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(Urgent Question) To ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union to make a statement on the Government’s analysis of the long-term economic impact of Brexit on the economy.
I will begin by setting out our approach to publishing economic analysis, I hope once and for all.
I can confirm that—I think Keir Starmer will want to listen to this. I can confirm that when we bring forward the vote on the final deal that we agree with the European Union, we will ensure that the House is presented with the appropriate analysis that the Government have carried out, so that the House can make an informed decision. All Members must surely agree, however, that the Government cannot be expected to put such an analysis into the public domain before it has been completed. That would misrepresent our views. Furthermore, the Government cannot be expected to publish the analysis while the negotiations continue, which would surely harm the national interest. Parliament has rightfully agreed that Ministers have a duty not to publish anything that could risk exposing our negotiating position.
Let me now turn to the article that prompted the urgent question. It is a selective interpretation of a preliminary analysis. It is an attempt to undermine our exit from the European Union. As I have told the House before, the Government are undertaking a wide range of analysis on our exit from the EU. The next stage of that analysis, summarised in a draft paper presented to Ministers this month, has been a cross-Whitehall effort to support our negotiating priorities. It has not been led by my Department, and it is not yet anywhere near being approved by Ministers. Even the ministerial team in my Department has only just been consulted on the paper, in recent days, and we have made it clear that it requires significant further work. In fact, I saw this report myself only this morning. The analysis to which I believe this article refers is a preliminary attempt to improve on the flawed analysis around the EU referendum. It is there to test ideas and to design a viable framework for the analysis of our exit from the EU. At this early stage, it only considers off-the-shelf trade arrangements that currently exist; we have been clear that these are not what we are seeking in the negotiations. It does not yet consider our desired outcome: the most ambitious relationship possible with the EU, as set out by the Prime Minister in her Florence speech.
Such an agreement is in the interests of both the UK and the EU. Therefore, the scenarios in this analysis continue to suffer from the flaws we have seen in previous analyses of this type. Such analyses have been proved to be wrong in the wake of the referendum, not least because there is huge uncertainty around any forecast, especially in the long run and especially in the context of a major strategic choice.
It is the Government’s job to improve on this analysis, but to do so we first have to understand where it went wrong previously. That is what the analysis to which this article refers is: it is not a forecast for our preferred outcome of the negotiations; it does not yet properly take account of the opportunities of leaving the EU.
Not good enough.
Here we go again: Brexit impact assessments, take two. For the past year, we have called on the Government to publish Brexit impact assessments. It is a simple argument: on decisions of this significance, Parliament is entitled to know the likely impact of the Government’s approach to Brexit and thus to hold the Government to account. The Government have repeatedly refused our requests.
Last year the Secretary of State initially insisted that these reports existed in “excruciating detail”, but were so sensitive that nobody else could see them. After this House passed a binding Humble Address, the Secretary of State changed tack, telling the Brexit Select Committee just last month that no “economic forecast of outcome” had ever existed. Yet last night we learn that an analysis has been produced after all.
This is now piling absurdity upon absurdity, and there are some pretty obvious questions. When was this new analysis commissioned? In particular, was it before or after the Secretary of State gave evidence to the Brexit Select Committee last month on this issue? Is this the only report that has been prepared on the Brexit scenarios? If not, what other analysis has been done? Does this new analysis model the Government’s Brexit approach? If not, why not? If so, will it lead to changes in Government policy? Finally, and most importantly, will the Secretary of State publish this now—not in nine months, but now, so that we can hold the Government properly to account?
We have been here before. It took a great deal of time last year and the use of a Humble Address to force the Government to release documents relating to Brexit. The Secretary of State has the chance today to avoid a repeat of that exercise if he commits to publishing this new analysis in full; will he do so?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman raises the question of impact assessments, and what I can say to the House is that we have always been absolutely clear that we have a wide-ranging programme of analysis, which is evolving continually, but this economic analysis is not what is formally known as an impact assessment. [Interruption.] What I would say to the House—[Interruption.]
Order. There is excessive gesticulation from a number of hon. Members, which is unseemly and certainly unstatesmanlike.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Labour party are completely neglecting our duty to safeguard the national interest in the course of these negotiations. I can understand why he and those behind him would want the reports in the press to be accurate. Fundamentally, they do not wish to leave the European Union. For them, good news is a disaster and bad news is a welcome confirmation of their world view. They await each set of employment figures with eager anticipation, only to have their hopes dashed when every set shows an ever-increasing number of people in work. They gleefully celebrate warnings from banks about the possibility of jobs moving to the continent, then they have to retreat when, a few months later, the banks assert the supremacy of the City of London. I do not blame them. They care passionately about remaining in the European Union and they want to overturn the result, but their strategy is becoming clear: demoralisation, delay and revocation. However, that is not what our parties stood for at the last election. Our parties were clear that we would respect the result of the referendum, and that requires the Government to deliver the best possible Brexit. That is what we are trying to do.
As I said in the opening words of my reply, when the time comes for a meaningful vote, the Government will ensure that the House is appropriately informed. However, we can see what some of this economic analysis could be worth. Let us take as an example the respected Bank of England. What institution could be more respected for its analysis? In August 2016, it made a quantitative forecast of the impact of Brexit, saying that exports would go down by 0.5%, but they went up 8.3%. It said that business investment would go down by 2%, but it went up by 1.7%. It said that housing investment would go down by 4.75%, but it went up by 5%. It said that employment growth would be zero—flat—but it went up to a new all-time high. The public deserve to see the national interest protected in these negotiations and to have a House of Commons of representatives who exhibit a healthy scepticism about economic forecasting.
