European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:41 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley 3:41 pm, 7th September 2017

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. The one I was going to make is that if we are being brutally honest, we all know what is going to happen. The Government, through the negotiations, are going to find a set of arrangements as close as possible to being part of the single market but without being a member of it and something approximating the customs union. If they do not do that, they will not be looking after the best interests of this country. That much we know, which leads me on to the question about immigration.

If the Government are going to achieve anything approximating the customs union and some sort of relationship with the single market, the price they are going to have to pay is to agree some sort of approximate arrangements about the free movement of labour between the UK and the EU. Ministers might say, “Well, we can do that.” No, you can’t. The reality is that if the people negotiating on behalf of the EU were to say, “Okay UK, you can have something that approximates the single market and customs union, and you don’t need to worry about any free movement of labour”, they would soon be removed from their negotiating positions. This idea is not realistic.

Where are we in this audit of what we have achieved since the referendum? First, we have a set of arrangements in this Bill that are less democratic, and that give less power to Parliament and more power to the Executive. That is hardly what was promised in the referendum. Secondly, we are likely to be paying £70 billion for the privilege of leaving—not getting £350 million a week to put back into the health service. Finally, if we get anything like reasonable arrangements on our economic relationship with the EU, we are going to have to accept some level of free movement of labour. Everything people voted for is going to be betrayed.