The White Paper for the triggering of Article 50 is so light on detail as to the potential economic downside of Brexit that it would fail the FCA’s Treating Customers Fairly test, Baroness Altmann has told the House of Lords.
In a speech to the House of Lords during the second reading of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, Altmann castigated the Bill for a lack of detail on the potential cost to the nation of the UK’s exit from the EU, arguing that marketing material for the sale of pensions would be deemed non-compliant if it had so little detail with regard to risk.
Former Chancellor Lord Lamont of Lerwick used the debate to attack former Prime Minister Tony Blair for his intervention over the weekend calling for a second referendum. He also argued that supporters of remaining in the EU were ignoring the scale of trade with the EU achieved by countries not members of the Single Market.
Baroness Altmann said: “The White Paper does not quantify the costs, it is a cost benefit analysis, itemising only the benefits and none of the costs.
Where is the risk assessment? It is full of hype and hope, detailing great positive outcomes. As a marketing document this would fail the treating customers fairly test that is applied to all financial firms. You could not sell someone a washing machine, let alone a pension, on the basis of this kind of analysis. Yet for the most important financial decision our country may make and that this house is being asked to consider there is not one estimate of the costs.
“And what about immigration? From a demographic and economic point of view immigration is essential. Our ageing population is moving into retirement with fewer younger people to support them.”
Lord Lamont of Lerwick said: “Those that voted remain have a duty not to undermine the governments negotiating position. (Labour Brexit lead) Mr Starmer made it very clear yesterday that the idea that the referendum was consultative does not hold water.
“I admired his speech. But I did not admire the speech of the former Prime Minister Tony Blair who has an extraordinary ability to say two completely contradictory things. He said that he was not disputing the result. At the same time he was calling on people to rise up. He said that people might change their mind. What he meant was that he might be able to change their minds. All this from a man who promised a referendum on the EU constitution, even published a bill, and then ensure that the Constitution was written in a particular to avoid a referendum.
“Lords have cited membership of the single market as though that is an argument in itself. Yet there is no attempt to count the costs of the rules of the single market. And they never bother to confront the fact that many countries that are not members of the single market have increased their exports to the single market more than members have and certainly more than we have.
“They never bothered to comment on the fact that the three largest trading partners of the European Union have no special trading arrangements with the EU, and six out of 10 of the top trading partners of the EU have no special trading relationship or agreement with the EU. There is no reason why there should be a cliff edge.”