By kind permission of Baroness Jan Royall, Somerville’s Principal and former Labour Leader in the House of Lords, Lord Hannay addressed the AGM of the Oxford Region earlier this year.
Lord Hannay has been one of Britain’s pre-eminent diplomats for the last 50 years, serving as our permanent representative to the European Economic Community from 1985 to 1990 and, after that, the next five years as ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations.
As such there is no one who is better placed to give an opinion on the impact Brexit will have on our relationships with the remaining EU27…and the rest of the world.
In a wide-ranging speech and Q&A session, Lord Hannay looked at the likely course of the upcoming Brexit negotiations and highlighted the potential challenges faced by Britain’s negotiators. Not least amongst these he predicted will be the Gibraltar border with Spain and also fishing, where the rights of European fisherman to access UK fishing grounds was guaranteed by the London Convention that predates Britain’s 1973 entry into the Common Market.
He went on to say that although the UK had now left the EU, the case for retaining a close relationship with the remaining 27 countries was especially important for Oxfordshire in view of extensive connections through the motor industry, medicine and scientific organisations, such as Euratom.
He also strongly criticised the government’s reliance on special advisers and willingness to side-line experienced civil servants, which he believes undermines the expertise and independence of the civil service.
Commenting after the meeting, the chairman of the Oxford Region, Graham Jones, said:
“Lord Hannay has probably more experience of international negotiations, including those with our European allies, than any other diplomat today.
“His realistic assessment of where we find now find ourselves and the challenges we face was quite sobering. As a group, the European Movement will be keeping the pressure on the government to act responsibly and in the interests of the whole country – not just those who voted for Brexit. For example, we are actively opposing the immigration reforms that would place strict barriers on EU citizens wishing to come to the UK for work and so deprive Oxfordshire of sorely needed talent.”
You can view a video of the event here: https://youtu.be/TVVMRl_UrPw or read a transcript of his speech here: https://emoxfordregion.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/davidhannay_oxfordregionem.pdf