28th June 2017 – Contribution by Lord Waverley
My Lords, my remarks this evening will be general in nature, not solution-driven. I look forward to contributing to each of the upcoming Brexit Bills.
I hope that the Government are in listening mode. I sense a degree of consensus building in the air this afternoon. This is in the national interest and that of the Government. Time will tell whether the architects of the referendum campaign were cavalier with the future of this country. Time will tell whether four decades of real engagement with the European Union was vitally in our country’s interest, and on balance whether a future as a central player in a resurgent Union would have suited our purposes. Political expediency has driven this referendum process and brought us to where we are today. The electorate have now determined an altered play following the election, with those architects who advocated to leave possibly being consigned to the political wilderness if the Brexit negotiations go wrong. Let us hope that we do not arrive at that outcome.
As a 30-year resident on the continent, I have to date been particularly mindful of the referendum result, recognising what appeared to be the inevitable. The inconclusive election, however, has removed those constraints in my mind. And, not for the first time, this House of unelected Peers must defend the best interests of democracy, decency and common sense—all things that large swathes of people in this country are praying will prevail. I am concerned that some who advocate a global vision are in fact narrow in their international visionary outlook. When those same people look to the past as evidence of the United Kingdom’s ability to see this through, they do not take sufficiently into account that we have moved on as a nation, just as I am concerned that the Commonwealth—which many deem to be our saving grace, particularly in trading issues—also has moved on, with multivector strategies. Understanding and being at the cutting edge of tomorrow’s supply-chain world is key to where our future lies and where we should target.
I will not be arguing on internal market or customs union issues, or the question of fisheries and so on this evening, but will observe extremely closely henceforth how things progress, recognising that the result of two years’ negotiation will need to be looked at as a whole, from the perspective of the national interest. The art of successful negotiation that will stand the test of time is to show that the end result is a balanced, positive outcome for both sides. Now is the time to focus on an approach to our continental partners that addresses their needs as well as those of the United Kingdom, and to build political consensus, knowing that the test of true leadership is the need on occasion to tell people what they do not want to hear.
Our media have entrenched positions, as do the continental press. They make for disturbing and disparaging reading. We are from all accounts facing an identity crisis; we have lost the reputation of being pragmatic and rational; the best we can hope for is the least possible economic disadvantage; and the British citizenry are depicted as victims. Monsieur Barnier was reported in an article last Saturday as saying that he needs the UK to set out its plans more clearly, as he cannot negotiate with himself. The director-general of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn, yesterday called for,
“action, clarity, leadership and a plan”.
In addition, it is alarming to witness the apparent disarray in Cabinet. We must not play poker with our great country.
We must address an underlying tragedy we face as a nation, caused not solely by Brexit. Our country feels more divided and under greater stress than for many a year. We have to find ways to overcome this division and bring people together. We must move on from the negativity of the party-political dogfight. I therefore join with others in encouraging the Government to consider appointing an independent, cross-party commission to advise Parliament and the electorate as to whether what has been negotiated is working, and has worked. There are plenty of wise people who would take on that responsibility with a sense of dignity and purpose. Managed correctly, it could act as a healing process to the turmoil we face internally as a nation over the referendum process. If so, it should be set up quickly and run in parallel with the negotiations, reporting as soon as possible and regularly.
Nobody can predict the outcome of exiting the European Union. I live in hope and expectation, however, that political masters can turn this around. Senhor Carlos, my regular taxi driver from São Brás, Portugal, rightly states, “The European Union needs the United Kingdom as much as the United Kingdom needs the European Union”. That is a good starting point for negotiations to begin.
Link to full contribution: http://bit.ly/2wdWoS0