It is perfectly obvious to everyone on both sides of the channel that if the United Kingdom leaves the largest and richest multinational free-trade area in the world and constructs new barriers by way of tariffs, customs or regulatory barriers between ourselves and that market, future generations will to some degree be poorer than they would otherwise have been. Does the Minister not accept that the Government should feel themselves under a duty to have the best-informed debate in this House and in the country on the possible consequences of likely scenarios now, when the Government are deciding what their ultimate policy is going to be, and continuously throughout the vital next 12 months when the final picture will start to emerge? Will the Minister stop pretending that this is something to do with defending our negotiating position or that it is some kind of perverse attempt to reverse the referendum decision, and accept that he has failed, actually, to protect the Government from political embarrassment?
The public have made a profoundly important strategic choice, which is to leave the European Union. That means that the Government need to deliver free trade on a new basis: on the basis not of political integration but of a new deep and special partnership with the European Union. It is the Government’s intention to deliver the best possible and most frictionless trading with our friends in the European Union, which it is in all our mutual interests to do. My right hon. and learned Friend talks about our duty, and he knows well that our duty is to look after the national interest of our constituents and of our country. That is exactly what we are seeking to do as we take these negotiations and this analysis forward.
Just yesterday, I was commenting in this Chamber that the only constants in the Government’s Brexit position are chaos and confusion. Far be it from me to get in the way of the Government undermining themselves, or of Tory feuding, but this situation counts, and their bluff and bluster just will not cut it any more. It is striking that the figures that have been released are very similar to the figures that the Scottish Government produced on Scotland’s place in Europe. If the Scottish Government can produce their figures, why can this Government not do so?
I reassure the hon. Gentleman that we are not copying the Scottish Government’s analysis and that we are doing our own homework. The Scottish National party’s position is clear: it wants to break up the United Kingdom and have a Scotland within the European Union. The actions that he describes must be understood in that context.
We have here some London-centric remoaners—that could be a way of describing the shadow Brexit Secretary—in the civil service who did not want us to leave the European Union in the first place and put together some dodgy figures to back up their case. They still do not want us to leave the European Union and are regurgitating some dodgy figures to try to reverse the result of the referendum. Does my hon. Friend agree with that analysis? If so, does he agree that this really is not a news story?
My hon. Friend makes a point that is very much in line with his long-held views. I should reaffirm that I am proud of the officials with whom I work. Irrespective of how they voted, they are demonstrating commitment to delivering on the decision of the British people. The intention of our current analysis is to improve on what has gone before and, as I set out in my initial response, we recognise that there were flaws in the previous approach.
A lack of transparency is not in the national interest. On
“have the Government undertaken any impact assessments on the implications of leaving the EU for different sectors of the economy?”
He replied, “Not in sectors.” Now we learn that that work has been done, and it is reported that chemicals, clothing, manufacturing, food and drink, cars and retail will be the hardest hit sectors. Will the Minister offer the House an explanation for the discrepancy between what the Exiting the European Union Committee was told and what we now know?
As I have explained, we have always said that our economic analysis was continually evolving across a wide range of activities—[Interruption.] Opposition Members laugh, but what else would they expect but for the Government to work continually on a developing analysis? As I may not have said in my opening remarks, I know that the Secretary of State only saw this particular document last night—I saw it this morning—and I think that that will explain the answers he has given.
Does my hon. Friend agree that businesses up and down the country, including in Redditch, will wonder whose side the Labour party is on when its Members take great pleasure in forecasts that predict doom and gloom? People may conclude that Labour is not on the side of this country’s hard-working businesses and entrepreneurs.
My hon. Friend is exactly right. Now that the decision has been taken, the vast majority of right-thinking people in the United Kingdom will expect it to be carried through with a good heart as a matter of choice. Time and again, we see a foot-dragging reluctance from the Labour party, which increasingly seems not to be respecting the choices of its own voters.
It is reported that the analysis shows that the north, the midlands and Northern Ireland will be hardest hit in all the scenarios. Will the Minister confirm that that is because all the scenarios assume that Britain is outside the customs union? Will he confirm, too, that the Government appear to have undertaken no analysis of the different customs union options and of the impact on our economy? Given how significant the situation is for northern manufacturing and for Northern Ireland and given that the CBI has said this is irresponsible and is letting down northern manufacturing, will he commit to conducting and publishing analysis before the customs Bill completes its passage through Parliament?
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady because she has given me the opportunity to reassure her that there is economic growth under all the scenarios in the economic assessment. The only question is to what extent and how fast, but there is projected to be economic growth across a 15-year period in all the scenarios.
Does my hon. Friend understand that many businesses in my constituency are already nervous about the apparently cavalier attitude of some Brexiteer opinion towards their continued success? Will he therefore confirm that the Government will seek to negotiate an arrangement and get a result that does not damage the long-term economic success of our country and the national interest of our people?
I can give my right hon. Friend that assurance. The Government are not cavalier. It is precisely because we take our duties seriously that we are continuing to develop our economic analysis, and I can of course reassure him that we are seeking to establish a free trade agreement and other partnership arrangements that are of unprecedented scope and ambition.
For the Minister basically to excuse his not publishing the information because he has not yet had the chance to edit, twist or distort it or to redact the information within it is a total and utter disgrace. The public have a right to know about their livelihoods and their futures, and it is deeply irresponsible and dishonest for the Government not to publish the information. It is a cover-up, pure and simple, and it stinks.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on going for the hardest possible hit that he can manage, but it is not good enough. The truth is that the hon. Gentleman has made it perfectly clear through his words and his actions that he does not accept the referendum result. It is perfectly clear that he is among those who wish to seek a revocation of the democratic decision of the British people, and he is acting in that spirit.
I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend. I can confirm that I will read Professor Minford’s work, and the transparency register will also show that I have met Professor Minford. I will continue to meet Professor Minford and to look at the work of Economists for Free Trade.
As the Cabinet squabbles in the middle of these tough negotiations, the Minister has no right to talk about the national interest. He must stop treating parliamentarians like chumps. He knows, we know and this analysis confirms that Brexit will cause huge damage to British jobs and British families. Will the Government and, indeed, the Leader of the Opposition now allow a vote on the deal so that the people can decide whether they want to pursue this damaging approach or to stay in the European Union?
