Brexit

Motion to Take Note: International Trade Opportunities

7th July 2016 – Contribution by Lord Waverley 

Lords, I remember well sitting on the peripheries of a highly successful trade mission to Kazakhstan led by the noble Lord, Lord Green, and it is a pleasure to follow him today. The noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, should be thanked for moving your Lordships’ House on to arguably the single most important subject beyond that of the referendum.

Much was made during the referendum debate of what would, and needs to, accrue from exporting globally. On the United Kingdom’s standing in the world, the Prime Minster informed us that we are the fifth-largest economy—although, expressed in dollar terms, we have already, I believe, slipped to sixth or seventh. We are members of the Commonwealth, but even many of our friends there have entered into their own regional arrangements. These were all cited as illustrations as to why we need not be concerned for the future. Comments ranged from those of some, who took the view that we do not need to be a member of the single market, to those of others advocating that the European Union needs our market as much as we need it, which then comes back to that all-important question of access—or not—to the single market and on what terms.

While I have listened with great care to all the positive messages today, I believe that we are afforded a few moments for a reality check, all put forward in the spirit of helpfulness. On 1 July—I am following the example of the noble Lord, Lord Patten—there were 180,734 public procurement opportunities in the 27 member states where United Kingdom commercial interests could tender freely and equally due to our membership of the European Union. In the UK, there were 12,271 public procurement opportunities where entities from member states could tender freely and equally. While it can be generally expected that all is well for those tenders that have been approved, what of those upcoming tenders for which UK interests wish to be considered? For how long will it be the case that unfettered access remains? Will it be for the two-year negotiation period, or will we be disadvantaged from the time Article 50 is triggered?

Global opportunities and the environment in which UK commercial interests can thrive become imperative. In years gone by, it was often said that the world is our oyster. Certainly, the UK has many comparative advantages, but that environment is fast-changing. Increased competition comes from countries such as India, China and South Korea, with France wishing to protect its interests in the francophone area, and the multivector policies adopted by many countries, particularly those that are strategically placed. However, what gives me equal cause for concern is that the new world countries, where many of the opportunities previously existed for the United Kingdom, are starting to play the game by their own rules.

As an example, some time back I was requested by the national oil and gas state entity in Kazakhstan, KazMunaiGas, to negotiate with the three largest foreign oil and gas operators to recognise that procurement policy was not expected to pay scant regard to national goods, works and services capabilities. From these aspirations, I was able to create a memorandum that is known as the Aktau Declaration on Joint Actions, which was signed up to by all the operators concerned. This was in line with the desire to ensure,

“opportunities for the companies and citizens of Kazakhstan to benefit directly from oil and gas projects as part of a strategy to develop an indigenous capability in the sector … creating an appropriate environment and attracting joint ventures with technology transfer by companies in the global oil and gas supply”—

in other words, a stringent local-content programme. These activities become more dire with the low oil price and the little-known consequences of a low oil price that is holding back investment in capital projects.

The point of all this is that the rules of the game have changed and are changing. Partnerships and joint ventures with local employment will become increasingly mandatory. I cannot underline enough that what these countries expect is genuine partnership. The illustration I am offering noble Lords is being increasingly adopted by many around the world. I think particularly of Tanzania, where the president, or his Government, has signed up with the appropriate foreign entities.

Yesterday afternoon, I sent an email to 50 or so chambers of commerce around the UK and a trade mission organiser to inform them of today’s debate, requesting that if they had any points of specific concern that required being flagged to kindly let me know. I am most grateful to the large number who responded by return. A range of important issues emerged. The difficulty I now find myself in, with regret, is that those issues were far-ranging and far too numerous to do them justice—even a snapshot, with calls to action—and to be able to place on record today all the many concerns and challenges expressed. To be exact, I received 15 pages of condensed type of useful suggestions. There is no possibility of my doing justice to all that I have received.

