Lords speeches against the Future Relationships Bill (part 3)

This morning, we bring you the third tranche of excerpts from Liberal Democrat speeches against the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill in the Lords…

Jenny Randerson

The automotive industry is also at the sharp end. Today’s vehicles comprise parts from many countries. Although there are some useful provisions on rules of origin, it will still require additional paperwork and data gathering, and that means additional costs. The timescale is hopelessly short; the industry believes that a phase-in period is critical, but we are not getting that. Of course, businesses are not ready.

There are huge uncertainties built into this deal, because it is based on today’s standards, and standards change, particularly in vehicle manufacture and aviation, as technology advances. Each change needs a complex approval process, with potential penalties. Of course, this is just a framework deal, subject to endless reviews and supplementary agreements.

For all these reasons, and many more, I will vote against this tonight, because I will not vote to lose my voice on so many rules that will govern my life. I will not vote to reduce the rights for young people to study and travel abroad. I will not vote for more bureaucracy. I will not vote for job losses in the auto industry, aviation and haulage. I will not condone lower environmental standards, and I will not condone this charade of scrutiny. Be in no doubt: this Tory Government must bear responsibility for what follows. This is not getting Brexit done — it is just the beginning.

Malcolm Bruce

The warning relates to the impact of this deal on Scotland, and it is aimed both at the Government and people of the UK and at the Government and people of Scotland. It is becoming too glib and too easy to remark airily that Scotland is on course for independence and to assume that negotiating Scexit — Scotland’s exit from the UK – will be quick and easy compared with Brexit. We have heard that before. The institutions that we share are not peripheral; they are the arteries of our society. Similarly, the assumption that Scotland will achieve a rapid and seamless transition to membership of the EU, regardless of the lack of a central bank or currency and with debt several times the permitted threshold, is simply unreal. More to the point, erecting a border with the rest of the UK before any agreement can be reached with the EU should give anyone pause for thought.

Of course, the devolved Administrations should be treated with more respect, just as the reality of the benefits that we share across the UK should be valued more. The nightmare of the last few years, topped off with Covid, should surely teach us the value of togetherness, however strained relations become. If we do not learn from this, we face a future of endless debilitating division and argument as we decline in influence. If we can learn and find a more constructive way of engaging with each other, we might — just might — begin to see the glimmerings of a brighter future. I do hope so.

John Alderdice

Supporters of the European project emphasise the transnational commonalities of European culture, and I share that perspective, but many people identify more with the culture of their own historic national community. They are prepared to sacrifice economic and social well-being to protect it when they feel it is under threat; that is much of what Brexit is about. Immigration, for example, is felt by people like that to be changing the culture of their communities more quickly than they can accommodate. Within the EU, constant effort is required to contain the historic cultural and religious differences between the north and the south, and the east and the west. Those who promoted Brexit, like those who are trying to undermine the European project from within and without, have released powerful nationalist forces that will not be put to bed by Brexit.

The complaints that the Prime Minister laid against the EU and his solution of taking back control are now being turned against him from within the United Kingdom. The Scots, the Welsh and the Northern Irish did not want to take back control from Brussels in order to hand it to London. That is why he is having such a problem with the passage of legislative consent Motions. Mr Johnson may see himself as the British Prime Minister and wrap himself in the union flag, but in Edinburgh and Belfast, and even in Cardiff, he is increasingly seen as an English Prime Minister.

Dick Taverne

My Lords, when Chamberlain came back from Berchtesgaden with a piece of paper proclaiming “peace in our time”, he was greeted with almost universal acclaim. When Johnson came back from Brussels with his free trade agreement, he was greeted with adulatory praise from most of the Conservative press and his party. It was, he announced, the realisation of the claims made for Brexit in the referendum and in the last Conservative manifesto. Well, will it really be the journey into the sunlit uplands? Not according to the vast majority of economists, for reasons powerfully argued in this debate by several speakers. I believe that Johnson’s Panglossian optimism will prove no more justified than Chamberlain’s belief in “peace in our time”.

We will probably continue to wallow in nostalgic complacency: “We are the best, especially when we are fighting alone”, “We won the war”, “We have a special relationship with the United States and the Commonwealth — who needs the Europeans?” As a result, we are likely to fall behind our European colleagues in economic growth; we already have the lowest productivity of any advanced European country. The great deal that Johnson has will be no help to our services industry, which makes up 80% of our wealth. There is great uncertainty among manufacturers about the new bureaucratic delays at borders. In addition, we may well find that Johnson has created an irresistible desire for independence in Scotland, which wishes to remain part of the EU, and may set Northern Ireland on the path to a referendum for a united Ireland. Part of Johnson’s legacy could well mean the end of the United Kingdom, leaving us as a relatively small, chauvinistic and isolated country with very little influence in an increasingly hostile world. Is that really what Brexiteers voted for?

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3 Comments

  • Automotove and aviation standards are set at the global WTO level, not by the EU. The EU mere badges them as EU standards for internal dissemination within the bloc.

    The UK now has a seat at the WTO table, alongside the EU representative, where these standards are agreed.

  • Nigel Jones 1st Jan '21 - 2:52pm

    John Alderdice:”many people identify more with the culture of their historic national community” gets close to the feelings of most Brexiteers. In reality it is of course about how much people feel British or English compared to European. The pro-European cause has not been helped by prominent people in the EU who have tried to push the idea of European integration too far and too fast even for people in other European countries, let alone Britain. The Editor-at-large At Bild in Germany wrote an article for the Daily Mail on Wednesday praising what Boris has achieved; he criticises the EU as an organisation, especially the trend to “centralise the EU to such an extent that not only separate national governments, but even the nations themselves will become a thing of the past in all practical and legal senses.” This may not happen and the approach towards it is grossly exaggerated, but the fear of it is so strong in a significant number of people that it undermines any message about closer cooperation within Europe.
    The other part of this feeling is that we can be influential as a completely separate nation; Sir Iain Duncan Smith talked yesterday about young people now looking forward to a great future with Britain dominating the world. That is nonsense but large numbers of people like to believe that we can be great (whatever that means) on our own.
    We Lib-Dems need to remember this, in order to persuade people otherwise and prevent a further drive to selfish narrowminded nationalism.

  • Nigel, the EU has tried for decades to get rid of the concept of nation state while promoting the EU as the country to which we should show alleciance. Remember when the plan was to break up the uk into regions with the regions joined with bits of Europe?This policy has never shown any success despite the EU spending billions on it. The EU is tolerated rather than loved. It meets a number of needs, particularly for the many smaller nations but the nation state is always regarded as being the important ally.

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