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Leaving the Eu: Customs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 16th May 2018.

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Photo of Chuka Umunna Chuka Umunna Labour, Streatham 5:15 pm, 16th May 2018

That is absolutely right, and of course it is why I support the motion. However, I would also like to see the Government’s papers that led them to decide that we should not take up the offer that the EU is making to us of continuing to participate in the EEA, in addition to the papers on the customs partnerships.

I want to deal with some points that the Minister for the Cabinet Office made. First, we have been told that we cannot see any of these papers for a number of reasons, but I say to the Minister that this is a Government without a majority, containing members of the Cabinet who said that we should leave the European Union to reassert parliamentary sovereignty. Withholding evidence like this at every step of the way flies in the face of that argument. Secondly, we are told that asking for all this will undermine the Prime Minister. Every single European diplomat, Foreign Minister and Head of Government we speak to will tell us what is doing more to undermine the Government than anything else: disunity in the Cabinet and people such as the Foreign Secretary coming out and calling their Prime Minister’s proposals “crazy”. That is what undermines the Government.

I want to make a final observation, because we have talked about the 2016 referendum. This is the way I see it. Yes, the country made a decision to invoke article 50 and start this process, and in some ways, it was like buying a house. We put an offer in to purchase the house. When someone is buying a house, do they immediately go from putting in their offer to paying their deposit, paying the money and completing the purchase? No, they do not—they carry out a survey to check whether the foundations of that house are sound. If the survey comes back and tells them that the foundations are unsound and the house is going to collapse, they do not go ahead and make their purchase.

That is why I believe that 650 people in this House of Commons should not be making a decision of this gravity for 65 million people. They should get a say on the Brexit deal that comes back to us in the autumn, but if Government Members are determined to deny them that, they should at least show them the survey before they insist on carrying out the purchase. Make no mistake—I say this to Members who are parroting Whips’ lines and doing the usual tribal thing—you will not be forgiven. Members of this House will not be forgiven by future generations if they simply dance to the tune of their Whips. We should think very carefully about what we are doing, because we will never be forgiven if we make the wrong decision.