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[2nd day]

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:22 pm on 1st February 2017.

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Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Chair, International Trade Committee 2:22 pm, 1st February 2017

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend Alex Salmond for trailing my speech in his remarks.

I did not intend to speak yesterday or today, but as I listened to the speeches yesterday, it occurred to me that the House of Commons has quite clearly taken leave of its senses. That happens at times, but the difficulty and danger is that the public trust the House of Commons at moments such as this. They trusted the House of Commons on Iraq, when it had taken leave of its senses, and on the poll tax, when it had taken leave of its senses. On the poll tax, that was quickly corrected, but Iraq still lies in ruins. It is at times when the Opposition unite with the Government that the House particularly takes leave of its senses. If ever there was a time to beware, it is now.

I listened carefully to Mr Osborne, who is not in his place. He gambled with his scare stories on the EU and on Scotland. On Scotland, he won; on the EU, he lost. This time, are we feeling lucky? A deal is in the gift not of the UK Government alone, but of 38 assemblies and regional parliaments across Europe, 27 sovereign nation Parliaments and one EU Parliament. We are but one in 67 voices, and we have to get that into our heads.

The Prime Minister has said that no deal is better than a bad deal, but no deal would mean for farmers that meat had 22% tariffs, dairy had 36% tariffs and fish—this particularly affects my constituency—had 12% tariffs. People assume that the House of Commons knows what it is doing, but it does not. It is crossing its fingers and hoping for the best.

We are told time after time in the Chamber that people know what they voted for. Perhaps they knew what they were voting for—to leave the EU—but they certainly did not know the destination, and neither does this House. The International Trade Committee, of which I am Chair, does not know the destination, nor does the Department for International Trade. The Prime Minister does not know the destination. The pretence that because the people voted to leave the EU, they knew the destination is beyond facile. People who have appeared before my Committee from BASF, Manchester Airports Group, the CBI, the National Farmers Union, Dairy UK, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, Tech City UK and the Law Society do not know the destination for the UK. The UK is on a precipice.