Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:54 pm on 8th March 2017.

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Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Chair, Treasury Committee, Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, National Policy Statements Sub-Committee 1:54 pm, 8th March 2017

If the hon. Lady will forgive me, I would rather wind up. I am sure she will want to make her own speech in a moment.

There certainly will be a trade shock if we revert to WTO rules, so I am pleased that the Prime Minister has made it clear that she is working for what she calls a “bold and ambitious” deal with the EU. Deep engagement, political and economic, from outside the EU almost certainly commands a majority in the House and in the country; cutting off Britain almost certainly does not. Hopefully all parties to the negotiations grasp the importance of securing a deal, but wanting a comprehensive deal and getting one in what will amount to 18 months of negotiations are not the same thing. Getting one will be a massive undertaking. Businesses know that, which is why many of them will not wait around to find out whether there will be a deal; they will protect themselves. They will start to move economic activity out before 2019 and the supply chains will start to adjust, too—to the UK’s detriment.

I shall make one further point. There is a straightforward way to safeguard the UK from the risk I have just described, and the UK must ask for it in the negotiations. It almost certainly requires only qualified majority voting, and it is available under article 50 of the treaty. The UK should make it clear, now, that after leaving the EU—that is, having repealed the European Communities Act 1972 —the UK’s first requirement is that a standstill on the implementation of the detailed terms of any deal should be put in place. That is a crucial ingredient to bring stability and certainty during the negotiations.

When the Conservatives first came into power in 2010, there was a 10% budget deficit, ballooning public debt and the second-lowest growth in the G7. That all amounted to a massive challenge. Now, the public finances are stronger—only after six years of hard work—but the two risks to which I have alluded could amount to a cocktail scarcely less difficult to handle, particularly if mistakes are made. The Chancellor has told us that he has taken a cautious approach by steadily reducing borrowing; I strongly support him in that, and he has my strong support to persist, even if he hits heavy weather.