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[Day 2]

Part of Burma – in the House of Commons at 2:14 pm on 15th March 2018.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 2:14 pm, 15th March 2018

I got them from Her Majesty’s Government. If the hon. Gentleman wants to tell me that we should never believe anything that Her Majesty’s Government’s civil servants tell us, that is a debate in itself. Those were the figures that were released, with significant protest, by Her Majesty’s Government to the Brexit Committee. I highly recommend the document to him.

Having had the analysis done at significant expense, those who instructed it to be carried out now seem to want to downplay it—to discredit it. I am pleased that we are no longer hearing, certainly from Ministers, any suggestion that there was anything incompetent, unprofessional or negligent in the performance of those who produced the figures. Of course, those who think that the Treasury’s figures are wildly too pessimistic have had the opportunity to produce their own. We might even find somebody who produces figures that give the lie not only to the Treasury but to the Scottish Government and to any number of other professional bodies. Those bodies do not always agree on the exact figures, but few, if any, are producing a scenario that looks anything other than deeply, deeply damaging for our economy and for the social cohesion of our four nations.

During the Minister’s speech, he took an intervention from one of his colleagues about an article in The Times. Interestingly, his answer seemed to suggest that it was only when they read it in The Times that the Government knew that there had been some softening of the attitude in Brussels towards our ability to negotiate trade deals. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that when he winds up. Would it not be typical of the shambolic nature of the Government in conducting these negotiations if they were getting their information from the front pages of Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers rather than from direct face-to-face contact with our European friends and allies?

When the Government were asked to name a single country that is saying that it would give us a better trade deal out of the EU than within the EU, yet again not a single country was named that is willing to do so. There is a lot of ambitious and grand talk of all the countries that want to trade with us—a wish list, a pie-in-the-sky list. There is, as yet, absolutely no reason to believe that any of these countries will give us a better deal than we could get by staying exactly where we are. We need to remember that what the Government ask for ain’t necessarily what they are going to get, because there are 27 other Governments over there who are just as determined and just as entitled to look after the interests of the people they represent.

Mr Jenkin used the tired old argument that we have a trade deficit with the EU and a trade surplus with the rest of the world, and we should therefore concentrate on the rest of the world. I leave aside the fact that some of us do manage to have a trade surplus with the European Union. The logical consequence of that argument is that, if the rest of the world has a huge trade deficit with us, why in the name of goodness would they want to continue trading with us? It is not because Europe is bad at industry and manufacturing that it has a trade surplus with us—it is because it is better at it than we ares. The cradle of the industrial revolution has allowed others to overtake us in investment and reinvestment and improving manufacturing efficiency.