The right hon. Gentleman reminds me that I did not answer the other point of my right hon. Friend Sir Desmond Swayne. I have been to see “Darkest Hour” and Tom Brake does a good job of reminding me that some people do approach our current circumstances in an unnecessarily bleak spirit. I say to him once again that the economic analysis is clear that there is to be economic growth in all scenarios. I encourage him to go back to the report published by the Treasury Committee, on which I served, during the referendum campaign and look at the documented abuse of figures by the remain campaign. I urge him not to repeat that abuse of figures.
According to this analysis, the car manufacturing, chemical and food sectors, all of which are vital for my constituency, will clearly be adversely affected. Quite frankly, Minister, I take exception to being told that it is not in the national interest for me to see a report that would allow me to best represent my constituents. Parliament needs access to the best possible information on which to base our decisions.
I have great faith in my hon. Friend, and we of course appreciate the importance of cars, chemicals and food. As I said at the beginning of my response, when the time approaches for us to have a meaningful vote in Parliament, we will put appropriate economic analysis before both Houses to assist the choices that they make. However, we do not expect the European Union to publish all its analysis in a transparent manner, and we do not propose to go into the negotiations having revealed all our thinking.
I wonder whether the Minister thinks that perhaps the person in the Whitehall establishment who leaked this document would be better off moving, and working in Brussels. Was the methodology used in this report, or whatever it is, the same methodology that said the country’s financial future would tank if we did not join the euro?
We are carrying out the usual inquiries into who leaked the report. The hon. Lady is absolutely right that past economic predictions have been very poor, and poor for good reasons on which I would love to elaborate on another occasion. I have set out that particular critique of even the Bank of England’s forecasts, and she is absolutely right that, as I said earlier, we should have a healthy scepticism.
We would be in a strange position if Governments had to publish every bit of advice to Ministers and every bit of analysis that they profoundly believed to be wrong. The last Labour Government did not do that, and the Minister should resist publishing this analysis if he believes it is not in the national interest to do so. I also advise him that people are trying to divert the Government’s direction on Brexit—there is absolutely no doubt about it. Will he look into why this particular document was leaked on this particular day, the day that the withdrawal Bill has its first debate in the upper House?
My hon. Friend, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs, makes an important and authoritative point about the conduct of government. Opposition Members would do well to reflect on how they would wish to govern the country if, God forbid, the electorate should ever give them an opportunity to do so.
All of us in this House need to have an eye on the long-term functioning of our democracy and our constitution. With that in mind, I hear what my hon. Friend says. There is clearly a campaign to overturn the referendum result, and it can be seen at work in the media and in this House. We will certainly bear in mind what he says.
The Minister says that this cross-departmental analysis has not been co-ordinated by his Department, but on that there appears to be some confusion. When the Brexit Secretary gave evidence to the Brexit Committee last week, I asked him whether his Department is co-ordinating the cross-departmental work on the sectoral impacts of no deal, and he said, “Yes.”
If there is indeed no deal, we would likely fall out on World Trade Organisation rules. Will the Minister confirm that in one of the scenarios outlined in the report—the WTO option that is advocated by many Conservative Members—the impact of non-tariff barriers is the equivalent of a 10% tariff slapped across the economy?
That was quite a long question. There are two particular scenarios that are not modelled in this analysis. One is the policy choices that the Prime Minister rightly set out in her Florence speech, and the other is exiting in the unfortunate, and we think unlikely, circumstance of not reaching an agreement and how one might take the right policy choices in the event of trading on WTO rules. We will continue to take this analysis forward, and I look forward to the day when we are able to present appropriate analysis to the House before the meaningful vote.
Does the Minister recall, prior to the referendum, what became known as “Project Fear”? Everything was going to go wrong after the referendum if we voted to come out—something short of bubonic plague—but that did not happen. With those warnings, the British people still voted to come out, so of what relevance is another forecast now that predicts exactly the same as “Project Fear”?
My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I well remember “Project Fear” in all its manifestations. Most of us on the leave side thought at the time that those horror predictions would not come to pass after the vote and, happily, we have been proved correct. I look forward to continuing to prove economists wrong after they make horror story predictions.
I am grateful for that question, because I can reassure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that we will continue to develop and expand our economic analysis. We cannot control the timing of leaks, and were we to have chosen to publish an analysis, as we will when we approach the meaningful vote, it will of course contain the relevant information.
My hon. Friend is of course right that this analysis does not question the result of the referendum, nor does it model his desired scenario, but what it does show is that modelling a fully comprehensive free trade deal with the EU post-Brexit, combined with the benefits of new trade deals, shows a net effect on economic growth of 1.5%. Where does he hope a special and deep relationship will differ from a fully comprehensive free trade deal post-Brexit?
My hon. Friend may know that Michel Barnier tried to include financial services in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal, and we believe that we can go beyond what has been agreed in the past. The analysis does not include a comprehensive deal of the scope we would like to agree; it includes only an average based on past precedents. We believe that we can reasonably go further than we have before, and of course we are well apprised of the importance of financial services and of ensuring that the City flourishes.
If the economic forecasts and impact assessments published to date have been so wrong, why do the Government not tell the British people what it is they want from the EU by way of a deal, cost it and publish the results? Why is that so difficult?
We will continue to carry out a wide-ranging and developing programme of economic analysis, which will help to inform our negotiating position and our decisions.
No, I am not able to name an accurate forecast. They are always wrong, and wrong for good reasons. [Interruption.] Members are chatting at me from a sedentary position. My long-standing views on the flaws in the epistemology of the social sciences and the consequences for econometrics are well set out in various forums, and I encourage Members to go and have a look at them. I am happy to recommend a reading list.
