 member states, determining those requirements is made much easier by the fact that they have formal written constitutions. For us—and I have absolutely no wish to see a British written constitution—it is more a matter of constitutional “expectations” than of constitutional “requirements”.
A number of people have put forward the argument that because an Article 50 notification commits the United Kingdom to withdraw from the EU, it must be inconsistent with the European Communities Act 1972. This argument goes on to state that if the inevitable result of giving notice under paragraph 2 of Article 50 is that, two years after that notice, our membership of the EU ceases, that frustrates the will of Parliament in having passed the 1972 Act. The conclusion is therefore that if Parliament is given no opportunity to reconsider the matter and make new legislative provision, the giving of notice is simply unlawful.
This is an ingenious argument, but it is also wrong, being based on a misstatement of what the 1972 Act actually does. As Section 2(1) of the Act makes clear, it is a means of giving domestic legal effect to our treaty obligations. Those obligations were entered into separately, exercising prerogative powers without the approval of Parliament. The Act did not make us a member state of the then EEC.
After 44 years in this building, I am no enthusiast for the exercise of prerogative powers without parliamentary approval, but the fact remains that, like it or not, under our present arrangements notifications under international treaties are prerogative acts. The Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 provided a statutory role for Parliament, although a circumscribed one, in the ratification of treaties. It was a statutory version of the previous convention, the Ponsonby rule. But an Article 50 notice is not itself a treaty and the giving of notice in no sense requires ratification in the terms of Section 20 of the CRAG 2010, although the eventual withdrawal agreement would be subject to the procedure—but that would obviously be far too late in the day for any effective parliamentary involvement.
So the conclusion must be that giving notice under Article 50 TEU is a prerogative act; it has consequences for the operation of the European Communities Act 1972 but it does not repeal or amend it. In the jargon, the provisions of Section 2(1) of the 1972 Act are “ambulatory”; they depend on there being Union obligations to be given domestic effect. If there are no such obligations, the Act has nothing to bite on. Incidentally, I join my noble friend Lord Kerr of Kinlochard in being pretty confident that an Article 50 notification can be withdrawn even though the treaty is silent on the matter. The evidence given to the European Union Committee was convincing on that point, and it may be relevant if the exit package proves to be wholly inadequate and unacceptable to the country at large. I also heed the warning of my noble and learned friend Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood that if there were contention, this matter would fall to be decided by the ECJ.
There are those who suggest that the whole process could be cut short by simply repealing the 1972 Act and not worrying about Article 50. That would just be mad. Simple repeal of the primary Act would mean that the huge body of domestic law made under its Section 2(2) would cease to have effect. Section 16 of the Interpretation Act makes it clear that rights acquired up to that point would be preserved but, without savings to keep the secondary legislation effectively in place, the overall result would be chaotic. More to the point, it would not take us out of the Union; it would simply stop the mechanism by which Union obligations are given effect. So we would go into withdrawal negotiations in breach of a whole range of obligations, which would make our negotiating position a very poor one.
In my view, the giving of notice under Article 50 is without question a prerogative act. However, it is the related political imperative that brings me into agreement with those on the other side of the argument and especially with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon. I think it wholly unrealistic that any Administration could think of invoking Article 50 without the approval of Parliament, and I mean of both Houses. Yes, the Article 50 route would give effect to the will of the people but, crucially, the people were not asked on what terms we should leave the EU, and the prospects of successful negotiation will now become an increasingly important factor. Here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell: at the end of the formal negotiations there will be an exit package. It may be good, it may be acceptable, it may be the least worst or it may be disastrous, but it will surely require further authorisation whether popular, parliamentary or, more probably, both.
My Lords, I want to address two issues. The first is the question of British nationals living in the EU, and in addressing it I declare an interest as I live for a lot of the time in France.
We have rightly heard a lot in this debate about EU nationals living in the UK, and I am glad that all around the House we have had great support for the Government coming out and saying that they can continue to come here to live and work. However, I want to talk about British nationals in the EU, and the first duty of the Government is to them. The Government’s record so far on this issue is poor, having denied many of them a vote in the referendum because if they had been abroad for longer than 15 years they had no vote. They have not really had a voice at all, and they are now very worried about what the future holds.
The government line expounded by Philip Hammond is that this question has to be reciprocal—the bargaining chip approach. That has been excoriated in your Lordships’ House yesterday and today. Not only is it the wrong approach, it is inaccurate. Several of the things most worrying Brits abroad about their future are in this Government’s gift now—for example, the pensions of those who have worked for Britain as teachers, nurses or soldiers or in local government. They are worried that their pensions may be frozen. That is a matter for this Government, not for other EU states. Will the Minister make a clear statement that the Government at least recognise that that is in their purview and that they will make an announcement about it?
Of course there are many other worries around matters such as work permits, schooling, access to universities, healthcare, visas and the reciprocity of qualification recognition. The Government have a duty to consult British citizens living in the EU about matters that need to be considered, and they need to start now. With so many of them having been denied a vote, surely those people deserve a voice.
The second issue I want to mention concerns the environment—things rural, food production and agriculture. The EU was and still is a great force for things green and environmental matters. You have only to think of all the directives that have improved water quality or air, such as the bathing water directive, and the EU birds and habitats directive that ensured that our special areas of biodiversity stayed special. Those are not things that domestic Governments find it easy to spend money on, so it is very important that the EU has had an overarching view. That is where I really fear for the future of all the green issues that I have mentioned.
There is also the question, as mentioned yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Curry, and today by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, of British food production. These things have been intertwined with, and largely determined by, the common agricultural policy for generations now. I admit that the CAP, like the EU itself, has had a lot of problems—it has needed far more reform than has been forthcoming fast enough—but here in the UK it has meant the survival of many our family farms. I find it ironic that rural areas voted so heavily for Brexit, given what a detrimental impact it is likely to have on rural England at a time when farming faces massive challenges, with commodity prices getting lower and lower. In common with other noble Lords, I must make the point that seasonal labour is essential, and the Government need to make a very early statement and assurance to farmers that they will be able to continue to access seasonal labour.
My next point concerns the support that the Treasury gives to rural areas. I find it hard to believe that the Treasury will continue that support at the sort of level that came from Europe. To date, the Treasury has already been incredibly parsimonious even when it comes to match funding the Pillar 2 issues under the CAP—things of great importance, like young entrants into farming. I worry that many of those measures will no longer be supported just at a time when we need to be addressing issues such as low-carbon agriculture and better soil, so that our very food system can continue and food security will be assured.
The future of food security needs vision, strategy, political will, commitment and investment. Defra has always been at the bottom of the political pecking order—last to be considered, first to be cut. I say to the Minister that in a post-Brexit Government that needs to change, not least because of food security. It is hard to see how the Treasury is going to continue to support that if the rural recipients of any payouts cannot demonstrate the public goods in return for that subsidy, so links need to be made between cleaner water, better biodiversity and all the public goods that should flow from the subsidy of those stewards of our land.
I feel deeply about this vote for our children’s sake. If we have made living and travelling elsewhere that much harder, then at least let us start to really look after this island.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness. I find myself in agreement with some of the comments she makes regarding agriculture, although I think she should not be surprised that farmers voted in the way that they did, having spoken to many of them myself. My decision to intervene in this debate came to me when I reflected on the fact that I was in a minority in your Lordships’ House by virtue of supporting the leave cause and campaigning actively to achieve its objectives. I feel the need to explain myself.
If there is any advantage in lying 97th on the speakers list, I suppose it is in looking back and reflecting on a long and fascinating debate. Four things stand out for me. First, I think noble Lords have been completely united in their calls for ending the uncertainty facing EU nationals living here, and of course I endorse those calls.
Secondly, I fully appreciate that many noble Lords are seriously and sincerely upset by the outcome of the referendum. Even if I do not understand their sense of loss, and I do not, I appreciate that it is real, and today and in future I will respect that feeling. I have, however, been struck by how many senior Members of your Lordships’ House have hedged their acceptance of the public’s verdict, to the point of not really accepting it at all. Unless I misread him, I gained the impression that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, went further and quite simply repudiated the result on his own behalf and that of his party. I am very relieved to see him shaking his head, and of course I will accept his denial of that even if it is silent. The general feeling of not accepting the vote takes us into dangerous territory.
Thirdly, with very few notable exceptions, I have been struck during this debate by how very little I have heard by way of advocacy on behalf of the EU. I found myself wondering, “What is there to love about the European Union?”. With such experience and eloquence as to be found in your Lordships’ House, I had expected to find my own thought processes challenged and in that I have been disappointed.
Fourthly—I think there has been a tradition of not giving way, unless the noble Lord really wants me to.
The noble Lord said he was going to have respect for the other side of the argument, and I appreciate that. I hope he might realise, therefore, that we have not in this series of debates been talking up the virtues of the European Union because that would have been to fight the referendum campaign all over again. It is not very germane to today’s debate, which is on what we do now. That is precisely the reason we have not spoken about the merits of the European Union, not because of any loss of conviction.
I have no doubt about the noble Lord’s enthusiasm for the European Union; it has been plain over many years.
Fourthly, we are indebted to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for an immensely powerful speech. It is for all of us to reflect long and hard on an intervention which redeemed an otherwise rather sad day.
Of the many facets of the EU debate, nothing has driven me so much as the conviction that failures of accountability are a principal cause of much of humanity’s wretchedness and pain. I have long feared that our centuries-old settlement, under which government is conducted with the consent of the people, is under threat and is in total conflict with the EU’s direction of travel. As I enter old age, I was stirred into action these last few weeks to protect my children and grandchildren from the possibility of arbitrary rule, perhaps even tyranny, if an unreformed European Union persists in turning its back on the democratic process.
Many motives have been ascribed to those who voted to leave. It would be a mistake to underestimate the sense of anger British people feel about the undermining of their democracy. I found it to be an ever-present theme during the campaign. The perception of national identity being stolen was also identified and articulated in various ways.
That brings me to the more prosaic fears I encountered. Of the many civilised, but often passionate, exchanges, I suppose the most common anxiety I met with had to do with our alleged access to the ineptly named single market. After so many years, I find it deeply shocking how many barriers there still are to trade and how damaging they are, especially to our national interest. What has become known as the single market should more accurately, I am told, be called the single regulatory zone. I continue to think of it as a customs union. Whatever it is called, it is protectionist in character and morally questionable in its impact on the poor of EU countries and even poorer citizens of countries outside the European Union.
Brussels plays host to tens of thousands of lobbyists, more than in Washington. Large multinational companies effectively purchase laws and regulations, first, to benefit themselves and, secondly, to disadvantage their smaller, often more innovative, rivals. This horrible kind of venality seems to be comfortably at home in Brussels. Perhaps a product of globalisation so much talked about is the appearance of giant organisations, whether institutions or corporations, whose very size destroys any semblance of a morality. It is a problem that we need to address, as has been said today and yesterday.
In the matter of trade, it becomes daily clearer that non-EU countries export more successfully to the EU than we do. The reason is not hard to find. The WTO tariff averages out at 3%, which compares with the cost of our membership equivalent to a 7% tariff. Our trade deficit with the EU has risen in recent months and now runs at a record £100 billion. It really is hard to see how it would be in the EU’s interest to damage this, its most important market.
Looking ahead, rather than obsessing about trade deals, why do we not just quietly and politely walk away? We might or might not have to pay the modest tariffs permitted under WTO rules until free trade agreements are in place. Or might we not explore the proposal that we unilaterally declare ourselves a free trade country? Those putting up barriers against us will soon discover that they are harming themselves more than they harm us. Surely a nation with its independence and democratic integrity restored, its identity recovered, its tradition of free trade renewed, truly internationalist in character, amounts to a vision that can inspire and unite us all.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish of Furness, will understand that I cannot agree with most of what he says, but I appreciate that he feels the sense of loss among those who voted remain—that is a good sign. It hardly seems possible that just over a week ago our world was turned upside down by a gamble that was never meant to come off. I have believed in the European Union all my life as a force for progress. I join the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, in what he said: the case was hardly heard during the referendum.
It is shaming to think that this week, when we remember the Somme—the war that was intended to end all wars but led to the threshold of another war—we have to acknowledge that we failed to remind people what inspired the European Union: not trade, not profit, but the hope and reality of lasting peace and greater tolerance along with greater prosperity. Nor did we show—the noble Lord was quite right in what he said—how Europe has helped our country to become smarter, more innovative, cleaner and safer. It is a home for the brightest ideas and the brightest Europeans, who are such an asset to the country. I join all noble Lords who insist that they should now be given immediate assurance that their status is secure, irrespective of future negotiations.
The referendum campaign failed the national interest. In particular, the toxicity of the leave campaign came as a genuine shock. The degree of mendacity and sheer flippancy was breath-taking, but not as shameful as the sight of the same shabby leaders fleeing the battlefield away from the fears that they had stoked up and the chaos that they had created. If by what we have done we have energised the fascist right across Europe, we will indeed have a great deal to answer for in the future. The self-inflicted risks that we are taking are, in a quiet but crystalline way, beginning to emerge. We are already a nation on the defensive, shoring up the pound. Today, for example, we were seeking reassurance from Europe that our scientists will have access to collaborative projects.
One change we can welcome is the Chancellor’s swerve to end austerity, but it comes too late to help the poorest communities such as the ones I know best in post-industrial south Wales which have borne the cuts and closures of austerity. They are not impressed or frightened by the talk of risks to the money markets or risks to the London property market. They live with risk every day, but it is the risk of not being able to pay their bills. Of course they lost trust in the political class, but they still believed what they were told about immigration, in particular, by mendacious national newspapers. Our popular press is an enemy to the truth—the people deserve better in every way.
I was told in places such as Merthyr Tydfil that this was not about money and it was not about Europe. If anything, it was a demand, however inchoate, for change. The utter tragedy is that these are the communities that will now be worse off. In due course there will be no more European investment for the new colleges and the new roads. The things that have happened in the past decades which have made the most significant differences have been funded by European money.
