Parliamentary oversight of negotiations

Part of Informal European Council – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 6th February 2017.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham East 6:45 pm, 6th February 2017

My hon. Friend is completely right. This Bill is far more important than all those treaties wrapped together, because it is about withdrawing from the European Union.

What made the situation worse was the White Paper we had from the Government. Let us not forget that it came the day after the vote on Second Reading. That was pretty shocking and quite contemptuous of the rights that the House of Commons should have. It is a lamentable document because of the lack of information it contains on so many of the important issues on which I and other hon. Members have tabled amendments.

We should use the time we have today to talk about what we need to know and to ask the Government what their plan is. That is why I will briefly go through some of the new clauses I have tabled. For the sake of argument, let us take the first one, new clause 20 on financial services. One could say that it is merely a small corner of Britain’s GDP, but it provides £67 billion of revenue for all our schools and hospitals. If we mess around with that sector in the wrong way, we will all be poorer and our public services will be poorer as a result.

New clause 20 suggests that there should be a report twice a year on where we are going on one of those questions that was not contained in the White Paper: “What is our progress towards a smooth transition from the existing open market access, where we have passports, to the new arrangements, whatever they are going to be?” The White Paper merely says, “We’d quite like to have the freest possible trade,” but it says nothing about what will happen on mutual co-operation, regulation and oversight; whether we will be able to have permanent equivalence rights for some trades; or whether UK firms will have time to adjust.

Those issues already pose a clear and present danger to our economy. HSBC says that 1,000 jobs are going to go, Lloyd’s of London is moving some of its activities, UBS is moving 1,000 jobs, and J.P. Morgan has said that potentially 4,000 jobs will go. Firms are voting with their feet already, yet the White Paper hardly touches on this question.