The Government are not protecting the interests of the British people but withholding information from them. The Minister keeps invoking the referendum, but of course that did not give us any indication of the form of Brexit that the public wish us to follow. Will he confirm that what the analysis shows is that the least worst option—staying in the single market and customs union—has been voluntarily taken off the table by the Prime Minister with no mandate whatsoever?
I encourage Members to google the hon. Gentleman’s name on The Sun website. They will find a wonderful picture of him, during the referendum, standing next to a poster proclaiming that the leave campaign wanted to leave the single market. He made the point at the time—[Interruption.] He certainly did, and anyone can go and find it on The Sun website. The point was made at the time, and the public chose.
It would not be possible to honour the decision of the British people if we allow the European Union to set the UK’s tariffs and if we become people in a political purgatory of perpetual rule taking from the European Union without any democratic say. It is the desire of this Government that our country should continue to be a democracy. For that reason, we will leave the European economic area and the customs union.
Does my hon. Friend agree that our post-referendum experience illustrates the danger of publishing incomplete and inchoate economic analyses? We were told prior to the referendum by the Treasury that we would enter immediate recession if we voted to leave. The International Monetary Fund told us that the economy would contract by as much as 9.5%. Both were made to look extremely foolish.
My right hon. Friend is exactly right, and he might have added to that catalogue of failures of the economics profession the failure to see the financial crisis. It is time for economists to re-examine their methods, for the reasons I indicated earlier. I am grateful to him for putting those past failures on the record.
Given that the leaked Government analysis confirms that, realistically, there are three ways that the UK might leave the EU, each with a very different impact on jobs, trade and livelihoods, why have MPs not been given a direct vote at the start of the process to determine what sort of Brexit the UK is pursuing? Is it not about time that we in this House are allowed to take back common sense and seek the sensible option of staying in the single market by staying in the European economic area and remaining part of a European customs union?
The hon. Lady is entirely wrong; the sensible and pragmatic way forward, which honours the result of the referendum and ensures that this is a democracy with an independent Parliament able to ensure that control is exercised over the laws of this country, is to carry forward my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s policy, as she has set out in Florence and in the Lancaster House speech.
Is it not about time we set up a charity called “Soothsayers Anonymous” for people who simply cannot kick the habit of predicting when conflicts are going to break out, when we are going to have opinion polls that are going to be accurate and when we are going to have economic forecasts regarding the EU that are going to be accurate, even though history has shown time and again that they are not worth the paper they are written on?
The Minister will be well aware that Sinn Féin has already used the Brexit decision to agitate for a border poll. I say to the British Government that they need to be very careful to ensure that Sinn Féin does not use any more negative impact assessments to feed its narrative. In those circumstances, what guarantees can he offer the people of Northern Ireland that the economy will not suffer as a result of Brexit? We must make sure not to feed Sinn Féin’s narrative.
The hon. Lady makes a sobering and important point, which the Government have heard. I say to her that in all scenarios in this economic analysis, there is economic growth—the question is only: how fast? It is this Government’s task to ensure we achieve the fastest GDP growth and indeed the fastest GDP growth per head, which is why we have brought forward a comprehensive programme on productivity. Of course we are most concerned to ensure the prosperity of the people, not only of Northern Ireland, but of the whole of the island of Ireland and right across Europe. That is why it is in our mutual interest to agree a comprehensive and deep free trade agreement.
Even though these forecasts do not look at the Government’s preferred outcome, does my hon. Friend not agree that the data they contain, however imperfectly, do underline the importance of building a bespoke deal around maintaining customs union-style arrangements and ensuring as great a level of access as possible to the single market?
I agree with my right hon. Friend on most of his points, but, as I said in an earlier answer, we do not think remaining in the customs union, so that the European Union set our tariffs on imports, would be the right thing to do. We think that would be the wrong choice for the UK. It would prevent us from operating an independent trade policy and plugging ourselves into the rest of the world’s growth, where multiple authorities, including the European Commission, have admitted that 90% of the world’s growth will come from. So on that particular point I disagree with him, but on the rest of his arguments and, in particular, on the need, in our mutual interests, for a good-quality trade agreement, he is right and I agree.
Ministers keep using the excuse that it is in the national interest to withhold information about the economic impact of Brexit—that is on the days when they admit such information exists. I will tell them what is really not patriotic: pursuing a policy that will make our country poorer than it would otherwise be, in order to satisfy right-wing, nationalist ideology. So will the Minister desist from saying that it is in the national interest to withhold this information, given that the only interest it serves is that of Tory Ministers embarrassed by its contents?
I simply do not accept the premises of the right hon. Gentleman’s question; he makes ludicrous suggestions. I consider myself to be an old English liberal and I think most of the Eurosceptics with whom I associate also consider themselves liberal in outlook, particularly on matters of trade and the economy. With that in mind, I cannot possibly accept his premise. The fact is that we are in a negotiation and no one seriously would expect us to go into—
The right hon. Gentleman says I should wash my mouth out, but I am happy to debate liberalism with him any time.
We are heading for an open, liberal, free trading future for the UK. Any suggestion of nationalism is quite wrong and quite ludicrous, and Mr McFadden should retract.
Tom Brake looks as though he has just consumed a very bitter lemon, but I hope he recovers.
Does my hon. Friend share my dismay that pro-remain Members of this House who represent constituencies that voted to leave leap on incomplete economic analysis and profess deep understanding of complex economic methodology, yet fail to wrap their minds around the simple arithmetic of the referendum, which was that 52% voted to leave?
I must exercise some caution, Mr Speaker, because as you will know, Wycombe District, which is substantially large than the constituency of Wycombe, did express the other view. However, what I think we need to do is come together to unite around the result as a country, and to choose for ourselves not to leave the EU because we must or because we ought, but to leave the EU successfully because we choose to abide by the democratic decision of the United Kingdom as a whole.
It is very difficult to answer the question of how we can unite together when certain Members of this House, including, I am sorry to say, the hon. Lady, keep provoking as much division as possible. She represents a party claiming to be liberal and democratic, and which once offered a real referendum on Europe, but we have had a real referendum on Europe and it is time for her to get behind the result.