All these risks have been taken for the most opportunistic reasons—narrow personal reasons and narrow party-political reasons. History may well conclude that the battle for our place in Europe was lost on the playing fields of Eton.
Some humility may now be in order as we step back and try to think collectively about how we secure our national interest. First, let us have an end to slippery language. No matter what the Leader of the House says, the referendum was not an instruction to Parliament; it was advisory. My argument is that faced with a national crisis of this magnitude we have to take the wisest and the safest course. We must fall back on what identifies us and gives us strength: the sovereignty of Parliament. Only Parliament can act now on behalf of citizens—those who voted to remain as well as those who voted to leave, and those who did not vote at all. This is not an event where the winner takes all. There is a great debate to be had about the role of Parliament.
I could not decide whether to be pleased or alarmed that I am speaking after the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane—it would not have been a good position in either event. However, I was relieved that after his dissection of the legalities, he has come to the same conclusion as me. In his quite brilliant and clarifying speech yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, confirmed my instinct that in voting to leave Europe we have volunteered for an experiment where there are no templates and no precedents. That suggests to me that there is an opportunity to act creatively if we are given some space and time to act with care, and constitutionally. We must not be rushed into triggering Article 50.
The emerging debate over whether there needs to be a vote in Parliament on Article 50 is clearly contestable, and I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, were in his place this evening to take issue—as I think he would—with the analysis the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, has given us. I am not a lawyer but it seems to me that the argument turns on what has been clear for 400 years: that rights which are protected by statute—which now include, for example, all the rights conferred under the ECA and countless other Acts—can only be removed by another Act of Parliament. However, I will leave that debate to the House and to the Government for another time.
Whatever the technicalities of the legal argument, it seems to me that the essential principle is the bedrock of parliamentary sovereignty, which suggests that we have to secure some parliamentary process at whatever stages we can as we go through the process of achieving a new settlement outside the European Union. This is not to challenge the result of the referendum but to give legitimacy and consensus to the massive changes which will follow from negotiation. That is where the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, and I agree.
We are extremely fortunate to have the expertise and wisdom of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, to hand. From what he has already said about Article 50, it seems that even if it is not legally required, Parliament could still have a role in determining it. This is the crucial question—it would be very good if we knew the Government’s view. I echo the questions put by my noble friend yesterday to the Leader of the House.
Since in this perfect storm of change we have no compass, the same question surely applies to both the framework and the negotiation itself: what will be the role for Parliament? The framework will set out the future principles and the national interests. Surely there must be some parliamentary procedure to reassure the country that we have secured what we need to go into the detailed negotiations. When we come to the negotiations themselves, no matter whether the process of Article 50 is irrevocable or not—and we have two opinions in this House about that—I stand with the noble Lord, Lord Butler, in his argument that there should be democratic assent to the details, once they are known, and the final agreement, either by way of another referendum, an election, or parliamentary process. No doubt the Constitution Committee will look at some of these questions.
I make this case, as other noble Lords have done, because we are on the tide of history, and the risks around us—not just to individuals and communities but to the very shape and integrity of our country—cannot be underestimated. We have got so much wrong and we have failed so many people, especially our young people. Let us try now, for the sake of our children and our neighbours at home and abroad, to find the right, constitutional and democratic way forward.
My Lords, it is a huge pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews—what a superb speech.
Last weekend I took part in the March for Europe from Park Lane to Parliament Square. It consisted largely of young people and families, all utterly concerned about and opposed to our leaving the European Union. All of them up to that point had seen their identity as bound up with Europe and now see an uncertain and more isolated future. I could not help reflecting while on the march on how my generation had let theirs down by voting in the way that it did and on how many in politics had failed to deliver a more positive message about the benefits and impact of being in the EU over the years, or to create a fairer society of the kind so well outlined by my noble friend Lady Manzoor yesterday and by the most reverend Primate. But whatever our regrets, we cannot afford to sit back and be buffeted by the consequences of Brexit. We need a steely determination to make the best of it and demonstrate to the no doubt overwhelmed Brexit unit how we can mitigate the risks and take the opportunities that arise.
Our tech, digital and creative industries currently punch way above their weight globally. We now need to develop a blueprint to show how they can continue to thrive despite not being in the EU and despite the uncertainties of the exit process, so they will be able more than ever before to benefit from the UK’s creative skills and culture. This depends on the UK in general and London in particular remaining a global hub for creative businesses. The essence of this is our continuing ability to retain, recruit and develop the best and most diverse talent from around the world.
Our film and video games studios, publishers, advertising agencies, music recording facilities and design and post-production houses depend on this flow of talent, failing which other locations within the EU—eastern and central Europe, for example—will appear more attractive. It would be deeply damaging if we or the EU erected barriers equivalent to those in the US, which mean that many UK musicians who plan to perform there find that visa-processing problems mean cancelled tours and postponed engagements. The truth is that the lack of free movement of talent will mean a less creative and diverse culture in the UK and will spell danger for the UK as a creative hub.
Individual parts of the creative sector have many unknowables. Will advertising services, that powerhouse of our creative economy, be subject to EU barriers when sourced from the UK if we are not in the internal market? Activities carried on by the audio-visual group are particularly vulnerable. The audio-visual media services directive has, since 1989, had a major impact by limiting applicable regulation to the country of origin. Almost a quarter of its exports are to the EU. It risks being caught between being unable to relocate production as it would fail to qualify as a British product—but, if so, not being treated as EU content. Once the UK is outside the EU, unless we specifically achieve a negotiated deal, the UK will no longer be able to come within the quotas applied by other European countries for their television broadcast services, which in some cases are as high as 70%.
In funding this type of product, every market matters, and if the EU falls out of the equation it could well mean that investment is no longer forthcoming to the same extent. Amanda Nevill, CEO of the BFI, has also warned of the impact on independent film-makers of the loss of EU funding from the Creative Europe programme. This adds up to the need to put in place at the very least greater government support for investment in these audio-visual products.
Then we have the digital economy, which is a vital part of our future. The digital single market being developed by the EU up to now was seen to be a cornerstone for the future of our tech and creative industries. We will now lose our influence on how regulations and intellectual property reforms are shaped, especially as regards the exceptions to copyright protection which are being developed.
We may also need to adopt safe-harbour provisions of the kind currently required between ourselves and the US in respect of data. Then there are the resources that will be needed now by government here and overseas through our diplomatic and consular services and UKTI in counteracting the impact of Brexit and, as Sir Martin Sorrell has said, targeting fast-growth markets. We need to redouble our efforts to promote Britain as a place to invest in, partner and do business with, especially in the creative industries. Just boosting the budget of the GREAT campaign will not be enough.
When we are outside the EU state aid rules, there may well be some opportunities through improved tax incentives to counteract some of these risks and to maintain the attractiveness of the UK as a destination for the creative industries. But I can see many other industries clamouring for special treatment, too.
I will continue to fight for the closest possible relationship with the EU. But what we need for this sector, as for others, is a cool appreciation of the actions we need to take and the deals we need to do to safeguard them. I am pleased that the Creative Industries Council is taking on this task, constituted as it is largely by a wide range of private sector players in the creative and digital industries, including television, computer games, fashion, music, arts, publishing and film, but co-chaired by Ministers from both BIS and the DCMS.
The Ministers and departments sponsoring our tech, digital and creative industries must immediately, as a priority, start working with the Brexit unit and with Justine Simons, the new deputy mayor for culture and the creative industries in London. It is vital, as she said last week, that we,
“maintain the flow of ideas and creative talent and shore up our cultural economy”.
I sincerely hope that this Government, whoever heads it, take heed of those wise words and recognise the importance of these industries to our future.
My Lords, this referendum should never have been called. It was called for narrow, tactical reasons of party advantage. It represented a colossal misjudgement on the part of the Prime Minister which has cost him his premiership and a favourable verdict from history but, more to the point, it has plunged the country into years of uncertainty and will have consequences for the UK which Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, has put at,
“pretty bad to very, very bad”,
and could lead to a recession—a judgment supported by nearly every other economic commentator of note. Given that things are usually neither as good or as bad as people say, I would settle for “pretty bad”, but certainly not “good”. This may be seen not so much in the bad things which happen, as in the good things—like investment decisions—which do not. But these, like Donald Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns”, are of their nature very much harder to track. In the immediate term it has created a vacuum in policy and leadership, seen most notably in the failure to provide any reassurances to the status of EU nationals living in this country. There has been widespread agreement in the debate that this needs to be addressed—and soon. It has also opened up major divisions in our community—as the noble Baroness the Leader of the House said—between the old and the young, the different countries of the United Kingdom, those living in our major cities and elsewhere, and those who have privilege, power and influence and those who feel they do not.
Perhaps one of the most worrying manifestations of this is the upsurge in racism, xenophobia and incidence of hate crime. One thing which is clear is that a snapshot of public opinion on a particular day is a very bad way to determine a question as complex as whether we should remain a member of the European Union. You could see this in people’s craving to be given the facts when facts were so thin on the ground and so much depended on matters of judgment. Of one thing we can be reasonably certain: that no Prime Minister is going to call another referendum any time soon.
At number 100 on the list, it is difficult to come up with anything very new. The speeches from which I have got most, except for the virtuoso performance of my noble friend Lord Bilimoria, were those of my noble friends Lord Kerr and Lord Butler and my noble and learned friend Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, though there may well have been others in the same vein which I have missed. The point I would make about them is that they have all emphasised the fact that the result of the referendum is not a once-and-for-all decision—a case of sudden death, as it were. The mantra “we are where we are” makes sense only if by that we mean that the referendum triggers a dynamic process in which there are several more decision points along the way, with options at each point as to how the decision should be taken. For instance, when should notice of withdrawal be given under Article 50? Straightaway before we have worked out what we wish to achieve in the withdrawal negotiations or not until we have worked out our negotiating position? The latter would surely seem to make more sense, but who should take the decision—the Prime Minister or Parliament? A substantial body of opinion would suggest it should be Parliament, though my noble friend Lord Lisvane has argued strongly that an exercise of prerogative power is sufficient. However, even he agrees that parliamentary endorsement is a political, if not legal, necessity. Doing it this way would certainly help to avoid a legal challenge.
Should notice under Article 50 be preceded by informal talks with the rest of the EU to scope the parameters of withdrawal? That would certainly seem desirable, as the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, has argued, though there seems to be some doubt about the EU’s willingness to engage in such discussions. Can an Article 50 notice be withdrawn in the course of negotiations if it looks as though the best we can get is worse than what we enjoy at the moment? The committee of the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, seems clear that it can but again according to my noble and learned friend Lord Brown this is disputed—another field day for the lawyers, no doubt. Finally, when should the European Communities Act 1972 be repealed? Presumably not until the enormous jungle of law dependent on it has been sorted out.
What scope is there for public opinion to be consulted again at any of these stages along the way? The most obvious point would be that at which the result of the withdrawal negotiation was known and it was desired to know what the people thought of the terms. Last week, in questions on the Prime Minister’s Statement, I suggested that there was a strong case for a second referendum on a more precisely focused question such as this. There are no doubt substantial arguments against a second referendum. It invites the charge that it simply proceeds from an unwillingness to accept the result of the first referendum. Moreover, since there is widespread agreement that the vote for leave represented a protest by those who felt left behind and ignored against by the establishment, what could be perceived as an attempt to rerun the referendum—just because we did not like the result—risks further undermining trust in political institutions.
We should therefore be reluctant to call for a second referendum. However, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House surely goes too far—as the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, has said—in describing the result of the referendum as an instruction. Professor Vernon Bogdanor goes much too far when he writes in the Telegraph:
“The people, however, have become, for constitutional issues at least, a third chamber of the legislature, with the power to issue instructions which the politicians cannot ignore. The sovereignty of the people trumps the sovereignty of Parliament”.
No one doubts that the referendum is only advisory. The majority for leave was only a narrow one. There are good grounds for saying that a referendum on a question of the magnitude of this one should require a super-majority of say 60% or two-thirds. As Tony Blair has said, the case for leave has significantly crumbled. Its leading proponents have abandoned the principal foundations on which it rested. It has become clear that they did not have the faintest idea of how Brexit was to be implemented. People have begun to realise that they were misled. There is significant evidence of people rethinking the way they voted in the aftermath of the referendum and more than 4 million people have signed the petition calling for a second referendum. In these circumstances we should remain open to the possibility of a second referendum on the terms of withdrawal, once they have been negotiated.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Low, and the preceding speaker, my good and noble friend Lord Clement-Jones, on the salutary contributions they have made to this debate.
It is even more difficult at number 101 on the speakers list to find something novel to say but what I may try to do is to emphasise some of the key issues as I see them and underline the thoughts of people who spoke earlier. My work since the 1970s has engaged me with the EU institutions one way or another. Those institutions can be aloof, inefficient, expensive, micro-managing control freaks. They are long overdue for reform. However, over the decades they have created the world’s largest single market, cemented peace, and united a continent. They have raised standards, advanced scientific and medical research and improved the environment. There is serious concern that studies are showing that over 80% of all referendum stories in our press were negative. There is concern that most newspapers apparently chose wilfully to deceive and help to hoodwink the millions of poorer and disadvantaged and most vulnerable citizens. The referendum campaign, particularly for the outs, sank to depths of mendacity rarely seen in our press, while an opinion poll taken after the result showed that seven out of 10 Brexit voters thought the referendum did not matter very much. As events unfold, the outcome most certainly will.
The economic case for leaving the EU presented by the Brexiters makes much of an assumption that the UK would then be free to trade with whoever in the world, unshackled from EU regulations. However, the most cursory examination confirms this assumption to be blatantly false. The EU is the largest trading partner with the rapidly expanding markets of Africa and the same applies with India and China, which have both made clear their reluctance to see Britain leave the EU. Both are on record as being far more interested in negotiating comprehensive trade deals with the EU of 28 nations as one rather than with the UK singly, even if it is the second-largest economy in Europe.
President Xi Jinping, on his recent visit to the UK, said:
“China hopes to see a prosperous Europe and a united EU”,
with Britain as an important member playing,
“an even more positive and constructive role in … the … development of China-EU ties”.