However, the examples include the need to accommodate business visas with easier-to-obtain visas. For example, Dubai is now taking over as the meeting place of choice for not only nearby states but also west Africa. Our friends in west Africa prefer to go to Dubai instead of coming to London Heathrow or Gatwick, as they have done historically. The fast-track trade agreement with India was noted by a number of people, and clarity on a timetable for exit from the EU is considered essential. Lastly, to pick up one of many of the points made, stability should be sought from the Government similar to that being expressed in a clear and resolute fashion by the Bank of England. Would the Minister kindly allow me to package these up and send them over to her for her officials to review? By the way, it is a pleasure to see the noble Baroness at the Dispatch Box. The noble Lord, Lord Price, is, I understand, in the marketplace today, where the UK needs him to be—in China.

Nevertheless, over the years I have felt that there is not sufficient partnership between the public and the private sectors in the UK. That gap needs to be plugged. After all, while often too much can be expected from government, the support of—and, in many circumstances, assistance by—government is paramount. Conversely, the private sector is at the sharp end and its views need to be taken on board as an equal partner.

With regret, I now conclude my remarks with an unpalatable tale but one that illustrates the importance of the work that needs to be urgently carried out by the Minister’s department. At this point, conforming with protocol, it is appropriate that I declare that I am the founder and chairman of SupplyFinder.com, a free-to-use global business portal created to stimulate global trade and investment, presenting national and international opportunities covering 195 countries and 25 sectors in eight languages—a large undertaking. I have been keeping the Minister’s department, including the head of digital, informed of progress and will of course continue to do so to the extent that they are minded. To go back to the tale, some short months ago I had occasion to speak with our consul-general in Casablanca, who informed me that the OBN—the Overseas Business Network—in Morocco, which is UKTI’s partner on the ground, was frantically arranging itself in Meknes for what was apparently the largest agricultural conference and exhibition in Africa. Making an immediate decision, I jumped into my car, albeit in Faro, and drove to Meknes, arriving in time for the last day—all well and good. I went immediately to the overseas pavilion, calling at the European Union stand, followed by those of Spain, France and others, including various African representatives. But then—guess what?—the UK stand had packed up shop the day before and left. There was no note, no catalogue, no point of contact—nothing.

We can only scratch the surface of what needs to be debated in this opportunity today, but there is so much more that could and needs to be added if the UK is going to excel in this highly competitive global market. I end with just one thought for the Government, which I believe has been expressed elsewhere. While there is an undeniable need for UKTI to settle down and become supercharged—a new word I learned yesterday, by the way—and properly resourced, there is an urgent need for a review in parallel that addresses this self-created, changed world that had its big bang on 23 June. But, all that said, we soldier on.

Link to full contribution: http://bit.ly/2wcZEgA

Motion to Take Note: Commonwealth

16th March 2017– Contribution by Lord Waverley 

My Lords, I rise with nostalgia. My first endeavour as a new boy in your Lordships’ House was to table a Motion calling attention to the importance of the Commonwealth. I warmly encourage closer working relationships with the Commonwealth, noting that the UK enjoys reciprocally beneficial membership of this invaluable intergovernmental organisation of, as the Minister reminded us, more than 2 billion people in 52 countries spanning six continents.

The UK has received unstinting support over the decades—including in military conflicts, disaster relief and its role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council—from the Commonwealth family of nations. Our distinguished Commonwealth partner country, Malta—now president of the Council of the European Union—hosted the most recent Heads of Government meeting in 2015, exploring the theme of “The Commonwealth: Adding Global Value”. It was a timely and relevant theme for this leading Commonwealth country—ours—as we stake out the Brexit ground. We, too, must seek to add value globally.

When we joined the EEC in 1973, our formal bilateral trade, aid and investment relations with Commonwealth countries—the Commonwealth preferences scheme—ended. Picking up a theme of the Minister, subsequently, under the Lomé convention, the Cotonou agreement and the economic partnership agreements, Commonwealth trade was notionally with the EU but headed primarily for British markets.

Political hay has sometimes been made of punishment that the UK might receive because of our vote in the recent referendum. Will any such punishment extend to our Commonwealth partners? Thirty-six of them are small countries with small markets lacking the negotiating clout to fight their corner with the Commission. Will Malta and Cyprus, joint EU and Commonwealth members, help them to consolidate their position, or will they be hampered by their own small state status? It is possible—I put this thought in the minds of government negotiators—that we can create a Commonwealth free trade area compliant with WTO rules. However, that would require considerable political will and expertise to modify existing rules of other customs unions to which members may also belong.