The gloomy pre-referendum Treasury forecasts led many of us to vote remain with a heavy heart. The public made their decision, and we stood on an election manifesto saying that we would follow through on that decision. Will the Minister tell me why we should believe part forecasts—these forecasts, which have apparently been published, are not complete—given that the initial information put out before the referendum was flawed?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point, and “Project Fear” was mentioned earlier. It is most unfortunate that one fundamental tactic always used throughout the long and sorry history of misrepresenting the true purpose of the EU has been to demoralise the public. It is time for each of us in this House to take a lead in going forward in a spirit of buoyancy and hope.
The Minister would not accept the premise of the question from my right hon. Friend Mr McFadden, but this morning we heard from the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mr Duncan Smith, who cast significant doubt on the Government’s own ability to forecast the impact of Brexit on jobs and growth. What assurances will the Minister give workers in my constituency, for example, those in the Jaguar Land Rover or Vauxhall supply chains, that Brexit will not fatally wound the manufacturing sector on Merseyside?
As I believe the record will show, I have said multiple times that in all scenarios in this economic analysis growth is forecast. So it is good news for the hon. Lady and for the country that in all of the forecasts—in all of the circumstances of the economic analysis—growth is forecast. She brings up the issue of the supply chain, so I also say to her that we are of course apprised of the imperatives of complex international supply chains, not just between the UK and Europe, but around the whole world. In particular, I draw attention to provisions in the Union customs code for inward and outward processing rules, which should assist manufacturers in her constituency.
Were the economists involved in these forecasts the same ones who said we would lose half a million jobs if people voted for Brexit? Since the referendum we have, in fact, gained 350,000 jobs.
I am not able to give my hon. Friend exactly that information, but perhaps some of the economists are the same ones. In my experience, civil servants, at all levels, dutifully carry out the instructions of the Government, and I am sure they are doing that in this case.
It might surprise the Minister to learn that I have read a number of his articles, and there is much in them that I disagree with. He talks a lot about liberty, accountability, transparency and democracy, but he does not seem to like any of those principles when they are applied to him and his Government, and when they shed light on the reckless course that this Government are pursuing. If they have not done a full, comprehensive analysis, they are incompetent. If they have done it, we should see it.
As I announced at the beginning of my initial response, the Government will make available to both Houses of Parliament the appropriate economic analysis before we made a decision on the meaningful vote.
No one in this House should dismiss the referendum result—that would be overstepping the mark—but it is our role, as the Government have accepted, to scrutinise the deal and ensure that it is the very best it can be for all our citizens, regardless of how, or indeed whether, they voted in the referendum. The impact assessments were made available to parliamentarians in absolute confidentiality, and I went to see them. I fail to see why that same process cannot be extended for this most recent and any further analysis. This is a one-time deal only, and I for one owe it to my constituents to prove to them that I have exercised full scrutiny.
I cannot accept the premise of my hon. Friend’s question. We have gone to and fro in the House about the meaning of the term “impact assessments”. What was made available to colleagues were sectoral analyses. I refer my hon. Friend both to the written ministerial statement setting out how meaningful votes will happen at the end of the process and to my previous remarks about the need to protect the integrity of our negotiating position. We will ensure that, when we reach the end of the negotiating period, parliamentarians are able to access appropriate economic analysis when we all take that important decision.
Last week, I asked the Treasury’s permanent secretary whether he could confirm that just a single one of the Government’s scenarios for a deal post-Brexit would lead to a better economic deal and outcome than what we have as members of the single market and customs union. He did not seem able to answer. Is not the truth that no such model exists? Has it not been confirmed today that, as a result of the Government’s dogmatic determination to pull us out of the single market and the customs union, it will not be my city, London, that is most affected, or indeed the industries in the City of London that are worst affected, but the key sectors of the economy right across the UK, with the impact felt worst in the west midlands, the north-east and Northern Ireland? How on earth could that possibly be in the national interest?
The hon. Gentleman said that there is no such model; the truth is that my right hon. Friend Sir Desmond Swayne referred to a model earlier. Economists for Free Trade are very clear about their modelling. Other models are available—at the time of the referendum, Open Europe did some modelling and found that the effect could be plus or minus 2%. The truth is that there are profound uncertainties facing not just the United Kingdom in this negotiation but all economies in the world. All face three big issues: the growth of technology; a new phase in globalisation; and, of course, the continuing aftermath of the financial crisis which, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, has left interest rates at levels the Governor of the Bank of England has described as extraordinary if not emergency. Those three issues mean that all economies are on highly uncertain paths. The Government will navigate their way through the future with confidence and boldness.
I do agree, and my hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. We need to make sure that this country is well positioned. He refers to the previous era of globalisation and particularly the emergence of China. The United Kingdom’s task is to take the right strategic decisions so that we can be plugged in not only to Asia but, I very much hope, to an emerging Africa, Latin America and the whole world, and so that so we can participate on the basis of technologies that were unimaginable at the beginning of the EU’s life, not least the internet, inexpensive air travel and containerised shipping. Those three things have transformed our world for the better, and I hope and expect, as I am sure my hon. Friend does, that in future, over the course of our lifetimes, the world will improve in ways that we cannot yet imagine.
We have learned today that the Government’s own analysis suggests that the economy will grow by less than 5% in the case of a UK-EU trade deal. That is people’s jobs and livelihoods. Will the Minister confirm that the Government’s negotiating position has been decided not on the basis of the economic evidence but on ideology alone?
Let us not pretend that there is no ideology among those who wish to remain in the European Union, even at the cost of overturning a democratic decision, remaining in the EEA and surrendering democratic control and power. The figure to which the hon. Lady referred is wrong—it is not as she stated—but I do not propose now to walk through what is in the analysis which, as I have said, is currently a provisional draft and is not yet Government policy.