He could not put it more plainly than that. Asia’s leaders have, without exception, encouraged the UK not to withdraw from the EU. In India, where the UK is seen as its entry point to the EU market, there is widespread concern that leaving would create considerable uncertainty in the economy and have an adverse impact on investment. With the pound falling to its lowest level for more than 30 years this morning, that concern is well justified.
Across the Commonwealth, which Brexiters cling to like an economic get-out-of-jail card, it is a similar story. The Prime Ministers of both Australia and New Zealand are on record as supporting continued British membership of the EU, welcoming our strong role in Europe. John Key, the New Zealand Prime Minister, said that,
“if we had the equivalent of Europe on our doorstep … we certainly wouldn’t be looking to leave it”.
Although Australia and New Zealand have strong and natural links to the UK, we cannot turn the clocks back 50 years. As trading opportunities, their markets, at some 20 million souls together, are a fraction of those in the African, Pacific, Caribbean and Asian regions, not to mention the 500 million we are already joined with in the EU. I often wonder where the pundits suggesting there is a cornucopia of trading deals just waiting for the UK to leave the EU get their rationale from.
On visiting the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa just a few months ago, I found that without exception the diplomatic corps, the United Nations agencies and government Ministers from across Africa could not fathom the logic behind Brexit. They feared that influence between the EU and the African Union would be weakened and that security intelligence in Africa currently shared with the UK by EU states would be compromised, undermining our soft power in the continent.
The impact on trade between Africa and the UK will be immense. With African economic growth rates at double or even triple those in Europe, demand for high-quality goods and services booming and unprecedented investment levels, Africa is a long-term market of choice. The latest figures available record that annual trade flows between Africa and the EU, including the UK, reached $350 billion. The projection for China was $200 billion. For the US, it was $100 billion. That sequence of figures spells it out. The projections are that with trade between Africa and the EU already double the sum of the other major markets, it will continue to expand rapidly. This is partly because economic partnership agreements—EPAs—have been negotiated between the European Union and five African economic regions, comprising 33 countries, as well as the Caribbean and Pacific regions.
The EPAs are designed to remove trade barriers and tariffs that impede trade and economic growth between developing regions and the EU countries, bringing direct benefit to both. For the UK, this apparently amounted to some 15% of the uplift. Such is the complexity of the arrangements and negotiations, it has taken 15 years to reach the EPAs’ signing and implementation stage. Outside the EU and outside the EPAs, the UK loses the benefits of these tariff exemptions to these huge markets and, one must assume, faces years of tortuous negotiation to regain entry, while our competitors entrench from their favoured positions.
For some years now, I have been representing the UK Parliament on the governing council of AWEPA, which some colleagues will remember was the organisation of European parliamentarians established to support the so-called front-line states bordering the then apartheid South Africa. Today, AWEPA members, including the UK, are working in 10 African countries, the African Economic Community and the East African Legislative Assembly. They are developing the skills to strengthen these institutions, which are essential to the effective oversight and monitoring of development projects in line with the sustainable development goals. With some 30% of the UK’s aid budget disbursed through the European Union, one can only wonder what will happen to this strategic exercise in soft power in the future.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, although I disagree with just about every single word that he said. By his own admission, he has been involved with European institutions since the 1970s, and I think that that showed. I do not like the word “mendacity” being used about anybody during the campaign—I think it is ill chosen—and his dismissal of the Commonwealth as far as the future is concerned is quite ridiculous.
In a debate in the House of Commons on the Maastricht treaty on 21 April 1993, setting out my reasons for voting against it, I said:
“I am not sure what impact my words will have, but it is vital to me to be able to tell the Committee how strongly I feel about this issue. I feel certain that, however well or badly I put my thoughts, this will be my most important contribution in my 10 years in the House and, together with my vote at the end of the debate, it may be the most important thing that I do for as long as I am a Member of Parliament. The debate is not simply about whether this great House of Commons continues to govern our nation; it is also about how it is governing today and how in touch it is with the people it governs”.—[Official Report, 21/4/1993; col. 463.]
So it has proved. Twenty-three years later, at long last I have been able to vote again to undo the damage done by the Maastricht treaty and to set us free from the European Union.
All great issues are essentially very simple. We make them complicated when we do not want to face them. So it was in this referendum on whether our country wished to remain a member of the European Union. The single and most important question was, “Do you want to take back control of your country and run your own affairs?”. Immigration, financial contributions and trade agreements are all very important, but they are inevitably and obviously secondary to that simple question.
The nation did not see this issue in the same way as it would a general election. General elections give the people just three weeks to digest often long and complicated manifestos produced along party lines. This non-party referendum gave them many months to consider their decision but, more importantly, they had already had years and years of living with the EU and seeing its effect on our country, for good or ill. They thought it through and gave their verdict, which was, “We are brave enough and strong enough to run our own affairs”.
The decision was final. We are going to leave the European Union. This has been confirmed by the Prime Minister, the other European Heads of State and, one way or another, most speakers in this debate. There must be no talk of dilution, undue delay, second thoughts or, heaven forbid, as touted several times already, a second referendum. Since the vote, unlike other Members of this House, I have not met one person who voted to leave who is anything other than pleased with the result and looking forward to the future. There would be huge and understandable anger in the country if their will were to be thwarted. For our political leaders, this would be as irresponsible as it would be dangerous.
There will have been 115 Back-Bench speeches in this debate and I am number 102, so there can be little new to say. I have sat through most of the debate and I think that it has been divided into two groups. One group—sadly, by far the largest—has made sad and dispiriting speeches doubting our ability as a nation to succeed, and questioning the referendum and its outcome and even people’s motives for voting as they did. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish, who is not in his seat.
By contrast, in the other, smaller group, there have been some positive and memorable contributions from both sides of your Lordships’ House from Members who understand our role and who, I feel, are much more in tune with the people and with what they expect from us. I thought that the Leader of the House got us off to an excellent start, setting the scene in a balanced way and showing us the way forward. My noble friend Lord Lawson gave us a plan to follow. There has been a constant clamour for plans. He gave us one: we have a plan. I thought my noble friend Lord Dobbs—in, as usual, an entertaining speech—put everything in perspective. He ended with the sentence:
“We have a mountain to climb, but the view from the summit might yet prove awesome”.—[Official Report, 5/7/16; col. 1900.]
The noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport, who is not now in his place, related in a very positive way the outcome of the referendum to the country’s other problems and the need to address them. I do not want to embarrass the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, again, but I thought she spoke so well and dealt so comprehensively with every aspect of the issue that, as I told her afterwards, she made much of my speech redundant.
It is from positive speeches such as these that we must take our lead and our tone. In this inevitably difficult period, this House should provide the experienced political and intellectual ballast that will help to keep the ship of state steady as it moves ahead through uncharted waters. You cannot see the road ahead clearly if you are constantly looking over your shoulder. In this House, we can either waste much time arguing over the past, disputing the result and hoping our gloomy predictions come to pass, regardless of the fate of the country, or we can accept the result and understand that, although there may be short-term difficulties, it is our duty to do all we can to make the new situation a success.
Some questions have been asked to which I would have thought the answers were obvious, but apparently not. Of course we will not turn our back on our European neighbours, but will seek to work harmoniously with them. Of course anyone in this country lawfully must be able to stay, and as this seems necessary—I am surprised that it is—they should be given that assurance without delay.
If we fail this country at this historic moment, it will not just be harmful to Europe during this transitional period and make life much more difficult for our Government and our country; it will show this House—as, sadly, it has already shown itself to some extent to be—to be so out of touch with the people and unable and unwilling to listen to them that it will cause serious damage to your Lordships’ House and possibly its future. Finally, let our glass be half full, not half empty. We have been given a unique opportunity as a nation to break free, change course and forge a new future. We should seize it gladly.
I am pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, although I disagree with almost—no, with every—word he said. He has the unique distinction of having been a Lord even before he came into this House.
As I sat through speech after speech, I was beginning to think that, when I got up, I would be swimming against the tide—not that that is unusual for me, by the way—but once I heard my noble friend Lady Andrews and the noble Lords, Lord Lisvane and Lord Low of Dalston, I knew there were some sensible people whose band I would be joining.
On referenda, I think that David Cameron can be described as the Stan Laurel of British politics. Oliver Hardy would have said, “That’s another fine mess you’ve got us into”. On the Scottish referendum, he conceded to Alex Salmond the date of the referendum. Alex Salmond decided the date, the wording of the question and the franchise. It was a miracle that he did not win that referendum and that he lost it.
David Cameron nearly broke up the United Kingdom with that referendum, and now he is doing worse: he is breaking up the European Union with this referendum, because of his mistakes and because of his complacency. We saw that complacency when he thought it would be an easy win. When we suggested, on the franchise, that 16 and 17 year-olds should have the vote, as they did in the Scottish referendum—in that referendum, they showed that they were sensible, and they were probably more informed than any other voters in that referendum—he rejected it. These are the people who will be most affected by the decision that has been made, yet they were not part of that decision. There would have been nearly 1.5 million extra votes, of whom 82% would have voted remain, according to a poll. That alone would have changed the result of this flawed referendum.
We suggested that European Union citizens living in this United Kingdom should have the vote as well, because they are affected by it. So many people have said that, some expressing real concerns and others, I am afraid, crying crocodile tears for them because they realise the effect of what they have done. European Union citizens should have been given the vote, as we argued, because they are affected by the decision.
We also suggested a threshold. I think someone suggested a super-majority, but I prefer using the word “threshold”. Remember that we had one in the first Scottish referendum in 1979. In that referendum, there was actually a majority in favour of a Scottish Assembly, but because of the George Cunningham amendment—the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, will remember it very well—the majority needed to be 40% of the electorate, and we did not get it. What about this referendum? Do we know how high the figure was? Does anyone know? It was 37.4% of the electorate, so the majority would not have got over the 40% threshold. We took away people’s right to vote in that we did not give it to 16 and 17 year-olds or European Union citizens, and we did not get to the threshold, so there are real question marks over the referendum.
When I tried to intervene—I apologise for trying to interrupt the Leader’s speech yesterday—all I wanted to say was, as has been said by so many people, that this is not an instruction from the British people. It is an advisory referendum, and if people say it is an instruction, they are misleading the public and Parliament. It is not an instruction: we have to take note of it; we are not instructed by it.
I am suggesting that the referendum is advisory, but the British Government should start working on the basis of its result, even though I think it is flawed. I would argue that we should then, for a whole range of reasons, give the British public the opportunity to think again. First, the proposal of the leave campaigners was sold on a false prospectus by that snake oil salesman Boris and barrow boy Farage. They have both gone AWOL. Where are they now? They are not coming forward to try to sort out the mess that they have created.
Secondly, already flaws and problems are beginning to arise. There is already a threatened break-up of the United Kingdom. On Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon is looking at the opportunity to take this referendum as a trigger. On Northern Ireland, think of the problems, with Sinn Fein already talking a united Ireland and the possibility of a border between northern and southern Ireland. On Gibraltar, Spain is talking about shared sovereignty, so no wonder Gibraltar is worried about the future.
Thirdly, the leavers—those who argued the case for leaving—have got no idea of what it involves. They have no idea of the way forward, which means that we have been sold a false prospectus. Some of my remain colleagues, for whom I have the greatest respect, having worked with them for a while, have thrown in the towel. They say, “We are where we are. We’ve got to accept it. We’d better make the best of it”. I think that that is a defeatist attitude. It does not do this place proud, and it does not do the other place proud either.
I have the greatest respect for a number of colleagues, such as the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, my noble friends Lord Hain and Lady Andrews and the noble Lord, Lord Low of Dalston. As the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, has said outside the House, although not here, once the terms are clear and the negotiations have taken place, we need to give the British people the opportunity to think again. That is not undemocratic or saying that we should forget or abandon the previous referendum, although I have criticised it. We are saying that we should work on the basis of that referendum, and once the terms become clearer, give the British public the opportunity of thinking again. It is our responsibility as parliamentarians—we have that responsibility—to work out how the British public can be given that opportunity, not to join the lemming-like rush into the abyss.
My Lords, the referendum is done. No matter the analysis and debate about what was said in the pre-referendum debate, we are where we are. The EU Committee on 4 May last set out graphically the complexity of the consequences and processes of withdrawal and the various dynamics of the environment in which withdrawal will be negotiated—the fact that our future relationship with the EU will be negotiated in tandem with our withdrawal agreement. That individual member states will retain significant control over the negotiations on the future means that we have come to the point at which, as the Nobel Peace laureate John Hume used to say, nothing can now be agreed until everything is agreed.
Yes, I know that there is uncertainty about how we exercise Article 50, but we have to face our realities. Perhaps the first reality that we should face is that we remainers need to listen to what the leavers were saying. Many of those who voted to leave were young people who have lost hope in the future because of the place to which our society has come. Their concern is real. Many of them with university degrees cannot get work. They must work in minimum wage jobs for years. The society that we have constructed has enabled the greater division of assets, bringing so much more to the wealthy and so much less to those who have little. Leaving aside the racism that is scarring our society even as we talk, there is deep angst about the nature of our society, about globalisation, about those deepening inequalities, about bailing out bonds that should have been burned. As a Union we did not permit the burning of the bonds, so many of our young people are stuck on minimum wage with no prospects, no pension arrangements and serious emerging mental health issues. School pupils, in particular, are faced with endless pressure to achieve, yet face so little in terms of opportunity in this brave new world which we have created. The political system seems to our young people to be unresponsive and unlistening. Europe is now in a degree of chaos too. In Spain, France, Italy and Greece, we can see what is happening. Jean-Claude Juncker’s recent statements, saying no and leaving the table, do not give rise to hope, but rather to acrimony, dissent and possibly even worse across the capitals of Europe. It was for that reason that the European Community was founded.
