Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:58 pm on 8th March 2017.

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Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover 2:58 pm, 8th March 2017

It is absolutely fascinating, is it not? One moment, the Labour party and the trade unions say, “Isn’t it outrageous? We have got to stop the gig economy”, and the next moment they say, “Isn’t it outrageous? We have got to make sure we protect the self-employed.” There is no intellectual coherence in today’s Labour party. It is completely and utterly unfit for government.

Let me turn to the matter of Brexit. In my constituency of Dover last summer we had a taster of what will come if we are not ready. We saw queues of traffic all the way down the motorways, and some say that that was a tea party compared with what will happen if we are not ready. That is why I am making the case again today for more and faster investment in lorry parks off the M20, for widening and strengthening the M20, for dualling the A2 and for the lower Thames crossing. We need the infrastructure in the channel ports as well to make sure that we are ready on day one.

I know that there are Labour Members who look forward to that day, and who like to warn about it and, frankly, feast on it. I take a different view. We need to be ready and prepared so that the worst does not happen. That is why I call for investment to be brought forward, for the lower Thames crossing to be built quickly, and for us to get on with it. We should make an investment in the port of Dover that is similar to, and greater than, that which we have most graciously made in Calais in recent years. It is time we put Britain, and Britain’s border, at the forefront of our policy.

In addition, we need to be ready on day one if we do not get a deal. I hope that we will get a deal in two years’ time. I hope that the Commission will negotiate in good faith. So far, the way in which it has gone about dealing with legally non-existent liabilities makes me think that it will not necessarily do so. Even if we get a deal from the Commission, the European Parliament has to vote for it, and the European Parliament is in an even worse emotional place than the European Commission. After that, a qualified majority vote of the 27 will be required.

I hope that we will manage to do the deal, and I believe that this Government’s Prime Minister is the only leader who could possibly deliver such a deal, but it may be that we do not manage that in two years’ time, because on top of that we will have the French and German election cycles. We have to be ready if the European Union is unable to do a deal. Although we are ready and able, the European Union will not necessarily be, and if that is the case, we must make sure that we can maintain a seamless flow of trade. That is why I am also looking with industry experts at how to manage a seamless flow of traffic through Dover and Calais—we have very good relations with France and the French authorities at Calais—and how we can make that work.

It is important that Members from all parts of the House are heavily invested in making that work, because it needs to work for all of us. It will not be much good for Scottish Members if we have a queue at Dover, because they will not be able to get Scottish whisky out of the country by road at any great pace. It will not be very good for the northern powerhouse if it cannot get the things it needs to power itself. The midlands engine will conk out if it cannot get the components it needs at pace. That is why we all need to be invested in making sure that the channel ports continue to work. I will set out detailed proposals and ideas about what we can do, and we need to debate the matter to make sure that we are ready on day one. This matters to all of us in England, Scotland, Wales and the whole of the United Kingdom, and it matters to Ireland as well. We are all in this together, and we need it to work for the good of us all.