On Friday, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union was on Teesside to set up an optimistic free-trading vision for the UK after we leave the EU. Given that all estimates have consistently underestimated our economy, surely it is time to just get on with the job.
It is time to get on with the job. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and his colleagues for their brilliant work agitating for free trade zones, which I believe should be an important part of the Government’s consideration.
The Minister is clearly making himself out to be a bit of a philosopher today, so I say to him that surely it is the mark of a democracy that those of us who take different sides do not question each other’s patriotism. If he does not trust the forecasts, will he take the sensible decision—like the one taken by the previous Chancellor, George Osborne—to get them out of the Treasury and say to the Office for Budget Responsibility, “You get the forecast done by the time of the spring statement”? Then we can all see what the truth is.
I have been careful not to use the word “patriotism” and not to question anyone’s, but the voters of the United Kingdom are entitled to look at the words and actions of their parliamentarians and ask what they are trying to achieve. Are they committed to adhering to the referendum result? Are they doing so with a spirit of confidence and boldness, and with buoyancy and hope, or are they trying to demoralise the public and overturn the result through delay and revocation? The hon. Lady should think very carefully about what her voters—and, indeed, all our voters—will think about our actions. I hope she will commit to carrying through their democratic decision.
It is in the national interest to get the best deal we possibly can. Does my hon. Friend agree that to do that we have to keep our cards close to our chest? These are tough negotiations, and to expose the goods and the bads in such negotiations plays right into the hands of an organisation that, let us face it, does not want us to leave anyway.
I think the EU’s willingness to see us leave is increasing by the day as we go through this process. It is important that the House knows that key figures throughout the EU pay close attention to our newspaper headlines, so it is important and incumbent on us all to remain committed, in that spirit of buoyancy and hope, to carrying through the referendum result.
We have been here before, because the same gloom-laden forecasts were made before the referendum and none of them were anywhere near the mark. Does the Minister agree that these long-term forecasts are as useful for predicting future economic performance as newspaper horoscopes? More importantly, will he assure us that despite the hysteria from the Opposition Benches, the Government will not be distracted from honouring their commitment to deliver the United Kingdom out of the single market and the customs union?
The hon. Gentleman’s question reminds me of the great economist Galbraith who said, if I recall correctly, that the only purpose of economic forecasting was to make astrology look respectable. There is a great deal of truth in that.
Another great economist, J. M. Keynes, said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” Will my hon. Friend confirm that a deep and special partnership must include services as well as goods, because services account for 80% of our economy, and that any deal that did not include all services would not be in the interests of the United Kingdom?
Of course I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of services, but I go further. It is extremely important that our ambassador to the World Trade Organisation, Julian Braithwaite, is chairing the relevant committee on services. It is in the UK’s and, indeed, the world’s interests that we take part in a global liberalisation of services in trade. That is key to unlocking the UK’s prosperity and, indeed, to unlocking Governments’ capacity to meet the commitments that they have entered into for their populations.
My constituents, many of whom are former Conservative voters, cannot understand why any Government would adopt policies that they knew would make them or the country worse off. The Minister’s tactic today is to rubbish his own commissioned analyses because they show that leaving the EU will be an economic disaster, to a greater or lesser extent. If he believes in Brexit at any cost, will he at least have the honesty to say so?
That is simply not the case. As I have not hesitated to say several times, the economic analysis does not show the country being worse off; it shows the country being better off under all circumstances. It shows GDP growing—
The shadow Minister says it is nonsense, but I can assure him that it is not. The economic analysis shows GDP increasing in all circumstances. The point of the Government’s policy must be to carry through faithfully the decision of the British people and to do so in a way that proves these doom-mongers and naysayers wrong.
In these negotiations, the UK is on one side, and 27 other Governments and the EU are on the other. Will my hon. Friend say how many of those Governments, as well as the EU itself, have confirmed that they will publish the entirety of their internal analysis on each option that they might be prepared to offer?
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. I am not aware that any of them is prepared to reveal that information, and he was absolutely right to mention it. I can assure him that I have given instructions to our teams to analyse the interests of other member states simply for the purpose of demonstrating that it is in our mutual interests to conclude a deep and special partnership.
As there is so much noise, I will call someone who has been behaving in a statesperson-like manner. I call Fiona Onasanya.
I refute the accusation that we do not accept what our constituents have voted for. In June, they were asked a simple question, which was something like this: would you like a divorce, yes or no? They answered that question, but they did not know who would have the children, who would get the house, and how the assets would be split. Will Ministers give us the detail of the impact analysis that has been done, so that we can advise our constituents on how leaving will affect them?
The hon. Lady makes a very interesting point, but I slightly regret her metaphor. We need to face up to the fact that the British public have rejected the idea of delivering free trade through political integration. Our task is to rise to the challenge of this new decision in strategic political economy and deliver free trade, which provides for democratic control of political power. I did listen carefully to what she said.
It is with growing admiration that I listen to the pronouncements of the Mystic Megs, and indeed the Mystic Moggs, who, with near papal infallibility, pronounce this, that or the other as being an absolute certainty. I agree with the Minister when he says that this is an uncertain process. All my constituents and businesses in North Dorset want to hear from the Minister is that he and the Government are committed to a pragmatic, common-sense solution to this issue that we are facing, to ensure economic growth, stability in jobs and prosperity in Dorset.
How dare the Minister suggest to my constituents that ignorance is bliss! My constituents were misled by the lies on the side of the Brexit bus. My constituents are now being deprived of the information that suggests that, up and down the north of England and in Yorkshire in particular, jobs and employment will plunge if we go out on the worst terms. Will he apologise to my constituents for misleading them?
No, I will not. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to listen to the arguments that I have made and to the answers that I have given. In all scenarios in this analysis, economic growth increases. He talks about people being misled in the referendum campaign; there were two campaigns and both are susceptible to criticism. I encourage him to look at the Treasury Committee’s report, which criticised the remain campaign quite heavily; otherwise, I should not have been able to sign up to it.