I want to say a word about the common travel area which was so important in Ireland as we strove to defeat the men of violence, because it links the non-Schengen UK and the non-Schengen Republic of Ireland. We have a 300-mile border that runs across our little island and when you travel from one place to another on a relatively short journey in the border area, you can cross the border several times. The border meanders through the island. When the UK leaves the EU, will the island of Ireland be divided by a land frontier between the UK and the European Union? The Northern Ireland peace process is built on the understanding that the shared border existed within the European Union. If that is no longer the case, what is to be done? Will Her Majesty’s Government provide any sort of reassurance that we will not be catapulted back 25 years to the days when we had customs checks on the border and when lorries queued for hours to cross it, at huge expense to business on both sides of the border? We remember that and we remember too the security checks, and it can be no accident that 56% of the people in Northern Ireland voted to remain.
Northern Ireland exports to Ireland amount to 37% of our exports to the EU and 21% of our total exports—a very important part of our tiny economy—and our Secretary of State has said there can be no special arrangements for Northern Ireland. We are not looking for special arrangements; we are looking for the protection of the United Kingdom. Deprivation, hunger and isolation were strong nourishers of the Troubles. Can government do nothing to prevent the division that now seems inevitable between the two parts of Ireland and the consequential costs? Research for the Northern Ireland Assembly’s enterprise committee estimates that exit from the EU will cost our economy 3% GDP because cross-border trade and economic co-operation will reduce, foreign direct investment will decline and there will be a loss of economic funding.
In May this year, the Home Secretary said that the dissident republican threat was substantial, giving rise to a risk of a bombing or other attack here in GB—more particularly, I guess, in England. Economics and peace are inextricably linked. If Northern Ireland becomes a tiny part of Ireland, with a diminishing economy, the risk of growing support for terrorism is very real. It happened in the past. We have high levels of youth unemployment: 13.4% as opposed to 11% here, which is roughly one in seven or eight of our young people—ripe pickings for the paramilitaries.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that it is important that the negotiations mandate is drawn up with the involvement of all constituent parts of the UK. We have heard many calls over the past two days for the exercise of power for the common good, perhaps most strongly in the words spoken by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury in this Chamber yesterday. Yet when the Irish Prime Minister suggested an economic forum to address the consequences of Brexit, the First Minister of Northern Ireland vetoed the idea. At a time when there is so much uncertainty, surely the UK should be availing itself of discussions with member states of the EU designed to secure stability. After all, the UK exports more services to Ireland than it does to Germany—£27.86 billion in 2014. Is that not what the Home Secretary Theresa May has called for in the past two days—informal discussions with other states? Our status as part of the UK and the consequences of Brexit are not a devolved matter. Will Her Majesty’s Government ensure that there are proper talks with Ireland in the cause of the common good?
There is a further security element to Brexit. Will there be a hard border along our 300 miles? Are we going to revert to the days when so many of our border roads were impassable for security reasons? Tensions are reduced by invisible borders. I fear that the introduction of border checks may well create intense resentment in some parts of Northern Ireland. It is possible that this might lead to more support for the dissidents. What will Her Majesty’s Government do to prevent that situation and to protect Northern Ireland and the UK from increased terrorism, human trafficking and serious and organised crime? We are losing our involvement in things such as Europol, extradition arrangements and joint European criminal investigations. We will negotiate our way back, but it will take years and much of it will have to be done on a country-by-country basis. Sir David Edward, former judge of the CJEC, said in his evidence to the European Union Committee of Brexit:
“The long-term ghastliness of the legal complications is almost unimaginable”.
We are in the territory of the unimaginable.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which has a land border with another state. What can Her Majesty’s Government do to ensure that the impact of Brexit on the peace process and on the economy of this battered part of the UK is minimised? Does the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland understand the complexity of these issues and their importance, not just for the people of Northern Ireland, but also for the people of the UK as a whole?
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, with whom I agree on a number of points, but I want to speak about the impact of leaving the EU from the perspective of the English regions. Despite the headline vote being a 52/48 win for leave across the UK, in England and Wales outside London, the gap was a much bigger defeat for the remain campaign. We need to understand the reasons why.
I think that there were three reasons. People wanted to halt an increasing concentration of decision-making at a European level. They felt disconnected from it and unable to influence it. Secondly, it was a clear rejection of the principle that a single market requires free movement of people. Many on lower incomes felt threatened by the prospect of being undercut in the labour market. Thirdly, it was a vote to oppose the impact of reductions in public spending, which have been much higher in the poorer parts of the country than in the wealthier parts—notwithstanding the importance of EU structural funding in those areas and the importance of European markets to them.
I campaigned for a remain vote because I see it as essential to our future growth and our standard of living to maintain access to the single European market. Access to that market has now been put in jeopardy. We must take very seriously the warnings from the CBI that firms are putting investment on hold in the short term because of the uncertainties and because of the current political vacuum as we wait for a new Government to define their priorities. Add to this the reported lack of qualified negotiators in the Civil Service, and we can see that these uncertainties could well drag on.
It is, however, the long-term danger to private sector investment that should really worry us. In my home region of the north-east of England there were 43 foreign direct investment projects in 2015. The risk is that companies from outside the EU wanting to invest inside the EU in future will not choose to invest in the UK if we are outside the single market. In establishing what we are asking the EU for in the forthcoming negotiations, it is essential that we gain agreement to staying in the single market.
It is now broadly acknowledged that we could be on the brink of recession. Our trade gap with the rest of the world is worse than anticipated, and all the economic and fiscal indicators seem to be pointing in the wrong direction. I question whether the Chancellor is wise in his plans for corporation taxes. The proposed cut will either increase the deficit or cut public spending further, which would mean more austerity and less money for individual taxpayers, who will have to pay for that reduction in corporation tax. It looks to me to be the wrong decision. The Chancellor is, however, right to abandon the aim of achieving a budget surplus by 2020. We must instead invest in the infrastructure which generates jobs.
However, Governments cannot do everything, and we need the private sector to step up to the task. Employers need to invest more in training our young people to enable them to take on higher-level jobs, rather than relying on cheaper labour from outside the UK. Further, the private sector needs to invest more in infrastructure outside London. As an example of what I mean, I pay tribute to Legal & General, which is investing a very substantial sum in the construction of a major new scientific research centre in Newcastle upon Tyne, in partnership with Newcastle University and the city council, making it the latest of several urban renewal and infrastructure projects that Legal & General has invested in.
The recent Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review said that by 2050 many more jobs—perhaps 1.5 million—could be created in digital industries, health innovation, energy and advanced manufacturing across the north. That is welcome, and it can happen, if four conditions are met. The first is a clear private sector commitment to invest outside London. Secondly, access to the European single market should be maintained. Thirdly, infrastructure investment as promised by Government must actually happen. Fourthly, and very importantly, Government Offices should be re-established in the English regions. This is an important issue. Whitehall post-Brexit needs to focus much more on the regions of England, because at present its knowledge base of England is insufficient. It cannot do everything from London; it needs a cross-departmental focus at regional level if the full potential of the English regions in growing our economy is to be realised.
In recent days the Mayor of London has said that London wants to be treated as an equal with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It wants more devolution and more control over taxation raised in London. It is understandable to take that position, but it is potentially a big problem, because it is not widely understood across the rest of the UK how much tax income raised in London is spent elsewhere in the UK. If London keeps more of it, there will be less for others parts of the UK. This is not a new issue, but we need to keep it at the front of our minds as we consider the implications of Brexit for public spending across England.
Brexit will have a significant impact on local government. Here I should declare my vice-presidency of the Local Government Association. If there is a recession there is a probability of lower business rate income for councils, the danger of more cuts by the Chancellor, and a possible slowdown in the devolution agenda as the sources of project funding are reassessed. Add to those risks the possible loss of EU structural funding, and there is clearly a need to plan for all outcomes. In the immediate term local government needs a guarantee that councils will still receive all the money expected by 2020—amounting to £5.3 billion in regeneration funding—on which much local growth depends. This, of course, also applies to other recipients of EU funding, such as the voluntary and cultural sectors, and our universities, whose research funding is so heavily dependent on EU support. There is also a need for Government to offer an assurance that the existing legal basis for contracts signed with suppliers and contractors under EU procurement laws will apply for the duration of a contract.
Then there are the implications of Brexit for European Investment Bank funding. Very substantial funds, with long-term borrowing implications, have come from the European Investment Bank—€29 billion over the past five years—and we need to know what might happen to EIB funding in the future.
I referred earlier to a reported lack of trained negotiators in the Civil Service. May I suggest that the Cabinet Office look at the capacity in local government, and in our universities, to help them? It is substantial, particularly in relation to EU law and EU funding. Local authorities need to be engaged directly in the process, because that would be of direct help to Whitehall.
My Lords, in the time available I will comment on the referendum campaign, on the use of referendums, and on whether legislation is required to trigger an Article 50 notification.
I agree strongly with my noble friend Lord Dobbs and others who have argued that the referendum campaign was an exercise in how not to campaign. Each side played to its core audience and there was little debate. Rather, we had claims met by dismissals based on the past predictive record or the perceived bias of the source. We appeared at times to be mired in slogans rather than sustained arguments. In terms of our politics, the most corrosive element of the campaign was the extent to which the two sides engaged in inflated claims. We saw Anthony Downs’ thesis in An Economic Theory of Democracy apply in a binary contest, each side encouraging voters to be irrational by making its platform vague and ambitious.
The result was that expectations were raised that were not going to be met whichever side won, with the consequence that not only were those on the losing side going to be disappointed—so, too, were many on the winning side. This creates a problem of trust in our political system, and indeed in our institutions. The Government have responsibility for negotiating withdrawal, but Parliament has a crucial role of scrutiny and of linkage between government and people. We have to inform, but it is a two-way process. We have to try to ensure that the gap between expectations and what can be delivered is narrowed.
Some who have spoken in this debate have reminded us that the referendum was “advisory” and that Parliament is not bound to accept it. The terminology is misleading. The outcome is not legally binding, but it has a political weight that is greater than is acknowledged in referring to it as “advisory”. It is important to remind ourselves that Dicey distinguished between parliamentary sovereignty—that is, the outputs of Parliament, enforceable at law—and political sovereignty, which is the wishes of the people, not enforceable by the courts. Dicey said:
“The plain truth is that as a matter of law Parliament is the sovereign power in the state ... It is however equally true that in a political sense the electors are the most important part of, we may even say are actually, the sovereign power, since their will is under the present constitution sure to obtain ultimate obedience”.
He went on to say:
“Parliament can hardly in the long run differ from the wishes of the English people, or at any rate the electors; that which the majority of the House of Commons command the majority of the English people usually desire”.
To ignore the outcome, or put it to a second referendum, is legally possible but politically toxic. People may have voted in a way that they now regret; they may have voted on the basis of partial or misleading information; but they have voted, and there is nothing to say they would not vote on partial or misleading information the second time around. We cannot hold a second referendum on the basis of the retrospective application of rules. If we wanted a threshold or super-majority to apply, we needed to stipulate that at the time. I raised the issue of a threshold during the Second Reading of the EU Referendum Bill, but no one appeared keen to pursue the proposal. We were therefore in a position where a simple majority determined the outcome.
We need to take action, not to trigger another referendum but to address what rules should apply on future occasions, not only in terms of when to hold a referendum but in terms of the means by which information is provided to electors. As to Article 50 notification, I agree with Professor Mark Elliott and others, who argue that primary legislation is not required to trigger it. For reasons of time, I will not develop the arguments advanced by Professor Elliott on his blog, “Public Law for Everyone”, but rather follow the outstanding speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, and remind the House of the status of the 1972 European Communities Act.
After the introduction of the European Communities Bill, there was a ruling by the Chairman of Ways and Means, on 29 February 1972, that the Bill provided the “legal nuts and bolts” necessary for membership. He went on to say:
“It is not a Bill to approve the Treaty of Accession nor any of the other treaties which are basic to membership of the Communities”.—[Official Report, Commons, 29/2/1972; col. 269.]
That ruling was challenged, but it was upheld the following day by a vote of the House of Commons.
As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Millett, pointed out in a letter to the Times on Monday, the exercise of our treaty rights under Article 50 will have no effect in itself on domestic law. That exercise is a matter for the prerogative, since it affects our position in international law and not in domestic law. We will need later to undo the legal nuts and bolts, but that is not required for an Article 50 notification. We will need later legislation, and possibly even a referendum under the terms of the European Union Act 2011, but that is consequent to and not prior to any negotiation. As the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, argued, there is a case for seeking parliamentary support for an Article 50 notification, but that would be analogous to the October 1971 vote on principle.
The role of this House, in my view, is not to refight battles but to draw on the experience and expertise of Members in assisting in the negotiations that lie ahead and in informing people about what is happening and what it is realistic to expect. We should be looking to where we want the United Kingdom to be in five or 10 years and think through how we get from here to there. The contribution we can make to the nation is to be forward looking. Let us play to our strengths.
My Lords, it is a pleasure and a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Norton—and just as he stuck to his speciality, I will stick to mine.
The women’s movement has taught us the very interesting slogan: “what part of no don’t you understand?” I say, “What part of ‘out’ do people not understand?”. People say that the referendum was based on too simple a question, but a referendum cannot be based on multiple-choice questions. It was in or out, and the message is that we are out. It is our duty to implement what the people told us.
Forget about the fact that they were misinformed. We have fought elections, and do we think that people were better informed in elections than in the referendum? Do we not think that people were made false promises in manifestos? I belong to the Labour Party, where every conference is about the betrayal of manifesto promises. The people may be illiterate; they may be racist; but they are the people and they were right. Our duty is to implement.
Secondly, on Thursday 23 June we had an economy. Today we have the same economy. It has not changed. It has not collapsed. Whenever the stock market collapses, people say, “The fundamentals are all right”. They never talk about fundamentals when the stock market is rising. I think that the fundamentals are perfectly sound. The British economy has not run away anywhere. The same people are working in the same jobs with the same ingenuity and enterprise. I also believe that the forecasts of recession are exaggerated. If we keep our heads there will be no reason for any panic or large-scale capital outflow because this happens still to be one of the most prosperous and productive economies—as it was on Thursday 23 June, and as it is today.