There is both an economic and a moral imperative to address this issue during the impending Brexit negotiations and beyond. Media reports sometimes dismiss Commonwealth trade potential, yet intra-Commonwealth trade could reach US $1 trillion by 2020, as the Minister also reminded us.

Opportunities await us. Commonwealth target growth sectors are financial services, technology, infrastructure, healthcare, tourism and sustainability. We in the UK are leaders in each and every one of those fields. Consider the welcome impact we could have in ensuring greater access to green technologies across the Commonwealth, particularly in areas plagued by natural disasters and sea level rise attributable to climate change.

Our expertise in the field of education is well recognised, as are the financial, research and cultural contributions to our country of increased numbers of international students and faculty—in significant numbers, from Commonwealth countries. Not only can this sector be enhanced here at home, but there is also significant comparative advantage for exports of technology, expertise and institution-building skills.

There exists much scope for our SMEs to enter and thrive in those Commonwealth markets, with access and performance eased by harmonised legal, regulatory and language frameworks—a happy circumstance described as “the Commonwealth advantage”. Many SMEs have not exported to the EU in part because of bureaucratic burden. They could and should now seize every opportunity offered for trade within the Commonwealth. I welcome the inaugural Trade Ministers meeting and the recognition of the timely benefits of improved intra-Commonwealth trade, industry and investment. The secretariat and the CFTC are well placed to co-ordinate Commonwealth business requests centrally, while Her Majesty’s Government can officially support Commonwealth development finance initiatives, such as the trade finance facility, that dovetail with their own. That is mutually beneficial.

Why is it important to engage at this level? There is far more at stake here than just the trade numbers, attractive though they are. The Prime Minister of Malta, speaking to Heads of Government at the most recent CHOGM, reminded us of the Commonwealth’s youth who, just like ours, can easily become aggrieved by being out of the loop, alienated by lack of respect, a poor standard of living and unemployment—and as easily seduced by extremist propaganda. Prime Minister Muscat pointed out:

“Terrorists are more scared of well-educated girls and boys who manage to get a good job than they will ever be of any army”.

Look no further than to the heartrending affair in Nigeria’s north-east.

We therefore have a shared interest in seeking to improve education and job opportunities for our young at home and, importantly, across the Commonwealth. To do so would assist in reducing migration—irregular or otherwise—by mitigating the conditions propelling peoples to flee their home countries. In turn, perilous journeys to the European mainland could be reduced, far right policies would have less traction and people traffickers would be put out of business. That is a win-win situation, well within our grasp.

I conclude, as I did in 1994, with the wisdom of Mr Arnold Smith, the first Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, when he remarked:

“100 years from now, I suggest, historians will consider the Commonwealth the greatest of all Britain’s contributions to man’s social and political history”.

I trust that today, the message will travel Commonwealth-wide: your partner and friend is back.

Link to full contribution: http://bit.ly/2P8eWu2 

Question for Short Debate – Brexit: Gibraltar

21at March 2017 – Contribution by Lord Waverley 

My Lords, the Gibraltar quagmire is easy to define but mighty difficult to resolve. The cocktail of complexities is varied and impacts on all participants, including the challenges of a determined Madrid, the time immemorial socialist province of Andalusia and that mother of all complexities, the Brexit negotiations: they combine to defy easy resolution.

I see one of five possible alternatives. First, the tempting old adage, “When in doubt, do nothing” seems in the circumstances unsustainable and should be discounted. Secondly, we could revisit 2004 when the El País editorial of the tercentenary, advocating the benefits of tripartite talks, were given more credence as both Madrid and London then hosted socialist Governments. Thirdly, we could bring balance to the table and recognise that there is indeed a fourth participant of equal standing to the people of Gibraltar: namely the people of Andalusia. Fourthly, we could constitute confidence-building initiatives resulting from regular civil society-led discussions, possibly with bilateral members as observers.