In my constituency, more than 2,000 people work in insurance. Britain is home to the world’s largest insurance market, and many European companies need access to our market. Does the Minister agree that it is in the interests of both Britain and Europe to seek a much deeper and more modern trade relationship than the EU has with any other third country?
I do agree with my hon. Friend. The United Kingdom has a comparative advantage in insurance, as it does in so many financial services. As I indicated earlier, it is in the interests of Europe and the world that we should be able to take that comparative advantage and put it to the service of the whole world.
Like that of Stephen Crabb, who is no longer in his place, my constituency is the gateway to Britain from the Republic of Ireland and on the frontline of Brexit. Businesses that I have spoken to in the past few weeks and months want, because of the uncertainty, an analysis of what Brexit will mean for them specifically. Will the Minister tell the House when he was intending to share this information with local authorities, devolved Administration and, indeed, their MP who needs to keep them informed?
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend Mr Walker, has been in contact with the Port of Holyhead, and we will continue our programme of engagement, well apprised of the need to keep talking to businesses, particularly those that provide our important infrastructure, such as the port in his constituency. He asked me when: I have said that, before the meaningful vote, we will make appropriate economic analysis available to the House.
During referendum week, I was fortunate to speak to 25 schools, taking a neutral position. I visited two schools in the past fortnight, and the vast majority of the students, who would probably have voted to remain, wanted us to get on with job rather than unpick it. Does the Minister agree that it is essential that we respect the ballot box system that elected us, engage more with our constituents and get on with the job in hand?
I do agree with my hon. Friend. I particularly lament the way that so much of the demoralisation that has taken place has been aimed at young people. It is precisely because we are concerned for their future that we want to deliver a successful partnership with the European Union as we turn out to take advantage of that growth, 90% of which will come from the rest of the world. It is their future that we are concerned about, and it is their future that led people like me to campaign for leave on the basis of upholding their democratic choice to choose a Government and influence its policies.
These leaked figures indicate and expose the damage that will be caused by a Brexit outside the single market and the customs union. Is it not the case that the greatest failure of this Parliament, on the biggest issue of our time, and despite the damage that it will do to people’s livelihoods and standards of living, is that the British Government and the Labour Opposition share the exact same position?
As I have already said, all scenarios in this analysis show growth. The analysis is heavily caveated with the profound uncertainties that exist, not only for the UK and Europe but for the world. In that context, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept the answers that I have given today.
Following directly on from that, is it not right that we should approach such economic modelling with caution? History has proven to be wrong and flawed in the past. The information is incomplete. Does my hon. Friend, and philosopher longstanding, look forward to proving this analysis wrong as well?
I would agitate for a healthy scepticism about the use of mathematical economics, and we should go forward in that spirit.
Over the long course of the history of the European Union, and indeed of the referendum campaign, people have not shown a particular willingness on a very wide scale to engage in the details of trade policy. This is an area where they do expect the Government—[Interruption.] The hon. Lady says something about our duty. Our duty is to get on with the job that the people have given us to do not only in answering the referendum question telling us that they wish to leave the EU, but in voting at the general election for a range of parties, all of which, including her own, said that we should leave the European Union. And to leave the European Union, we need to leave the customs union and the European economic area and restore democratic control and political power, and that is what we will do; that is our duty.
The naysayers who are talking this up are some of the same people who said that on
I agree with my hon. Friend that we do need to get on with it, and, yes, the end destination is worth getting to, although, hopefully, there will be no end to this journey. We will journey out into a new life of prosperity and self-government, which will give us the dignity of self-control.
First, let me draw the attention of the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests concerning Weightron Bilanciai.
I have here a letter sent by the European Commission, which was received by British manufacturing firms, telling them that after Brexit all products certified for use by UK certifiers will no longer be eligible for sale in the EU. Those companies are now rushing to get their entire product range recertified, often at three times the cost, from European certifying authorities. What advice do the Government give to UK manufacturing firms that have products certified in the UK about what they should do in the run-up to Brexit and the need for recertification?
I expect us to conclude a free trade agreement with the European Union that includes agreements in relation to product conformity. I hope that we will make rapid progress through these negotiations now that we have made sufficient progress and are moving on to the next stage. I very much hope that everyone in this country, including manufacturers, to which the hon. Gentleman refers, will be given an accelerated degree of certainty as we progress through the negotiations.
The Minister will be aware that I have submitted 23 questions to his Department asking what assessments the Government have undertaken—all to ensure that businesses and workers in my area are safeguarded. The Government have repeatedly refused to release even the titles of these assessments, so will the Minister confirm how many impact studies the Government have conducted and for how long he expects Members to have access to these documents before we vote on the final Brexit deal?
I think that the documents that we put out and discussed at great length continue to be available to colleagues. As I have said, we will lay before both Houses the appropriate economic analysis before the decision is taken.
Mr Speaker, you will recall from this morning that the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Andrew Griffiths ducked my question on the impact of these assessments on small businesses, so I will try again. Leaked or not, if the Minister is willing to be disparaging about his own civil servants who are producing his own reports, does he also reject the reports from the University of St Andrews that point out that small business will be hit by lower levels of investment and access to finance, lower growth and reduced product development opportunities?
I will make two points. First, as far as I recall, I have never been disparaging about civil servants with whom I have worked; it is quite the reverse. What I have been disparaging about is method in the economic sciences. That is quite different. Secondly, all the circumstances in this analysis predict growth. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer that I gave earlier, pointing out all the flaws in the predictions of the Bank of England. I ask him to start working out how he can play his part in leading this country forward with a spring in its step.
I refer the House to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. In the past week, Mark Carney and Jaguar Land Rover and have blamed Brexit on the fall in growth and business respectively. For Jaguar Land Rover, this is resulting in prolonged shutdowns and declining production. This is happening now. Will the Minister accept the reality of what is happening and publish the Government’s analysis?