I would say only one thing about the right honourable gentleman the Chancellor. I expected him to be out there on Friday morning, giving the message that I am giving. He should have come out and said, “Don’t panic”. He might have added, “I don’t like this result but the economy is sound, and from there we proceed”—because we do not want to make mistakes in false panic. Let us remember that.
I will move on to what to do next. There are two phrases that people are confusing. One is the divorce. We have decided on a divorce, and then of course there is the problem of remarriage. What arrangements will we make when we are out? Shall we come back in with half a step, or really pretend that it never happened and be friends ever after, and act a little bit like Switzerland, Norway or whatever?
These things are sequential. The technicalities may be left to lawyers, but first we have to negotiate the out. The divorce has to be negotiated. There are 6,987—or however many—pieces of legislation that we have to review and decide how many of them to accept or not accept. It will be an enormous task. A friend of mine who works in the private sector said that one leading agency had made some contingency plans. He told me that two months ago they had decided to hire 4,000 people in case Brexit was voted for—and they have done that, let me assure you. The Government may have to hire 10,000 extra people to get through this, because it is going to be an enormous task. We will need a very large Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament to be able to absorb the amount of work which has to be done. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, will have to bear most of the burden—and good luck to him.
Once we have worked out the divorce, we should work out what alternative arrangements we want. As far as I can understand—though I may be wrong—legally, those things are treated as separate negotiations by the European Council. We may be able to do something but first the divorce has to be worked out. Since the divorce will take two years from whenever we trigger Article 50, we are looking at the end of 2018 or 2019. Until then, we are in the EU; everything is fine, all the grants and agreements are still working, we are still in low-carbon territory and so on. So let us all calm down, let us say that we may be in this position until the end of 2018 or maybe the middle of 2019. Our rearrangement negotiations will start then, but it is very hard to predict how long they will take. They may take another two years.
Regarding Norway or Switzerland, I have one suggestion, which your Lordships may or may not like. The WTO option is the only option that does not require negotiations; it is a case of, “Okay, we have done the divorce, we will walk away, thank you very much”. In the remain campaign there were two tendencies that were mixed up. One was the liberal, free-trade element of the Conservative Party, which has never liked the customs union logic of the European Union. They are Adam Smith people, not Friedrich List people, and good luck to them; they got a bit nervous when they won, but that is another issue. If we are in the free-trade, liberal area, WTO is the best option—and, since everybody else is in the WTO, we may as well be there. That was the promise made by a lot of people. It is something that we had until 1973, so I do not know why we could not try it again. So I will just say: first the divorce, then the WTO—good luck.
My Lords, when I saw that I was to be preceded by the noble Lord, Lord Desai, I knew it would be a case of “Follow that”. I will try. I had hoped otherwise, but I feared the result that we have. As speaker No.108, I go back to the introduction by the Leader, the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, yesterday and I précis it: we must make the best of a bad job. But let us look at the good job of the EU—I will try to help the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish, here. It seems to me that there are three major elements to the EU: there is the issue of peace, reconciliation and the world order, human rights, and fraternity, including areas such as the Erasmus programme for youth exchange; secondly—so much has been said about this—the promotion of and involvement in the single market; and, thirdly, the combining of financial resources, including but not exclusively, the redistribution of resources from the rich to the poor nations.
I would like us to consider that third element a bit further. It is very relevant—even if the result of the referendum were somehow to be reversed, it is still relevant. Using 2004 figures, the UK contribution to the EU was €14 billion, but there was a return of €7 billion. Amazingly, many people seem to think that we in the UK are the only people putting any money into Europe, but we are eighth in the list per head; it is under £100 a head per annum. Where does the money come back to? Of the €7 billion that comes back, €4 billion is returned to agriculture, €1.72 billion to regional development and more than €1 billion to research and development. These are areas where resources are needed here in the UK.
As I understand it, we are in until we are out. We do not know how long negotiations to depart will take. There are not many who think it will take two years. I have heard five years; I have heard up to 10 years. Therefore, our involvement in the budget could last a very long time. I have three areas on which I would like question the Minister. What is the attitude—where is human nature?—of those looking for European Union money now, today? They might think, “We had better get an application in fast, or else it will be gone”. Or they might say, “What is the point? We are on our way; there is little point in applying”. Whose job is it to make certain that applications continue to go in and that the UK gets its fair share of what ought to be returned? Is there a parliamentary element to this?
Secondly, what will be the attitude of those in charge of budget heads in the European Union where funds should be returned to the EU? Will they be thinking, “Oh, they are on their way out; we need not respond to that particular application. Anyway, we have programmes that last five or seven years and they will not be there at the end of it”? Will they be saying no? Whose job is it to see that the EU grant-making budget is used properly and that the UK gets its proper share? Is there a parliamentary element to this?
It must be somebody’s job to assess the areas where there should be return grants. If they are not there, proper consideration should be given to a replacement. Indeed, there may well be items of EU expenditure where money is returned here which the UK Government have forgotten about. We have been in the EU for 43 years and there is no budget head here at all to look at. The EU grants budget should be looked at and gone through with a tooth-comb to be certain that the UK is clear of its future needs. Whose job is it and is there a parliamentary role for this too? I believe we are in until we are out and the return grants budget is very important.
My Lords, I am Eurosceptic at best. Although I was very pleased to have the opportunity to vote on this matter, I decided to vote remain. This was, first, because we have enough on our international plate now, without having to manage a Brexit. Secondly, it was for our long-term, grand strategic interests. We need to have a locus at the centre of Europe, not just to ensure that we can have curved bananas, but so that, when Europe has some problems—which it will—we can be there to hold it together and stop matters from becoming very much worse. Finally, it was because Mr Putin would dearly love us to leave the EU and thus destabilise it.
While I support the Government’s course of action, it is important to analyse how we got to this position, if only to inform our domestic policy. I always enjoy listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws. Yesterday, she did not disappoint when she explained the benefits of workers’ rights provided by the EU. The problem, though, is that artisan workers simply do not care about them. If their employer is unsatisfactory, they simply leave and find another. By artisan, I mean someone who has reasonable proficiency in a trade or skill, which can be acquired within about 12 months with a bit of effort and only moderate academic qualifications. Worse still, an older and educated Brexiteer will see this as an undemocratic way of putting in place something that the House of Commons would not.
At home, our decorator is a young Brit, an artisan worker with a young wife and child. On 15 June, we told him that we were going to vote remain. He told us that no one he knew was going to do that. I was then sure that the leave campaign would win because, unfortunately, the remain campaign had lost the artisan vote. We know that there are some very unfortunate reasons why that occurred.
Much has been made of the fact that big business very much supports the EU project. They would, wouldn’t they? On things that matter, they have one main point of contact and that is the Commission. The Commission does not put out a manifesto to the electorate which the electorate then convert into a mandate. They do not have to deal with pesky national parliamentarians, some of whom understand the issues at play. One only has to think of the motor industry’s block exemption from the competition policy to understand that. Yes, there are MEPs but, if I do not have the foggiest clue who my MEP is, or what their agenda is, it is hardly surprising when the rest of the population does not either.
The electorate cannot vote against the Commission if they do not like the cut of its jib. They certainly cannot sack the Commission. In other words, the EU is totally undemocratic. This is what concerns so many of the older, well-educated voters. Moreover, in economic terms the EU is wonderful for big business because free movement of labour means that you can increase demand in the economy without running out of labour or its cost increasing. Effectively, there is an inexhaustible supply of good-quality and highly motivated unskilled and artisan labour available.
I accept that EU labour is fiscally neutral and beneficial for the size of the economy. The trouble is that an artisan does not know what fiscally neutral means, while the benefits argument is a red herring because most EU migrants come here to work. Worse still, our larger economy does not mean more GDP per capita and, for the artisan, that translates into being no better off despite the growth. I am no economist but it seems to me that an economy needs knowledge, infrastructure, capital and labour. We provide as much knowledge as possible but the infrastructure can be improved only slowly. We carefully regulate the supply of money but do nothing to regulate the supply of labour under the free movement arrangements. I am sure that all noble Lords recognise the benefits of free movement of labour within the EU and I will not weary your Lordships by rehearsing them.
Yet another problem is growing the economy by increasing the population when the infrastructure is fixed or is only growing slowly. I think in particular of commuter transport systems and housing. Since we cannot increase the capacity of either as fast as the population is increasing, it is not surprising that we have overcrowded trains and unaffordable house prices. So what is to be done?
Our EU partners are still in the phase of being cross and in denial. I am sure that the Government’s policy as laid out by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is absolutely the right one, with one exception, and in accordance with the mandate from the electorate. The policy of not invoking Article 50 at least until the autumn buys everyone time. However, if we cannot convince our EU staff in your Lordships’ House that they have nothing to worry about regarding their own position, then HMG must be guilty of unnecessary cruelty to all EU citizens working in the UK. This is a perfectly useless so-called bargaining chip. We should start with being generous where we can.
Although a bitter rearguard action in the UK is doomed to failure, there are some grounds for hope for the remain camp. When the EU elites get over being cross and in denial, perhaps they will do some hard thinking with a wet towel wrapped around their head. They might be able to come up with a totally new proposal for regulating the flow of labour from accession states to more fully developed states. They also need to find a way to deal with the democratic deficit, or at least to recognise the problem. I was very interested in the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, on that issue. If that could be done, with a new deal on migration coupled with a new and effective leader of the Labour Party, then something genuinely new could be offered to our electorate in a further referendum with a reasonable chance of it being accepted. But in the absence of this, the Government should carry on with their policy.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Earl and I hope to pick up on some of his points during my own remarks. I make no apologies for talking about the referendum campaign itself and sharing my own experience of it. This is not because I want to cry over spilt milk or wallow in despair but because there are lessons to be learned from this campaign for any future referendums that we may hold and for our democracy as a whole.
I canvassed and leafleted for remain in my home area of the north-east and spent that time between where I live in rural Northumberland and my old parliamentary patch of Gateshead. I also spoke at meetings throughout the area, from Tyneside to Teesside. Sadly, apart from the city of Newcastle upon Tyne those areas all voted leave in the referendum. In the course of the campaign, I certainly encountered some of the anger and alienation that others have described in this debate, as well as a great deal of confusion about some of the issues involved. While I accept the result I do not believe that it is wrong to be very concerned about the poor quality of the information disseminated throughout the campaign. I did not like some of the claims on the remain side, particularly what I felt were overprecise economic predictions, knowing how economic predictions can be swept away by unforeseen events. However, I have to say that many of the leave campaign claims were, at best, half-truths and, at worst, blatant lies.
The prize for the most misleading leaflet in the campaign must surely go to the rather innocent looking leave leaflet entitled, “Not sure which way to vote on the EU?”. This was a clever leaflet, with this opening question and its statement on the front that there were risks in voting either way, but when you opened it up it was revealed in its true colours, with its statement that Turkey is set to join the EU, with its 72 million people and borders with Syria and Iraq, and, of course, the claim about the £350 million a week being spent on health. Indeed, much to my sadness there was a quotation in the leaflet from my erstwhile honourable and good friend, Gisela Stuart:
“The rights we have won for British workers came from our Parliament, not the EU”.
This was a perfect example of a half-truth: to a certain extent it is true, in that Governments had agreed such legislation and such initiatives inside the European Union and given legislative effect to them in our own legal system. Indeed, that fact contradicts the myth that the Commission imposes such legislation on us without our participation. This half-truth, of course, also conveys, utterly falsely, that the EU was not interested in, and not a prime mover in, promoting the rights of people at work. This is an absolute travesty of the reality. Indeed, as a Member of the European Parliament from 1979 to 1989 I was involved on behalf of constituents in cases going to the European Court of Justice to ensure that we delivered to employees in practice the rights that we had agreed to and introduced through our own legislation.
Finally, this leaflet claimed that major employers such as Nissan, Airbus, Unilever and others had stated that they would stay in the UK whatever the result of the referendum and reproduced all the logos of these firms in the leaflet, giving the impression that they endorsed it. Not surprisingly, Nissan, for one, has begun legal proceedings against the leave campaign as a result.
Noble Lords may say that this was just one leaflet, but it was quoted to me several times on the doorstep, particularly the Nissan section, being in the north-east, and the section about Turkey’s membership. When I pointed out that all countries of the existing 28 members, big and small, have a veto on any new country’s application to join I was often looked at with varying degrees of incredulity. Like my noble friend Lord Cashman in his terrific speech yesterday, I did not recognise the description of European institutions or European decision-making portrayed by leave in the hysteria about faceless, dictatorial EU bureaucrats. I say to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, that European Commissioners attend the meetings of the European Parliament and are regularly questioned by them. Indeed, European Commissioners have been interviewed and questioned by committees of this House. The thought that they are faceless seems slightly odd. I have never thought of the former European Commissioners who sit in your Lordships’ House—the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, who is in his place, or my noble friends Lord Kinnock, Lord Mandelson, Lord Richard, or Lord Clinton-Davis—as either faceless or dictatorial. In fact, I would have liked their wise words and experience to have been given more publicity during this campaign.
The BBC, I am glad to say, had its EU Reality Check website, but many people conducting interviews during the course of the referendum campaign did not seem briefed on the facts and many wild allegations therefore went unchallenged. Surely, given that we knew the date of the referendum quite a few months in advance, media interviewers should have been better prepared and better briefed about the issues to raise.
Reference has been made to the petition with 4 million signatures calling for a second referendum, but another petition is interesting: it calls for truthful politics and the creation of an independent office to monitor political campaigns. This petition shows the frustration that so many people felt about the conduct of the campaign.
Finally, the most cheering political event for me recently was the election of Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London. I salute Londoners for voting remain in such numbers, but while I accept that London and the devolved authorities should be closely involved in negotiations, I also plead for those areas such as mine which voted leave not to be forgotten. It would be the cruellest of ironies if those who voted leave and were therefore on the winning side should lose out even further.
