Lords speeches against the Future Relationships Bill (part 4)

Here are the last group of excerpts from Liberal Democrat interventions during the debate on the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill…

Tim Clement-Jones

We have been assured by Ministers countless times of the value they place on the arts, but they have now abandoned one of our most successful sectors, already heavily battered by Covid lockdowns, to its own devices. The noble Baronesses, Lady Bull and Lady Bakewell, are absolutely right. In the trade and co-operation agreement, our hugely successful audio-visual sector is specifically excluded. They represent 30% of all Toggle showing location of Column 1881channels in the EU, but if they are not to be subject to the regulators of every single country, they will need to establish a new hub in a member state.

We can look in vain for anything that helps our touring artists, particularly musicians, actors and sports professionals, with the ending of freedom of movement for UK citizens. From January, when freedom of movement ends, anyone from the UK seeking to perform in an EU country will need to apply for a costly visa for that country, carnets for their musical instruments and necessary CITES permits, and even, perhaps, provide proof of savings and a certificate of sponsorship from an event organiser. No wonder a petition seeking the UK Government to negotiate an EU-wide touring work permit and a carnet exception has gained over 200,000 signatures in record time, and no wonder UK Music and the ISM have expressed their dismay.

Judith Jolly

We import around 80% of the medical radioisotopes we use, most coming from the Netherlands, Belgium and France, and it will be critical that their transit is smooth and without delays, or we will not get what we pay for. These cannot be stockpiled, and as soon as they are produced they begin to decay. The longer the delay in transit, the smaller the dose of useful isotope that remains. These amendments are good for our health.

Less positively, I regret that in the Bill there is no mention of mutual professional recognition of qualifications. Will the Minister outline how this will now function, or is the idea now defunct? The EU’s policy of freedom of movement and mutual recognition of professional qualifications within the EU meant that British health workers could work across the EU, and many health and social care professionals currently working in the UK come from other EU countries. This includes 55,000 of the NHS’s 1.3 million workforce and 80,000 of the 1.3 million workers in the adult social care sector. These will not be easy to replace. A recent rough estimate of the current shortfall of nurses across all disciplines in England is 43,000. Now, EU nurses are feeling unwelcome and the number leaving the NHS to return home has grown. Are EU nationals working in our health and care sector still welcome? The Home Secretary is on record saying that we should be reliant on British staff.

Ian Wrigglesworth

Yet here we are, facing a Bill that will not have proper scrutiny and gives businesses no time for preparation. It will increase the number of forms that have to be filled in by in excess of 200 million. It will cost businesses anything up to £15 billion. As my noble friend Lady Randerson pointed out, it will require at least 50,000 additional customs officers, along with thousands of additional public servants in government departments and quangos.Toggle showing location of Column 1888

This is a bonfire not of red tape, but of business, and it presents an uncertain future for financial services. It is a perverse and retrograde step by a Conservative Party captured by an ideological, anti-European group, fuelled by populist, xenophobic nationalism. As the Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast, this bonfire of business will directly lead to a fall in GDP and to us being poorer, particularly those at the bottom of the pile.

John Shipley

In today’s debate, we have heard a lot about sovereignty. The Government have prioritised sovereignty over the benefits of frictionless trade but by “sovereignty” they have meant the sovereignty of the UK Government, not that of the nations of the UK or of individuals, and there are consequences of that approach.

First, as demand rises in Scotland for independence, this Bill represents another step towards the break-up of the UK, as many in Scotland seek their own sovereignty rather than being constrained by UK sovereignty, having voted to stay in the EU. Several speakers have recognised the dangers, but there has been a more constant assumption that sovereignty relates only to the UK level—that is a dangerous assumption.

Further, this Bill represents a clear loss of sovereignty for individual UK citizens. For example, UK citizens working in the EU will in future be able to travel visa-free within the EU only for 90 days in a six-month period. A work visa will now automatically be needed for a UK citizen selling goods or services in an EU country. Surely we need easier travel arrangements for those working. In addition, there should be visa-free cultural work passports to cover the whole of the EU in one document.

John Sharkey

The Bill also contains the mother of all Henry VIII powers in Clause 29. This gives Ministers carte blanche to amend laws without going anywhere near Parliament. The time given to parliamentary scrutiny of this Bill is effectively zero. We could easily have extended the transition period to allow proper consideration. Choosing not to do this was a deliberate political decision to bypass Parliament.

The Hansard Society, of which I am a former chair, published a note on the Bill this morning. It describes Parliament’s role in scrutinising the Bill and the TCA as a “farce”. It concludes that:

“Parliament’s role around the end of the Brexit transition and conclusion of the EU future relationship treaty is a constitutional failure to properly scrutinise the executive and the law.”

This matters not just because the devil is in the detail, as always; it matters because this bypassing of Parliament is directly contrary to the professed aim of Brexit to take back control of our laws—for laws to be determined by the UK Parliament.

We wrap up later this evening with a rousing summation from Sarah Ludford, so do look out for that…

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