I accept that Jaguar Land Rover does not sell as many cars as I should like it to. I consider it this Government’s duty to enter into trading arrangements with the whole world that facilitate the company’s complete success. I look forward to working to do just that with all the strength we can muster.
We will continue our programme of engagements with the devolved Administrations and the English regions. What we will not do is publish or reveal information we consider to be prejudicial to their interests and the national interest or that would harm our negotiations.
The information in today’s Government report directly reflects what industries and businesses on Teesside have been saying for months—that they will suffer if the Government totally abandon the single market and the customs union. Ministers may choose to ignore the reports, but will they please listen to what the industrialists and the businesspeople are saying? The Government need to be open and honest about the impacts and provide clarity on how these businesses can trade successfully after Brexit.
The Secretary of State went the region only last week to make an important speech about the implementation period, precisely because we understand the importance of industries and businesses there. There is no question of our ignoring analysis. We are conducting the analysis to inform our position, as I have tirelessly set out.
This is about the UK Government doing their job, and they have spectacularly failed to do that. This leaked paper talks about the impact of Brexit on different areas of the UK, despite the Government telling devolved Governments and Administrations that they have no such information. The Minister failed to answer the question asked by my hon. Friend Albert Owen, so when will this information be shared with the devolved Administrations, so that they can make decisions on behalf of the people they represent and govern?
We will make information available once we are through the negotiation, so that we do not end up putting ourselves in the position of publishing information that is prejudicial to the national interest. I would expect that information to be published—and, in particular, to be made available to both Houses of Parliament—once the negotiations have concluded and before the meaningful vote.
Why do this Conservative Government not trust the voters of Bridgend, many of whom rely on the Ford engine plant for their jobs? It is acknowledged that car manufacturing will be one of the hardest-hit areas. The Minister says that there is going to be growth. In that case, let the people of Bridgend know where the growth is going to be and what better growth could be achieved by staying in the single market. Is he more interested in healing the wounds within the Conservative party than looking after the people of Bridgend?
I am interested in healing the wounds across the whole country, getting people to unite behind a democratic decision and thus taking it forward. It is precisely because we do trust the voters that we want not only to carry through the referendum result, but to ensure our parliamentary independence, so that the voters can materially affect a Government’s policy choices.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman can easily find a wide range of literature that will explain how to do a negotiation. But what one does not do when going into a negotiation is to place one’s cards face up on the table, and we are not going to do that.
I will take this point of order now, as I believe it relates to the subject matter that we have been discussing.
Further to the question that I have just asked, I have tabled 23 written questions to the Department for Exiting the European Union and the Treasury over the past six weeks, asking for the titles of any assessments that the Government had conducted on the impact of our withdrawal from the European Union. However, none of these questions has been adequately answered. What I have received has been vague; my questions have often been ignored; and Ministers have not provided me with the information I requested. Mr Speaker, without any obvious avenue to take, I seek your guidance on how I can secure an answer from Ministers to the questions I have asked in order for me to ascertain the number of assessments the Government have undertaken and their titles.
I thank the hon. Lady for giving me notice of her intended point of order, although I am not at all sure that I can offer her much satisfaction or comfort. The content of ministerial answers to parliamentary questions is the responsibility of the Minister concerned. It is not, and cannot be, a matter for the Chair. I understand her dissatisfaction with the answers that she has received. I am afraid that it is not uncommon for answers from successive Governments of different complexions to fail to engage—either fully or, in some cases, at all—with the question in the view of the recipient of the answer, or, indeed, to do so only vaguely. However, I advise the hon. Lady to persist and to discuss with the Table Office what other avenues she might pursue.
I must emphasise, on the basis of some little experience in the House, the merits of quantity, persistence and, above all, repetition. Members must—if I may very politely say so—keep at it. I remember one year tabling, I think, a little under 4,000 questions, which somewhat irritated Ministers at the time, although that caused me no concern whatever. I was simply concerned to table the questions that mattered to me. If that caused some inconvenience to other people, it was really beside the point. Democracy costs.
On whether Members will be granted access to analytical studies on the impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU ahead of any vote on the final deal, I do not know the answer to that question beyond what we have heard from the Minister today, and the Minister has said some things today on which Members can reflect. If the hon. Lady wants to put further questions on this matter to Ministers, it is open to her to do so.
On whether it is in order for Ministers or Departments to show information to journalists before providing it to the House, I would say that although this is not a matter of order, it would certainly represent a discourtesy to Members, and I would deprecate that. I hope that Ministers will reflect on the matter and consider what information should be provided to the House on this important matter at all stages. I hope that that is helpful to the hon. Lady.
Does it relate to the matters we have just been discussing?
Very well, I will take it. Marsha De Cordova will just have to be patient for a short period.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
The ministerial code of practice outlines seven principles of public life, one of which is on openness. It states specifically:
“Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.”
It sounds as though there is certainly a discrepancy between what was said to the Select Committee in December and what we have heard over the past couple of days and some things that the Minister has said today. What course of action is open to a Member who wishes to pursue the matter at stake if the Secretary of State or a Minister has not provided information that should be available to my constituents and businesses who are deeply affected by it?
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I will make a number of points briefly in response. First, the ministerial code to which he refers is certainly a very important document, but compliance or non-compliance with it is not adjudicated on by the Chair; that is a matter for others.
Secondly, the hon. Gentleman inquires on what recourse he has if he believes that there is a discrepancy. The short answer is that he can table a question or, indeed, a series of questions on the matter, applying his little grey cells to the formation of such inquiries as he thinks appropriate.
Thirdly, the hon. Gentleman referenced evidence to the Select Committee. He will have heard his right hon. Friend Hilary Benn, the Chair of the Brexit Committee, who asked a question on this matter early in the exchanges. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues can pursue the matter if they so wish. They have a track record of doing so on previous occasions and might choose to do so on this occasion. I hope that that is helpful to the hon. Gentleman.