The Lord Privy Seal said that she and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, are in listening mode. Of course I welcome that, but we need not just to be listened to, we need answers, we need reassurances and we need to find a credible way forward in the interests of our country as a whole.
My Lords, I am happy to follow the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, and I recognise much of her campaign experience: it mirrors mine.
Today, I am not going to speak about trade or migration; many have spoken eloquently about the options that might be open to a new Government. I shall speak about Cornwall, where I live, and defence, on which I speak in your Lordships’ House. Like many noble Lords, I spent some time in the past few months on street stalls at weekends, talking to the residents of Cornwall. On polling day, along with a Conservative and a Labour Party member, I went out knocking up our remain vote. We did not delude ourselves. Despite having Objective 1 status, an agricultural area and fishing, the rhetoric of sovereignty—“We want our country back”—and immigration—“I’m not a racist, but …”—pointed very clearly to Cornwall voting to leave.
Let us be clear: Cornwall has benefited hugely from our membership of the EU, with funding for industry, such as the Davidstow creamery; education, the Combined Universities in Cornwall; infrastructure, fibre-optic broadband and the dualling of the A30; tourism and jobs, the Eden Project; the environment, green energy—all of which led to an improved economy, opportunities and growth.
However, of our five MPs, all Conservatives, four supported the leave campaign and only one remain. It is probably worth noting that those electors in the remain MP’s patch supported remain. The result was 57% to leave on a 77% turnout. In fact, the south-west as a whole supported leave, with a few notable exceptions. I had hoped that the rest of the UK would pull us along, but I was wrong.
But all this now seems long ago. During the campaign it was clear that few had thought of the UK belonging to any other international organisations from which we benefited—yet, on prompting, they would endorse our membership of the Commonwealth, the United Nations and especially NATO. Of course, these are not up for debate, but what is without debate is that our departure from the EU will have an impact on NATO. The meeting this weekend in Warsaw is bound to be affected by the result: Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General, has said as much. It is clear that our position within NATO is rock solid. Any negotiations with the EU are independent of NATO. However, NATO and the EU are working more closely now than ever before. The leaders of both organisations now as a matter of course attend each other’s summits. In future, we will have only one foot in this closer union.
Thanks to the joint working of NATO and the EU, we have enjoyed stability and peace in Europe for more than 70 years. Most recently we have worked together on cyber and hybrid warfare and on helping refugees in the Aegean Sea. We are equally important to our western-facing allies and to those sharing a border with Russia. Yet there is fear that our leaving will precipitate a rush to leave by other, less stable states, and that the extreme right will be in the ascendancy. I am sure that the Commission is concerned about the stability of the Union, and I would imagine that work is already in hand to look at areas of reform.
As other noble Lords said, one of the unknowns of the future is our economy. We have committed to spending 2% of our GDP on defence and have been encouraging other NATO members to do the same. Will 2% of a diminishing pot, however, give us enough to manage? We will now face on our own such currently shared tasks as patrols in the Mediterranean, protection of fisheries and management of our 200-mile exclusive economic zone. Our EEZ is just short of 300,000 square miles.
Historically we have contributed 20% to the total EU military expenditure. This will not be money saved, as, alone, we will still need to carry out the same functions that we shared. Our coast will need patrolling—and not just the Straits of Dover but elsewhere, where we know the unscrupulous trafficking of people and drugs takes place. Were he in his seat, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord West, would be calling for gunboats in the Channel—but he does make a serious point. The Royal Navy, as it is now, because we have had allies within the EU to work with on these issues, is not in the same place. The last SDSR contained a plan to look at lightweight, all-purpose ships for the future. That future may come sooner than we think.
Perhaps different circumstances, a smaller GDP and our own sovereign-state responsibilities will force the new Government to look again and draw up a new SDSR. The SDSR of 2015 was welcomed, but it looked to a future which now has changed. NATO commitments will remain, but will we remain the reliable allies of EU states, especially in the context of our close relationship with France?
What might change in a new SDSR? Would or could the Trident decision be amended or revisited? Perhaps I should remind noble Lords that, as yet, Parliament has not made a decision on this. The main-gate vote has not happened, and now I am not sure when it might be. Looming large now is the promise of a vote on Scottish independence. The SNP opposes Trident in an independent Scotland. So where will we keep our boats? Faslane is the current option—deep water, easy access to the Atlantic. Maybe we will need to talk to the Welsh.
In this debate, when we speak about negotiations, we have been thinking in terms of trade and labour mobility, but our defence and security and intelligence issues are key, too. As members, we are part of the common security and defence policy, a domain of the European Council. Our Prime Minister is our representative, and will be until we leave. But Brexit will mean that we lose our place in this forum, along with the loss of access to key EU institutions and EU foreign policy networks—and, of course, the international arrest warrant.
There is no denying that the world has become more dangerous in recent years. Let us hope that this decision does not have unknown consequences for the defence of our nation. Defence is a lot about hard power, but we have a reputation for the effective exercise of soft power, too. Over the past few years we have been in the top three countries in the world. We will need to exercise all that and more in the negotiations that follow.
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, because she mentioned something that has hardly been mentioned in this debate, which is NATO. I, too, want to say something about that at a later point.
Post-mortems are grim occasions at the best of times, but this post-mortem on the overturning by a relatively small majority of the policies which have guided 10 successive Governments during the past 55 years is about as grim as it could get. It is all the more so when one considers that the campaign which preceded the 23 June vote plumbed depths which public life in this country has not seen before, with the leave campaign relying on half-truths, untruths and straightforward bare-faced lies, the most notable being the claim that £350 million a week was sent to Brussels. Faced as they were with conclusive evidence not from the remain campaign but bodies such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies that their claim was simply untrue, with it being illustrated carefully how untrue it was, the leave campaigners demonstrated that they had picked up a lesson in the Middle East, where it is always said: “If you’re going to tell a lie, you’d better tell a big one, because then more people believe it”.
That we are now required to respect the outcome of that vote is a fact of life, but it in no way discredits the view that the vote represents a major strategic error of judgment. It merely illustrates the folly of submitting an issue of this complexity to a binary choice and the folly, too, I fear, of the Prime Minister playing Russian roulette with the basic foundations of Britain’s foreign policy.
The question we now face is what can be saved from this shipwreck. How best can we mitigate the negative consequences of this decision to withdraw from the European Union, negative consequences which have already, in the space of one week, moved from being that airily dismissed Project Fear to being a daily reality? In considering our options, I hope that we can discard the relatively trivial issue of when to trigger the provisions of Article 50 of the treaty, which is the only legal way of leaving the European Union and the only way that is consistent with our international obligations. It is reasonable enough to delay for the period necessary for a new Prime Minister to take office and a new Government to be formed and then to have the ability to look carefully into the policy choices before them, but to delay artificially beyond that could be, and probably would be, to turn that issue into a completely unnecessary bone of contention with our EU partners, who after all we will require to respond positively to the ideas we put to them when we get round to deciding what they are.
When the new Prime Minister and the new Government take office, probably in September, let us hope that they will then be put through a crash course by their Civil Service advisers on the fundamental differences between, on the one hand, continuing in the single market and, on the other, leaving it and either seeking to negotiate a free trade agreement or relying on the WTO. I hate to disillusion the noble Lord, Lord Desai, but if he thinks that rejoining the WTO is a negotiation-free option, he does not know that much about the WTO.
The superficiality in this distinction between the single market and a free trade arrangement is, frankly, pretty startling. We have heard so far some very slippery concepts, such as “access” to the single market, bandied around. The leave campaigners do not seem to understand what that means or does not mean. For example, they say that the Americans have access to the single market. Sure, they export to the single market, but why on earth are all those American banks stacked up in the City of London? They are there because they need to get a passport to operate and they need to be within the European Union to do that. They do not have access for their banks if they are sitting in New York. That is a simple fact. Let us take the Japanese car industry. The Japanese do not send very many cars to Europe; they make a lot of cars in Europe, and thank heavens they make a lot of them in Britain. They do that because it is a gateway for barrier-free, tariff-free, no-inspection-required access to this huge market of 500 million. That is why they have all the factories here. So please do not let us confuse these slippery phrases like “access” with the real thing, which is what you get if you are in the single market. The Government’s White Paper in February setting out the alternatives, which was given scant attention, explained fairly carefully how these different alternatives played out on our trade, and, clearly, remaining in the single market was the best of the bad lot—the best lot, of course, being to remain in the EU.
However, I suggest also that any external relationship that we may fashion with the EU must surely cover one or two other key areas of policy, in which I would identify foreign and security policy and our protection against international crime. The advantages of continuing to work as far as possible in lockstep with the EU in handling the major foreign policy challenges ahead of us—Islamic State, instability in the Middle East, the new assertiveness of Russia’s foreign policy, climate change or the pressures from migration—are obvious. However, securing that will require much dexterity and will need underpinning with new procedures and new institutional links which would be greatly helped if this weekend’s meeting in Warsaw leads to a much closer relationship between NATO and the EU, which I believe it is the intention that it should.
As for justice and home affairs, the whole network comprising Europol, Eurojust and the essential instruments such as the European arrest warrant, the European criminal information record system, the Schengen information system and the Prüm agreements—all that, and much more besides—is really important for us. As recently as 2014, only 18 months ago, huge majorities in both Houses confirmed that it was in our national interest to remain in all those areas. So this too would require to be built into any new relationship with the EU as an integral and properly smoothly functioning part of it.
I wish to say one word about the vexed issue of EU citizens in the UK. So far the Government’s response to that has caused more alarm and despondency than it has allayed. That is really sad because in so doing the Government have betrayed the main values that I think we all hold very dear. I ask the Minister simply to state clearly in winding up that the object the Government will pursue in this matter is to protect the acquired rights of EU citizens in this country. It would not take much to say that, and if she did then a lot of people would go away on holiday without the concerns that they have now.
Are the objectives that I have set out negotiable? That is impossible to say at this moment. Would their achievement reduce the gap between the benefits—
I am drawing to a close. Would their achievement reduce the gap between the benefits that we get from membership and those that we could get from them? We cannot tell that now. It is fruitless to try to answer those questions before negotiations have even started, or to speculate on what should be done if positive answers cannot be given to them. Suffice to say, if given the choice, I would not start this journey from here.
My Lords, it is customary in your Lordships’ House to say how pleased and honoured one is to follow the previous speaker. Of course it is true when the previous speaker is the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, whom I first met as a callow 37 year-old newly elected MEP when he was ambassador at UKREP and, frankly, I was pretty frightened of him. As the 113th and final Back-Bench speaker in this hugely wide-ranging two-day debate, I am sure that my pleasure is shared by the whole House.
I voted remain because I believed it was in the national interest. I do not regret it, but the world has moved on and in the knowledge that politics is the art of the possible we must strive to achieve the best for our country in changed circumstances. In doing that, we must be hard-headed, realistic, assume no favours and recognise that there is no such thing as British exceptionalism.
Our economic future was one of the main themes of the great debate. I am concerned by the apparent binary choice in front of us which I describe in shorthand as either the EFTA way or the WTO way. I believe neither is satisfactory. In going down the WTO way we voluntarily erect a tariff barrier between ourselves and our 500 million closest neighbours. However good we might be at business, it does not seem to be sensible. However, I am also concerned that if we simply tried to emulate the Asian tiger, our current political and economic structures are such that we may well end up inside her.
Looking down the other fork in the road, we should recall that it was the shortcomings of EFTA membership which led us to join the European Economic Community that was in the first place. In my experience of 10 years working on the legal affairs and the single market in the European Parliament, very scant regard was paid to EFTA’s concerns. Furthermore, it is my view that we would diminish not increase our sovereignty by losing real political input into the rules and governance of the single market. And of course, it is going to cost us. In this part of the great debate, we must not forget non-tariff barriers and their potential impact on trade. As Lord Cockfield appreciated when working out the template for the single market, they were crucial to a fair as opposed to a free market.
We all know that freedom of movement is a very pressing concern in this country. It is equally so to others in a different way. I recall a senior Polish figure explaining that freedom of movement was the quid pro quo for the right of other member states establishing businesses in his country. Put like that, it does not sound so unfair or so silly. It is an issue that does not lend itself to simple solutions based on slogans and we should not pretend it does.
The EU is not only about pure economics but also about our other national priorities, for example agriculture and especially our foreign and security interests. How are we going to deliver our aspirations and can we afford it? Then there is the coming generation who, as has already been mentioned, feel rightly or wrongly that their future has been stolen by a corrupted process. How do we keep faith with them?
During the campaign I used to comment, perhaps a trifle flippantly, that this is a civil war. I was probably closer to the truth than I thought. Some 17 million angry people voted to leave the EU and 16 million more are now equally angry that they did. It is a horrible predicament for the country to find itself in.
On top of all this is the matter of Britain. I fear for Scotland. I am a unionist, but if Scotland feels as it voted, constitutional niceties will not stand in the way of political turmoil. I fear for Ireland. As chair of the ad hoc Committee on Extradition Law I was entirely persuaded of the importance of the European arrest warrant in stabilising that part of the United Kingdom. We must not allow our home-grown version of Daesh, the IRA, to reopen its campaign of atrocities as a result of this. Perhaps most of all I fear for London, which seems to stand to lose more than elsewhere in the country. It is the nation’s paymaster, albeit we do not collect as much as perhaps I feel we should. My instinct tells me that this could turn into the biggest problem of all.
Furthermore, I believe we forget at our peril that the terms of leaving the European Union depend as much on them as they do on us. The 27 other member states have a veto. What the future will be is not under our control; we are merely in charge of our national wish list. To go forward successfully requires pragmatism allied with intelligence and flexibility and it will be fatal if everything is seen in terms of black or white.
Here at home we know that the two largest political parties are in turmoil over their leadership. My advice to them—if anybody is remotely interested—is the same for each. Leaders must lead, must lead in the national interest, and they must be wise. A failure on any of these counts, on either side, will make a difficult situation even harder. In addition, regardless of the constitutional niceties, if Parliament does not assert itself over the next steps in this story then, quite simply, what is the point of Parliament at all? We might as well strike our tents and go home.