Red lines should be removed to allow co-operation through civil society to take centre ground to define and develop mutually beneficial goals and objectives.  An important consideration is that discussions and decisions should reflect the wishes of the people most affected. Consent is key. The status quo is not an option now that the Brexit negotiations are about to begin. After all, as has been said throughout this evening, 96% voting to remain does suggest a willingness to engage. While first and foremost it is clearly for the people of the region to decide, I firmly believe that Gibraltar’s future long-term prosperity must be rooted in mutually beneficial regional co-operation.

Might I then suggest that the centre ground of Seville be a convenient location for talks, and possibly also an ideal location for a long-overdue Gibraltar representative office? A view held in certain quarters among Spanish politicians has suggested that sovereignty need not be on the table. Rather, matters including the environment, free exchange of financial information and police co-operation—from terrorism to drugs—were considered more essential. Some time ago it had been agreed that access to medical assistance was on the table, including reciprocal recipient and donor transplant exchange using Andalusian hospitals.

Interestingly, the socialist parliamentary group in the Cortes, the Congress of Deputies, through its deputy for the province of Cadiz, presented on 9 March just past a non-legislative proposal in relation to the commercial customs checkpoint at La Línea de la Concepción and the non-commercial frontier checkpoint with Gibraltar. This will be submitted to debate and vote in the Committee for Foreign Affairs and Co-operation, possibly as early as next week. If it passes that hurdle, it could proceed to a vote and possible adoption by the Cortes as a whole. This is a development inviting close scrutiny and continued interest.

The noble Lord, Lord Boswell, might wish to consider forwarding his committee’s report to Spanish local and national officials most exercised with Gibraltar, including the Parliaments in Madrid and Seville. Engagement, after all, is everything at this critical juncture. I have little doubt that HMG recognise the anomalies and possible complicating consequences of the country at large voting to leave. HMG will not wish to have their overall Brexit negotiation strategy frustrated but will also not wish to be held hostage to this complex issue. Positive results can come from dialogue and could divert looming dark clouds.

Link to full contribution: http://bit.ly/2PCRSVc

Debate: Queen’s Speech

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

Motion to take note: Brexit: Acquired Rights (EUC Report)

4th July 2017 – Contribution by Lord Waverley 

My Lords, I could not agree more with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, when he asked what type of country we wished to be. I further note—he prompts me in suggesting this—that, frankly, all successful economies have inclusive immigration policies. I will refer to the game of poker during my remarks. What a winning hand that during consecutive debates this afternoon I should follow the noble Lord, Lord Judd.

I must congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, and her committee team. She has done the House, the Government and the country, together with all those most directly affected, wherever they be, an inestimable service. Emotions understandably run high on this issue, both here and on the continent. Some issues belong elsewhere. Matters that impact targets should be recognised but tagged for resolution in legislative debate and amendments to the appropriate Acts. But what we are dealing with today is the here and now. I have detained the House on multiple occasions already as I, too, will be impacted by the end result, as a long-term resident on the continent—but I will not rehearse what is already on the record. An equitable divorce is sought, but I sense that the situation has the potential to get out of hand.

Mrs Golding, a barrister specialising in EU law and a tenacious chair of the British in Europe movement, represents the interests of the two combined groupings of the 4.5 million Britons on the continent and EU citizens in the UK. Allegations that the Government of the United Kingdom are neither listening nor engaging are troubling. There is a view that the Government are playing poker with the lives of millions of good, decent people, who are caught up in a situation through no fault of their own. Although UK Ministers have made themselves available, the Secretary of State has been described as “elusive”. Conversely, it appears that Monsieur Barnier and his team, representing the European Commission, have had constructive and transparent meetings with the group’s representatives and are described as supportive.

A number of issues have emerged following the Prime Minister’s offer to the European Commission, as highlighted by Mrs Golding. The UK proposal does not respond to the comprehensive offer made by the EU on 22 May to guarantee the vast majority of rights, but instead represents an entirely different form of offer founded in UK law, which relates to the future immigration status of EU citizens in the UK. Thus, when comparing the two proposals, it is not possible to compare like with like, and the application and principle of reciprocity is complicated.

