2nd Day

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:17 pm on 11th September 2017.

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Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Labour, Tottenham 5:17 pm, 11th September 2017

I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak this afternoon. Let me start by saying that it is possible for parties to work together to find consensus and bipartisan moments. I see the Secretary of State for Justice in his seat; we have been working together on the review his predecessors asked me to do on the over-representation of black and ethnic minority people in the criminal justice system, and I am grateful for his support and that of his civil servants over the last 18 months.

I wish that I could be speaking in a spirit of co-operation on this subject, but when I think about the Prime Minister taking the position she did and talking about bringing the country back together, I think how far we are from that. Those who wanted to leave talked about giving the British people control—taking back control. Why, then, are we producing a Bill that will, effectively, give that control to the Government of the day, to make decisions behind closed doors, and not to this Parliament, which represents the democratic will of the people? If you are genuine about bringing the country back together, surely you allow serious time for reflection, debate and serious amendments to a Bill of this magnitude. Surely you also come to this House with a degree of humility, having recognised that your proposition at the general election failed spectacularly, and that the context today is very different from the context three or four months ago. None of that has happened.

Then we look at the beginning of the negotiations. We hear a lot about the bill the EU is asking us to pay, but I have to say to those who campaigned to leave, and who are adamant that we should leave, that we are taking 12% of the EU budget out by exiting. We are asking others to pick up that bill. Of course there is a serious bill to pay, and of course it will take months to negotiate it.

We have heard so much from the Secretaries of State for Brexit and for International Trade about how easy this will be. When they go to negotiate with Donald Trump, who is one of the most protectionist Presidents the United States has seen, he will surely want access to our pharmaceuticals and will demand access to our agriculture. It will not be easy; it will take months and years to reach that trade deal. As for those who spend so much time on free movement of people and immigration, when we go to negotiate with the Indians, will they not demand visas for people to come to this country?

I worry, as I am sure hon. Members will understand, about what we have unleashed in this country, about the increase in race hate, and about the nastiness that surrounds this debate. No party is the font of all ideas, but I worry hugely about how the Conservative party has moved to the right to pick up ground ceded by the UK Independence party—[Interruption.] I do. We are in times in which the Anglo-American world is looking inward, in which we are moving back from human rights and in which we are waving goodbye to battles that we fought in decades gone by. This is not the time for this House to spend months and years wrangling about exiting a European Union that has given us so much.

For all those reasons, with very little to be gained—and when the articulation of what is to be gained has been so poor in the past four months—how could we possibly be about to set off on this path? In a constituency such as mine, where people are struggling to make ends meet and the economy is very fragile, as sure as night follows day, as we exit a customs union that the British Retail Consortium