The case for Brexit was the greater opportunities that lie ahead for us. Unless we seize them, the whole exercise will turn out to be pointless and very damaging, so we must work hard to make that happen. What that might involve, I quite simply do not know. However, we first need a plan, then a team to deliver that plan, and that team must be drawn more widely than from the Westminster and Whitehall bubble.
In conclusion, a couple of years or so ago I said in a debate in this House on a possible EU referendum that any fool can get divorced, but that dealing with the children and the financial consequences were the hard bits. Now we know.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, just pointed out that it is conventional to say how glad one is to follow the previous speaker. I am obviously delighted to follow the noble Lord and the previous 112 speakers. I realise that I am one of only two people keeping noble Lords from what they want to do, which is to listen to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, who, along with the Leader of the House, has been in listening mode for the last two days. I thank them very much for that and in particular for taking two days to listen to a set of arguments, many of which have sounded similar, and some of which have sounded similar to every Statement and set of questions we have had since last Monday, when we first responded to the decision taken on 23 June. I apologise in advance to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, because I will raise some of the issues again, particularly the situation for EU nationals resident in the United Kingdom.
We have had an extraordinary debate. We had excursions into the internal workings of the Conservative Party, when the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, asked why the chairman of his party had resigned and who he should speak to in Conservative Central Office. I am not sure whether the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, will be able to assist on that, but it was quite interesting to have the opportunity to find out what is going on in the Conservative Party and to realise that it has lost not only a leader but a chairman. Therefore the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, about leadership and leaders leading is hugely important; at the moment there is a question mark over that.
We had the question of whether we should trigger Article 50 as soon as possible or delay it and whether we want the lawyers to be involved. Mention has been made of divorce. Before the referendum happened I suggested that one of the things we know about divorce is that it tends to be costly and that the people who benefit are lawyers. Perhaps we do not want to hear too much from lawyers debating whether we should invoke Article 50, because hearing from courts rather than responding to the will of the people is probably not the correct way forward.
So far we have not heard anything that has brought unanimity as regards whether leavers or remainers—although we are now all one again—want to remain in the single market or have WTO terms. We have heard different views from both sides of the House on that, so there still seems to be huge uncertainty about where we want to go. Part of the debate seemed to be a replaying of the referendum itself. I listened to a fantastic speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws. It was passionate and made the case for remaining in the European Union. Why did we not hear people speaking like that on the remain side during the campaign? If you heard passion, vision and clarity in the debates before the referendum it was on the leave side, which had the advantage because it had passion. Britain Stronger in Europe, with its focus on the narrow economic aspects, missed an opportunity to win over the people of the United Kingdom. The campaign to remain let us all down because it focused on the narrow economic issues and did not allow the passion that many of us have to come through. Those of us who campaigned so long for remain were let down by a campaign that kept us very quiet indeed.
However, we have had the debate. There is no point in rerunning the referendum debate because we are not going to rerun the referendum. Certainly on these Benches, as for most Members across the House, there is a very clear sense that the decision taken on 23 June has to be accepted. We cannot call for a second referendum now. To do that would lead to, if anything, a much stronger vote to leave. It would certainly demonstrate that the political class is entirely out of touch with the voters and we should not go down that route.
One of the things that has also united many parts of the Chamber over the last 24 or 36 hours, and since Monday of last week, is the concern about blatant racism that has come out in various places. One of the things that was most poignant in the contributions from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and from my noble friends Lord Dholakia and Lady Manzoor as well as the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, is that we seem to have lost our country and we are hearing things that are not worthy of the United Kingdom. That has to change.
One of the pernicious things about the referendum was how it has divided society, and one of the most important things from the outcome of the referendum is finding a way to bring the United Kingdom back together. Whether we voted leave or remain, whether London or other metropolitan areas voted to remain, whether Scotland voted to remain while other areas voted to leave, we need to find a way of reconciling the country.
The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, got a little excited in his presentation while referring to the Home Secretary as wanting to unite her party, her country and getting the best for Britain and he said “No, no, no”. I do not care whether the Conservative Party is reunited. That is not my concern. I would like our country to be reunited and to be held together. However, the key thing from the referendum and the outcome has to be that the decisions that are taken informally and then formally when Article 50 is triggered are in the best interests of the United Kingdom and of every single man, woman and child in it, and not for the 17 million or the 16 million. That includes EU nationals resident in the United Kingdom. We have heard from right across the Chamber: the Bishops’ Benches; the Cross Benches; the noble Lords, Lord Lawson, Lord Lamont and Lord Howard; Members who were supporting leave; people who have supported remain. We are all united, as far as I can tell—with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, and the Home Secretary—in saying that UK nationals resident in the United Kingdom who were here on 23 June should have their rights respected. I know the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is going to have the line that says it is for the next Government and the next Prime Minister to decide. It is a decision for the Government. It is a decision that could be taken before any negotiations start. It is the morally right thing to do. Will the Government please think again?
Some things already reunite us. For most Members in your Lordships’ House and in the other place, there is an acceptance that the referendum has happened—the outcome is that the UK has decided it wishes to leave the European Union. We now need to find ways of reuniting our United Kingdom and ensuring that we do not find our way sleepwalking not just out of the European Union, but to a disunited kingdom. My noble friend Lord Bruce and the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, talked about Nicola Sturgeon and the role of the SNP. She has already been to Brussels; she has already talked to Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz. It is not in the interests of Scotland any more than it is in the interests of the United Kingdom for Scotland to try to have a separate deal with the 27. It is not possible and it will not happen.
As colleagues have said, it is worth looking at the statistics. There was a strong vote in Scotland to remain in the European Union, but fewer people in Scotland voted to remain in the European Union than voted for Better Together in September 2014. So there is not a strong mandate for Nicola Sturgeon to call another referendum, but to give the siren call to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom and remain in the European Union under our present terms is simply fantasy. We need to ensure that we do not move from the lies, the fear, the hyperbole and the hysteria of the Brexit referendum to more nonsense in Scotland. We need to find ways of holding the United Kingdom together and we need to work together in the national interest. The Liberal Democrat Benches are willing to work with the Government in the national interest but we need to think about the rights of everybody living here, including EU nationals.
My Lords, I thank all contributors to the debate. It has been an amazing and lengthy debate, and every speaker over the last two days has sought to better understand what happens following the people’s decision. Unfortunately, we heard little detail from the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal. It is not as though we did not have plenty of time to consider the issues or fair warning about the matters to consider. As the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, said, and as the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, reminded us, we have also had the excellent reports of your Lordships’ EU Committee, which not only focused on key issues arising from the Government’s negotiations but addressed the vital question of plan B in the event of a leave vote. Warnings were also given in the Government’s own paper, The Process for Withdrawing from the European Union, published in February. It stated that a referendum vote for Brexit would,
“begin a period of uncertainty, of unknown length and unpredictable outcome”.
My noble friend the shadow Leader of the House, in her contribution yesterday, expressed shock not only at how few answers the Government have but at how few questions appear to have been asked beforehand. The noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, pointed out:
“Whitehall departments were unprepared”,
apart from the Treasury,
“which had plans in place with the Bank of England to stabilise the markets”.—[Official Report, 5/7/16; col. 1963.]
Given all that, perhaps the Minister can explain why Ministries were expressly forbidden to draw up contingency plans for exit. Does she agree with the chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt, that the Prime Minister was guilty of a “dereliction of duty” for setting up a withdrawal unit only after the vote to leave the EU? Perhaps she will suggest to her colleague Oliver Letwin that reading your Lordships’ EU Committee reports should be his first priority.
The key question for the Minister to answer tonight is what oversight the UK Parliament will have over the negotiations on the withdrawal and the new relationship beyond existing ratification procedures. We have had extremely good contributions on this issue and I do not want to repeat them. There have also been some very pertinent questions, and I hope that we will get some clarity tonight. My noble friend the shadow Leader of the House asked whether the Government have considered new parliamentary structures, such as specialist committees—possibly a Joint Committee working on the detail of the negotiations and seeking advice from experts. These are options that we also need to consider, and I would be extremely interested to hear what consideration has been given to the role to be played by the EU committees in your Lordships’ House.
As many noble Lords have reflected in this debate, the referendum process has inevitably polarised politics in our country, with complex issues appearing to be resolved by one simple answer. Whatever our thoughts on people’s reasons for deciding the way they did, what is not in doubt is the final outcome, which must of course be honoured. The noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal said in her opening speech that the approach to future negotiations should be guided by the,
“principle of ensuring the best possible outcome for the British people”.—[Official Report, 5/7/16; col. 1850.]
I believe the people need to have a better sense of what that means.
The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury rightly focused on the need for a new vision—a “new vision for Britain” that tackles inequality and enables hope and reconciliation. I contrast that vision with that of the noble Lord, Lord Lawson of Blaby, who sees the decision as,
“a historic opportunity to make the United Kingdom the most dynamic and freest country in the whole of Europe—in a word, to finish the job that Margaret Thatcher started”.—[Official Report, 5/7/16; col. 1862.]
I wish the people had heard those remarks during the campaign.
The noble Lord, Lord Hague of Richmond, said in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph that the working time directive should be re-examined to make it more flexible. That directive, for the first time in Britain’s history, gave workers a statutory right to four weeks’ paid holiday, but it is now being brought into question.
A picture is emerging from the Conservative Party of a post-Brexit future that takes us back to the 1980s, when mining communities and steel and manufacturing towns were left devastated. If the people had heard those voices properly, I think we might have had a different result. My noble friend Lord Whitty said:
“The issues that people were really moved by were their employment prospects, their lack of access to public services and inequality in our nation”.—[Official Report, 5/7/16; col. 1880.]
If so, this Tory vision, if it materialises, will cause even more discontent with the political process. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely called it a “lament” about not having been heard for several generations. Those mining communities were left isolated, and several generations have been ignored by the political class. As he said, this was their opportunity to make us listen, after feeling excluded for so long.
The response to that cannot be to turn the clock back: that cannot be the answer. As the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, said, we need to rebuild trust by taking responsibility, leading with both vision and action to ensure that no one is left behind. I believe in a progressive vision that strengthens workers’ rights, puts jobs and sustainable growth at the heart of economic policy and halts the pressure to privatise public services. As my noble friend Lord Lea of Crondall said in his speech, that vision should protect the going rate for skilled workers, stop the undercutting of wages and direct funding to places where the pressures are greatest, such as the communities we have ignored for so long.
We cannot ignore the fact that, as my noble friend Lord Anderson of Swansea highlighted, the consequences are not just about our economic and social well-being. Whatever final arrangement is concluded, we need to focus on our vision for a continent where co-operation overcomes conflict. As a nation, we have a moral and practical interest in preventing conflict, stopping terrorism, supporting the poorest in the world and halting climate change. How we deliver on those after leaving the EU will be critical. Both my noble friend Lord Anderson and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, highlighted the issues and the means that must be addressed if we are to remain secure outside the European Union.
As we have heard in this debate, one of the most important aspects of the withdrawal negotiations will determine the acquired rights of the 2 million or so UK citizens living in other member states and, equally, EU citizens living in the United Kingdom. I have declared on many occasions that I am married. My husband is Spanish. As an option, we have always seen ourselves as citizens of the EU for the very good reason that we have family and homes in both countries. That is how we see ourselves. That option will no longer be open to us, not least because Spain does not recognise dual nationality. Friends have rung me recently. One is married to a French citizen living in London. They thought that they would resolve some of these issues by ensuring that they acquire French nationality. Another issue is causing anxiety in the LGBT community. In brief, the French consulate has advised that civil partnerships converted to marriages will not be recognised. It is advising people to dissolve and start again. It is saying that all civil marriage resulting from the conversion of a civil partnership, given its retroactive nature, cannot be transcribed on the French civil registers. Indeed, retroactivity is contrary to the fundamental principles of French law—I suspect a fundamental principle that will also apply in Spain.
That is not a new issue. Stonewall has been pushing the Government Equalities Office for months to answer it. The GEO assured Stonewall that it is in talks with embassies but has not given a formal answer. The reason I am raising this point is that, post-Brexit, we will have fewer grounds for negotiations than we do now. Please will the Minister give an assurance to the LGBT community about its future? I fear, as we have heard many noble Lords say, that putting in doubt the rights of EU citizens here will have the very opposite effect of protecting UK citizens in the EU—the complete opposite effect. There was a debate in the other place today and an overwhelming majority voted in support of recognising those rights. Please will the Minister give us the reassurance we seek, not only to protect the people living and working here who have done so for many years, but to ensure the security of our citizens abroad?
I conclude on one thing that relates to protection. We have heard about borders in Northern Ireland and the effect that they might have on the peace process. But that is not the only land border that British citizens have with the European Union. The other, of course, is with Gibraltar. I am very familiar with Gibraltar, and the Minister knows very well the anxieties of that community. It is all very well saying that we will ensure that its citizens’ rights and sovereignty are protected, but I worked in Gibraltar for many years when that border was closed. Let me assure the noble Baroness that what has kept that border open, and kept those citizens in work, has been membership of the European Union. I think they deserve to know, and this House deserves to know, what contingency plans the Government have made in the event of that border being closed again.
My Lords, this has been an extraordinary debate, in the best sense of the word, and one that befits one of the most significant democratic exercises in our history. It is the first occasion on which this House has had the opportunity to reflect at length on the implications of the decision by the electorate that the UK should leave the European Union. The tenor of the speeches around the House has displayed a range of emotions, from anger at the result from many, to delight at the result from some. We have heard passionate advocacy for particular future policies, thoughtfulness and some degree of optimism for the future.
This will not be the last opportunity for all of us to contribute our expertise to the consideration of the terms on which the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. I anticipate that we will benefit from the reports of our Select Committees, and that the usual channels will consider the matter of making time available for debates. But it does not stop there. Indeed, my noble friend the Leader of the House is already engaging actively with the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, to consider how best the EU committees of this House can play their part throughout. I welcome the fact that our European Union Select Committee hopes to publish its initial views before the Summer Recess, and has already taken evidence from my right honourable friends Oliver Letwin and David Lidington.