The UK proposal lacks detail on safeguarding the rights of UK citizens in the EU. By contrast, the EU offer is a detailed proposal to guarantee the vast  majority of the rights that UK citizens in the EU currently have. This includes free movement and would protect the rights of UK citizens in the EU, subject to certain clarifications as regards freedom of establishment, the position of students commencing their studies now, and voting rights. Arguably, therefore, the offer set out in the UK proposal for EU citizens in the UK represents the substitution of acquired rights of EU citizenship under EU law with a lesser “settled status”, for which EU citizens will be required to apply and which is not for life. This status could be lost following a two-year absence from the UK, and these citizens would then have to apply to return to the UK under UK immigration rules unless they could prove that they had “strong ties” to the UK—a vague concept that is not defined.

It is also claimed that EU citizens would no longer benefit from the same family reunification rights or from the overarching principle of equal treatment to British citizens in the UK. In addition, the position as regards both groups on other rights, such as pensions, healthcare, rights to work, rights of establishment and the mutual recognition of qualifications, requires clarification. We are aware that the UK proposal states that the ECJ,

“will not have jurisdiction in the UK”.

Opponents argue that, given the cumulative experience in case law of the ECJ on the rights of both groups, reference by UK courts to the ECJ would clearly represent the easiest and most practical option.

Perhaps a more efficient and pragmatic solution would be to create a dispute resolution body with jurisdiction to enforce citizens’ rights, offering a way for all affected individuals to safeguard their rights as regards the final guarantee set out in the Article 50 withdrawal agreement. Divergent interpretations of the rights of EU nationals living in the UK before Brexit and British nationals living in the EU before Brexit must be avoided.

The EU insists that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Is this wise? Instead, a separate and definitive agreement on citizens’ rights should be reached now, well ahead of the main Article 50 negotiations, if current anxiety and uncertainty are to be alleviated. The definitive agreement needs to be confirmed in the Article 50 withdrawal agreement to give it treaty status and the force of international law.

An additional issue must once again be flagged. Families, many with children, face the stark reality of enforced separation because of the quirks of being a non-EU spouse and not meeting immigration criteria for residence in the UK. So for the fourth time I ask the Government: will the repeal Bill ensure that UK law conforms to the European Court of Justice ruling C-127/08 on the implementation of directive 2004/38/EC for the rights of non-EU spouses of EU citizens to move freely in the EU, with unfettered access to the UK? A government response claims:

“United Kingdom law relating to the rights of EU nationals and their family members”—

this is the key point—

“to enter and reside in the UK is fully compliant with the decision”,

of the ECJ. Will the Minister ask her officials to look very carefully at this, and state unequivocally that  non-EU spouses and family can enter and reside in the UK without precondition? Will she kindly ensure that a copy of that response is placed in the Library?

Recognising the gravity and importance of what is before us this evening, I have asked my own IT development team to ensure that relevant papers pertaining to citizens’ acquired rights—including a link to the committee’s report, the expert opinions presented by Mrs Golding and today’s proceedings—be made readily available for public viewing. To this end, I have registered a domain—eumatters.uk—and invite members of all parliaments in the European Union, Governments and the public at large to keep abreast of proceedings.

I cannot believe for one moment that 4.5 million people deserve such potential disruption to their lives. Is it possible that the matter is becoming overcomplicated and we are losing sight of the woods in contemplating each tree? It is entirely possible that EU citizens can simply become dual nationals, as people all over the world do when they wish to obtain or retain dual rights. Certainly, British citizens currently in the EU have more limited rights as residents than if they became citizens of the countries wherein they currently live. At present they must comply with national residency criteria, particularly with the 183-day rule, taking into account primary residence status and centre of economic interest; pay national social security and municipal taxes as required; and convert driving licences, and so on. This visible and verifiable commitment of intent and compliance with these rules should then allow for an absolute right to remain status.

The Government assure us that their offer ensures that EU citizens in the UK will have the same rights as UK citizens in the UK. Are British citizens being offered the same protections, rights and benefits across the EU? It is the duty of government to act to protect the equal legal and moral rights of all citizens, regardless of origin. This House should attempt to steer the Government and the negotiations away from the cliff edge and the abyss beyond.

Link to full contribution: http://bit.ly/2wgjLdP