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[Day 2]

Part of Burma – in the House of Commons at 2:57 pm on 15th March 2018.

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Photo of Anna Soubry Anna Soubry Conservative, Broxtowe 2:57 pm, 15th March 2018

The hon. Lady makes a very good point. Look, some people would argue that it is a miracle that 48% voted for the EU. Anybody who plays or watches cricket knows that before a game, they roll the pitch. We have taken a JCB digger to the pitch for the past 40 years. It is astonishing. On both sides, we have all blamed the EU for all our misfortunes: if something was difficult, we just blamed the EU. Then, of course, in a very short period, we said, “You know that thing that we said was really rather rubbish—actually, it is really rather wonderful. Would you go out and positively vote for it?”

The other dawning of the Brexit reality was in the excellent speech that the Prime Minister delivered a few weeks ago. In it, she faced up to the reality in a highly commendable way—her tone was right and I agreed with much of her content. However, the reality of what she said was this: in admitting that there would be, for example, no passporting for financial services and that we would have reduced access to the market, what she was saying—as others have observed—is that for the first time, I think, in the history of any Government in any country in the world, we are actively going to pursue a course, knowing that it will make us less prosperous than we are under the current arrangements. That is the view of Her Majesty’s Government. I hope as we go forward that perhaps the Government, in that spirit of reality, will also understand that this can and must be stopped. We cannot pursue a course that will make the people of this country less prosperous.

We are meant to be talking about the economic side of our EU relations and affairs, so I will make this observation. The OBR’s predictions were to be welcomed because they were better than its previous predictions about our prospects of growth. I observe, as many others have, that we benefit at the moment from a strong labour market. We are almost at the point of having record levels of employment, which means, of course, that we have more money in the coffers by way of taxation and national insurance. In the financial and insurance sectors, we have seen pay rises of some 7%, and as many have observed, services comprise 80% of our economy.

We know that consumer spending has risen, and that, too, would account for the increased money in the coffers, because it means that our VAT receipts have gone up again. The weakness of sterling means that the companies whose foreign earnings are important to them have seen the worth of those earnings go up.

We must take all those factors into account to understand why it is the view of many that, notwithstanding the OBR’s better forecast, our country is actually experiencing some of the slowest growth in the G20. We think we are doing well, but when we compare ourselves to other G20 countries, we see that we are not doing anywhere near as well as we should be. I have given an explanation of why we are not where we thought we might be, but the point, of course, is that if we were not leaving the European Union, we would be doing considerably better and our prospects would be considerably higher.

Let us be clear about this. Investments are already being delayed, and we know that unless we get this transition in place, a number of important businesses will leave our shores. We also know that business wants certainty, and, in my opinion, the certainty that it is crying out for is the certainty of knowing that we will stay in both the customs union and the single market. No one should underestimate the real risks that our country faces. If we do not get this right, businesses will simply leave. We have already seen examples of that. There are Japanese companies that were promised by Margaret Thatcher, one of the finest proponents of the single market, that our country would never leave the single market. They have invested billions of pounds in real, skilled jobs in our country. Anyone who speaks to those companies—as many of us do—should ask them how they see the prospect of our leaving the single market and the customs union, and, indeed, the European Union. The fact is that instead of investing here, they will invest in other European countries, because we were the bridgehead into the EU.

I have dealt with the Government’s analysis in my interventions, and I know that you are urging me to speed up, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I have not had an opportunity for some time to make a long speech about this matter, which is dear to my heart, so I hope you will forgive me. I hear you—or, rather I see you—and I take the hint. I am about to make my concluding remarks. However, these things need to be said.

The Government, quite rightly and responsibly, asked civil servants in all Departments to look at the different options that were available and to analyse the economic benefits that they might or might not convey. I urge Members to read the papers. They should go into the darkened room, or even better, get hold of those papers, because the Exiting the European Union Committee has had the good sense to publish them. This is new modelling—the best available framework, prepared by civil servants who act with complete independence and, as usual, have exercised the huge skills that they possess. They recognise all manner of variances. They believe that these analyses are the very best, and they are keen to sing the praises of the modelling.

What does that modelling reveal? It reveals that even if the House and the Government were sensible enough to accept the single market and the customs union, membership of the European economic area after we had left the EU would cause our projected growth to fall by 1.6%, a free trade arrangement would reduce it by 4.8%, and World Trade Organisation rules—the cliff edge urged by some Conservative Members; the most irresponsible of all options—would involve a reduction of 7.7%. Moreover, those models do not include the value of the customs union.

I want to conclude—you will be pleased to know, Madam Deputy Speaker—by expressing some views on trade deals. It concerns me greatly that the British public are not being properly and fully informed about them. I say with respect to those on the Treasury Bench that it is very important that they are absolutely up front with people and stop putting forward the chasing of what are effectively unicorn deals. We enjoy 50 free trade deals by virtue of our membership of the EU. The idea that we will not get a deal with Australia is madness, because of course the EU will soon be doing a deal with Australia, and who do we think they will be doing a deal with first, the EU or the UK? The EU of course. So we will benefit from all these free trade deals in any event; we are not getting anything different by leaving the EU.

It is very unfortunate that we are not explaining the facts on free trade arrangements—the 50 or so we currently have by virtue of our membership of the EU, and the other arrangements we also enjoy by virtue of our membership. As this analysis shows, the reality is that even if we get every single free trade deal that is available, that still will not make good the loss to our economy of leaving the EU.

So—finally, Madam Deputy Speaker—people must wake up and realise that our EU colleagues will miss us and they want us to stay, and if we leave and a future generation wants us to return we will not be able to re-join on such good terms as we currently have. The EU will not miss us because of our trade—they will find new markets; we must get real on that—but they will miss us because of what our country has always brought to the EU: we are the voice of sanity; we are the check on the excesses; we are the ally that many seek to keep the EU—