Hearing the opinions of all noble Lords and benefiting from their expertise are of great value to the Government. Over the past two days we have heard from 114 noble Lords. Unusually for me—I hope noble Lords will understand this—I will not do what I usually do. I do like to refer to every noble Lord by name—I am known for it—but I will not do that this time. I apologise, but I tried this out on my husband the other night. I read out the list of names, and I realised that, even without names as long as mine, it would take me nearly nine minutes just to say the names once, even without referring to the issues. So I offer my apologies. I might just break that rule at the very end of my speech, though, because I would like to refer to one particular matter that I heard about yesterday.
As the Leader said in opening the debate, she and I are here primarily to listen. That has been a tremendous privilege throughout these two days; thank you. I will seek to reflect on the key issues raised by noble Lords.
It is clear that the majority of the British people did vote to leave the European Union. Noble Lords from around the House have made the point, however, that we should never forget that just over 48% of people who cast their vote wanted us to remain a member. The priority must indeed be to make the decision work for everybody in the United Kingdom, whichever way they voted. The implementation of this decision will not be straightforward: we have already seen that there will be adjustments within our economy, and they have continued overnight. There are complex constitutional issues to consider, and there will be a challenging negotiation to undertake with Europe. However, our guiding principle throughout will be to ensure the best possible outcome for all British people.
With this in mind, I shall address first the process of implementing the decision. That is, of course, the matter of Article 50 and what it entails. There has been much debate over the last two days about the route by which the UK will leave the European Union. Several noble Lords expressed reservations about whether, indeed, we should leave. The Article 50 procedure is the only lawful route by which the UK can leave the EU. Our own European Union Committee’s report on the process of withdrawing from the EU, published on 4 May, made clear:
“If a Member State decides to withdraw from the EU, the process described in Article 50 is the only way of doing so consistent with EU and international law”.
My right honourable friend David Cameron has made it clear that it is for the next Prime Minister to decide when to trigger Article 50 and start the formal and legal process of leaving the EU. This was clearly understood and respected by the most recent European Council. A considerable part of this debate has understandably focused on the role of Parliament in the Article 50 process, and I was pleased to hear all contributions on this matter.
In law, Article 50 explicitly recognises that a member state may decide to withdraw in accordance with its own constitutional requirements, so it is for the member state concerned to determine what those constitutional requirements are. In the UK there is no legal obligation to consult Parliament. In law—I emphasise that—the Government alone can trigger the Article 50 process under their inherent prerogative power to conduct foreign affairs, which includes the power to withdraw from a treaty or international organisations. But, as the Prime Minister said, we now have to look at all the detailed arrangements and Parliament will clearly have a role in that, making sure that we find the best way forward. I realise that Parliament will have a variety of views, just as we have heard a variety of views over these two days. It is that richness from noble Lords that we need to hear.
Some have argued that there should be an Order in Council or an Act of Parliament before withdrawal from the EU takes place. Noble Lords have indicated that there may be legal challenges on these matters. If that does happen and there are legal challenges, I will not be able to comment on those specific events but we can talk later in other debates about the general range of powers that are around. It is important to note that the Prime Minister has recognised that Parliament will have—does have—a role. The views expressed by Members of both Houses provide important advice to the Government, and the Government listen.
Further debate is focused on the timing of an application to trigger the Article 50 process. Some noble Lords wish to hurry; others have followed the advice of one of my noble friends who said, “Bad certainty now doesn’t trump good certainty later”. This is indeed a time for calm reflection and preparation of a cogent application for an exit which benefits us all. By “us all”, of course, I include all those who live within the United Kingdom, whatever their nationality. I will come to that later, but it always occurs to me that if we do not treat those who live here well, they cannot contribute to our economy, so it is in our interests to consider that they are a benefit, too.
There has been debate about the timing of the repeal of the European Communities Act. I would say that that is the end of the process, not the beginning, but I note an interesting suggestion that the Bill of repeal should be introduced early, with what I would call a sunrise clause to deliver a delayed implementation date, which I believe my noble friend mentioned.
Considerable reference has been made to the issue of a second referendum. I will say that tomorrow we have a Question for Short Debate on this matter, too. In theory there could be a second referendum. However, from the word go the Prime Minister made it absolutely clear that there should not be a second referendum because that would break faith with a decision made by the public on 23 June. He has always made it clear that the referendum would be a once-in-a-generation decision. Noble Lords from all Benches have also made the point that holding a second referendum would prolong the argument and prevent that healing process which this country needs, and which noble Lords have recognised the country needs.
So what happens to European Union business and the UK over the next two years, or however long it takes to negotiate our exit from the EU? Once Article 50 is invoked, we will remain bound by EU law until the withdrawal agreement itself comes into force. The period between the invocation of Article 50 and our eventual exit from the EU is indeed up to two years—unless, of course, other member states agree to extend it.
Questions have been asked about what will happen to the UK’s participation in EU business in that period. I was asked specifically about the matter of regulation-making, and particular reference was made by two noble Lords to the agri-food sector and the need for transitional provisions. Clearly, the EU will continue to function and make progress with its legislative agenda, but it is important to note, too, that EU directives usually have quite a long time delay before they come into effect. So the question in the mind of noble Lords is, I think, whether the UK can block legislation during our negotiating period. The only way that we could do that with certainty is if we are able to exercise a veto. We could ask for specific legislation to exclude the UK, but this would generally be subject to qualified majority voting in the Council and would require other member states to vote with us.
I was asked that the Government do all in their power to ensure that the voice and expertise of the Civil Aviation Authority should not be wasted when we withdraw from the EU. I think that this is a detailed example of just the kind of important issue that will need to be addressed during our renegotiation. I was asked why there was no plan B and why we did not create a Brexit unit before. I say gently to noble Lords that we have been round that particular house many times before in our debates, particularly when we were debating the passage of the referendum Act through this House. It was made clear by the Prime Minister that, in setting out his view as to why it was right to accept the renegotiated deal that he had with the other 27 states, it was right to put a positive case to the public and not to say, “I think I am going to lose and, therefore, we will arrange the alternative”. We always said that it was for those who wanted to leave the European Union to say what the alternative was.
But we have clearly acted very quickly indeed. A new unit is already being set up in Whitehall, as of last week, bringing together officials and policy expertise not only from across the Cabinet Office, Treasury, Foreign Office and BIS, but—I can confirm to noble Lords who asked about this—from other spheres as well. I also absolutely agree that there is invaluable expertise in this House upon which we will need to call. The unit is based in the Cabinet Office and will report to the Cabinet on delivering the outcome of the referendum. It will advise on transitional issues and objectively explore options for our future relationship with Europe—and with the rest of the world, from our new position outside the EU. Questions were asked, quite rightly, about what legislation will be required to guarantee those rights and responsibilities flowing from EU law which the UK wants to retain—and there will be many. I expect the unit to play a crucial part in assisting government departments to rapidly identify such legislation as is required and how it may be put into practice.
It was absolutely right that a House of this nature should ask detailed questions about what happens to the areas outside London—and indeed in London, too—and I understand the concerns about the devolved Administrations and others. As we prepare for a negotiation on our new relationship with the EU, we need to ensure that we look to preserve—and advance—the interests of all parts of the United Kingdom. I can give assurance that the British Government will fully involve the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments, as well as the Government of Gibraltar, in this process. We will also consult the Crown dependencies, the overseas territories and all regional centres of power, including the London Assembly, to ensure that all their interests are taken properly into account. Indeed, the Prime Minister has spoken to the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales, as well as to the First and Deputy First Ministers in Northern Ireland, and to the Taoiseach. Officials will work intensively together during the coming weeks to bring our devolved Administrations into the process for determining the decisions that need to be taken. I have to say again—I know it will irritate noble Lords but I hope not to have to say it too much more—that, while all the key decisions will have to await the arrival of the new Prime Minister, there is a lot of work we can do right now.
Concern has been expressed about the impact on Scotland. I can give the House an assurance that the Prime Minister remains of the view that there should not be a second Scottish referendum. Less than two years ago, the people of Scotland voted clearly to remain part of the UK. That vote was conducted in the context of a clear manifesto commitment by the Prime Minister to hold a UK-wide, in/out referendum on our membership, so it was already known about then. The reasons for Scotland to be in the UK are as strong now as they were 18 months ago.
Proper concern was expressed, of course, about the position of Northern Ireland. All political parties in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government share a vision of peace and prosperity for Northern Ireland. The EU referendum result does not and should not change that. It will not change that. The Taoiseach has been very clear that he wants to minimise any possible disruption to the flow of people, goods and services between Northern Ireland and the Republic. In that context, the British and Irish Governments have already met to discuss the challenges relating to the common border area. Our relationship is special and it will remain so.
I have heard very strong and passionate feelings expressed around the House with regard to the issue of what happens to UK citizens within the EU and to EU citizens here in the UK. I have heard the strong feeling expressed that the Government should give an immediate, absolute assurance that all EU citizens legally in the UK should be allowed to remain indefinitely and work or study here. While I am not quite in the position to be able to create new policy at the Dispatch Box, I can give some helpful indications. The Government value highly the contribution made by EU nationals to our daily lives. As I said earlier this week, I deplore the fact that, during the referendum campaign—and subsequently—there have been reported increases in hate crimes against our EU friends.
I was asked whether the Home Office is going to publish its action plan on tackling hate crime. Although a date has not actually been confirmed yet, it will be published shortly. As my noble friend Lord Ahmad made clear on Monday in a Statement to the House, the position of EU nationals remains unchanged during the process of applying to leave the EU.
Earlier today, there was a debate in another place, to which noble Lords have already referred. During that debate, my right honourable friend James Brokenshire made clear to the House of Commons that the Government,
“want to be able to guarantee the legal status of EU nationals who are living in the UK”.
He said that he was confident—and so, therefore, am I confident—
“that we will be able to do just that. We must also win the same rights for British nationals living in European countries and it will be an early objective for the Government to achieve those things together”.
He then went on to say:
“I am confident that we will be able to work to secure and guarantee the legal status of EU nationals living here in conjunction with the rights of British citizens”.
As has been said, it is important that we consider everybody who believes that they have acquired rights and we need to work from there.
The Minister for Europe and the Foreign Secretary have been holding—
I am sure my noble friend understands that, by talking about this guarantee in the future, she has done little to allay the real anxieties which hang over the heads of millions of people from the European Union who are lawfully in this country now. This is a guarantee that could—and should—be given now and it does not take the matter further to suggest that it can be given at some time in the future.
My Lords, as I said, I do not think that I am in a position to invent new policy at the Dispatch Box. I have listened very carefully to the views of the House, and those views will be taken very strongly into account—as every single view about every part of this debate will be taken into account by the Government. This House has had an opportunity, which another place has not yet had, to spend two days debating these matters in detail. The value of this has been that we have been able to go into details that another place has not. It is important that we consider the position of all. That includes UK citizens who are within the EU. I can give an assurance—I was asked a specific question on this—that it also covers UK citizens who work in the EU institutions. It is true that acquired rights are a difficult matter; what I have given today is an assurance, made in another place by James Brokenshire, which I believe should be able to deliver the right result.
Noble Lords referred to the impact of the referendum result on the economy. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor have been clear that Britain’s economy is fundamentally strong. As a result of the Government’s long-term plan, ours is one of the strongest major advanced economies in the world. We are well placed to face the challenges ahead. We have low, stable inflation; the budget deficit is down from 11% of national income and is forecast to be below 3% this year; the financial system is also substantially more resilient than it was six years ago. It is true that the markets may not have been expecting the referendum result but, as the Chancellor set out on 27 June, the Treasury, the Bank of England and our other financial authorities have spent the last few months putting in place robust contingency plans to maintain financial stability—and they will not hesitate to take further measures if required.
It is important that we make the most of our great ability as a trading nation to be even more entrepreneurial than in the past. The Prime Minister has made it clear that the UK will remain a member of the single market during the period of renegotiation. There will be no immediate change in the way that our goods can move, nor in the way that our services can be sold. Britain is and always will be open for business. We are indeed a special country—a great trading nation. The Government’s ambition remains that Britain should be the best and easiest place in the world to do business, and a global trading partner.
There has been considerable disagreement around the House about the precise relationship which the UK should or should not have with the single market. We have had a great opportunity to hear some of the plans that could be put forward to have almost a single market-light or single market-heavy. There is a lot on which we need to reflect from these debates, which have also reflected the extent of disagreement about what our approach to free movement might be after we have negotiated the exit. What should be part of that agreement? I have listened carefully to all those diverse views, which will all contribute great value to the development of the work on policy from now on.
This House has excelled in the work that it has carried out in the international field. Our withdrawal from the EU will be the biggest institutional change that this country has undergone in a generation—but not everything has changed. The United Kingdom remains a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the second largest contributor to NATO and a member of the G7, the G20 and the Commonwealth. We must not forget the Commonwealth’s role in preventing and helping to resolve conflicts. We remain fully engaged and prominent on the world stage, projecting our values, protecting our security and promoting our prosperity, with the strongest economic links with our European neighbours, as well as with our close friends in North America and the Commonwealth, and important partners such as India and China.
We live in a truly great country. We will continue to thrive and prosper, whatever the nature of our relationship with the EU and whatever challenges lie ahead. In tackling those challenges we must have one guiding principle in mind: to ensure the best outcome for all those who live in these great islands of ours.
I referred earlier to the thoughtfulness that has threaded its way through our debate. Peers have rightly advised that we should all find new ways of living well together. I shall break my rule about not referring to particular noble Lords: I must, I feel, refer at the end to the words of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday. He said:
“We need a deep renewal of our values in this country. We need a renewal of a commitment to the common good and of solidarity. We need a sense of generosity, hospitality and gratuity, of the overflowing of the riches and flourishing that we possess, not only into our society but across the world”.—[Official Report, 5/7/16; col. 1860.]
I agree. That is the way forward. I beg to move.
House adjourned at 10.16 pm.