In this contribution, Lord Bilimoria expressed his support for the amendment proposed by Lord Lisvane. He continued by stating that he supported the amendment primarily because he felt that the balance between the Executive and the legislature has been truly tested. Further, he explained that this started with the Government trying to bypass Parliament in implementing Article 50, and then trying to not give Parliament a meaningful vote. Lord Bilimoria argued that we have to make sure that the power comes back to Parliament.
In his third contribution on the sixth day of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill Report Stage, Lord Bilimoria discusses the Irish border situation. He argues that a friction-less border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will not be achieved through only a customs union. It would also need the equivalence of a single market and the free movement of people, capital, goods and services. He goes on to say that talks about the Norway option or the EEA, serves as a proposed alternative. He states that if things come to it and we have to leave the European Union, it should be considered the least worst option. This would help achieve a the softer Brexit that Labour wants.
There was a short intervention by Lord Green and Lord Bilimoria responded by saying that the talk of going global and agreeing free trade deals with other countries will be hard. For example, agreeing on a free trade deal with the USA, or with India without talking about the movement of people would be difficult. The CETA with Canada took over seven years to bring about and does not include services.
Lord Bilimoria also highlighted that a 2004 EU regulation allows all EU countries to repatriate EU nationals after three months if they show that they do not have the means to support themselves. Others countries, such as Belgium, repatriate thousands of people a year. The UK has never used this regulation, yet we say that we have no control over our borders. Why is it so?
He concluded by saying that Europe is full of faults but it is the best option we have, and the role of this House is to challenge and to bring this up as the least bad option.
Lord Bilimoria’s fourth contribution discusses the issue of trade with the European Union. He points out that the UK’s biggest customers are in the EU and constitute half of our trade in finished goods and ingredients. He goes on to add that approximately 70% of the UK’s food imports by value are from the EU, and 60% to 65% of agricultural exports are to other member states. Any delays on these goods, many of which are perishable, would raise food prices. Furthermore, he argues that if trucks coming from the EU are treated like non-EU trucks, the ports will be in permanent gridlock. To this he questions what preparations have been made if there is to be a hard Brexit to put up all the infrastructure required, prevent any delays and have a frictionless border.
Lord Bilimoria also discusses Ireland and shares that goods from Ireland go to Europe across the UK. It takes trucks 10 hours from leaving Dublin to get to Europe. If they had to go around, it would take them 40 hours, with considerable disruption.He concludes by quoting from an article in the Sunday Times which stated that “A wrinkle in international trade rules is scaring away companies in Europe from British suppliers”. It goes on to say that “the UK will gradually be ‘evolved’ out of the supply chains of EU manufacturers that do not want the hassle of providing paperwork for components bought outside the bloc”.
In his third contribution Lord Bilimoria discusses the Erasmus Programme and its future in Britain after the transition period. He maintains that the Erasmus Programme has benefited thousands of British students and has made it affordable for students to travel and study abroad. He also notes that through the programme, Britain has emerged as one of the most attractive destinations for European Students. He goes on to question whether the government promises to maintain and protect all funding streams for EU projects in the UK. If not, he seeks to understand whether the government will be inclined towards spending more money to implement a new programme in its place. He closed by reiterating the need to preserve the Erasmus programme for all to ensure that student’s futures are not taken away from them.
In this second contribution for day 4 of the Report Stage, Lord Bilimoria notes several of the areas around the issue of a deal or no deal option as well people’s understanding of their reasons to vote to leave. He highlights that many members of the House of Lords, at the forefront of the issue, are still learning themselves and that people will be even more informed by next year. He argues the Government are telling people that there is no choice but to follow their decisions which he argues is disrespecting the will of the British people.
In this first contribution on the 4th day of the Report Stage, Lord Bilimoria first asks if take it or leave it is a meaningful vote? He notes the Government’s stance during the Committee stage and queries whether “Leave, whatever the terms” was what people had asked for or if it is in the national interest. He notes that at the time of the referendum two-thirds of MPs were for remain but many of their constituencies voted to leave which left them conflicted. He questions whether they are managers or leaders and whether they have the “guts” to do the right thing. He notes that during the Committee stage on issues such as borders, education or movement of people the Government offered no argument, instead citing the will of the people. He states the amendment would give MPs the power to do what is right for the country and stresses that Parliament should be supreme and with it “would have the ability to stop the train crash that is Brexit”.
In this short contribution Lord Bilimoria highlights the Government’s attempts to bypass Parliament, that the Lords does not challenge statutory instruments and asks who makes the decision whether something is appropriate. He further states the UK political system is a very delicate balance between Government, judiciary and the legislature which requires respect and protection hence the need for the amendment. He concludes it is not about Henry VIII powers or power for the Government but instead returning power to Parliament and the people.
In this speech on the national security situation Lord Bilimoria argues that Britain has had a loss of standing caused by Brexit. He states that the decision to deploy the Armed Forces was the correct one and notes the difficulties there would have been in getting a UN resolution for this action. He notes the rumours of cuts to the Armed Forces and loss of personnel and that spending needs to be increased to meet new threats and there needs to be more direction. He stresses the importance of the EU to maintaining the peace in Europe alongside NATO and asks what is being done to maintain the important links. He is critical of past reviews and notes the cuts to the services that have taken place reducing areas such as personnel size. He notes the age of some of UK’s military equipment and expresses his anger that in the recent actions in Syria the UK Armed Forces effectively played “second fiddle” to the Americans and French. The lack of engineers and the issue of morale is also touched and he stresses the importance of the Police to national security who have also been cut. He concludes that both the Armed Forces and Police have been cut when national security is meant to be the main priority. He argues spending needs to be increased in order to be able to face threats.
In this first contribution to the report stage of the EU Withdrawal Bill, Lord Bilimoria opens by noting the imperfections of the EU but also that it is the UK’s biggest trade partner. He notes the discussion around “going global” and notes the the length of time it took for the EU to negotiate an agreement with Canada, which is in itself inferior to EU membership. He notes the other 53 agreements and their importance and also the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting taking place. He states his desire to do more trade with the Commonwealth but notes trade with them is only 9% in comparison to the EU which is 50%. He states that for India the priority is a Free Trade Agreement with the EU not the UK. He concludes that in the referendum people did not vote to leave on any basis, the purpose of Parliament is to limit the damage and this amendment will do this as the best option is to remain in the Customs Union.
In this colourful debate Lord Bilimoria opens by discussing the EU referendum and the subject of the will of the people. He notes the realisation by many of the complexity of the issue of leaving the EU and that people have changed their minds and quotes David Davis that “If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy”. There are several interventions throughout which Lord Bilimoria gives way to and answers in turn with evidence from his own experiences. He argues that the country is already divided regardless of a new referendum and that the result of the 2016 referendum was not to allow the Government to leave on any basis. Finally, he repeats a humorous analogy from a Cambridge philosopher and closes by arguing a second referendum is required to allow the people a chance if we are a democratic nation.