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Leaving the Eu: Customs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:44 pm on 16th May 2018.

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Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff South and Penarth 5:44 pm, 16th May 2018

My hon. Friend makes a crucial point. I have the same worries about businesses in Wales, in south Wales and in my constituency.

This is our biggest decision since the second world war, and as my hon. Friend Chuka Umunna pointed out, we have a total shambles from the Government. Rows are largely being conducted in public, but without the public knowing what the Government know about the real impacts on businesses and on Northern Ireland and the huge inconsistencies in what is being put forward, let alone the risks to our place in the world.

We have heard about the risks of leaving the customs union. We have heard about the £466 billion-worth of current goods trade with the EU. The Brexit Secretary’s special adviser said that there would be a cost of £25 billion a year up until 2030. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has pointed out the issues with customs checks on imported goods. The Home Affairs Committee revealed the lack of preparation at the Home Office, including the lack of recruitment of people to carry out customs checks, and the cost of all that. We have not even left yet, but the Home Office has already had to request up to half a billion pounds that could have been spent on policing. Instead, it is going on preparing for a hard Brexit. We have also heard about the impact on the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border, including some excellent points, as ever, from Lady Hermon, but the Northern Ireland Secretary has not even been to Brussels to discuss the issues and the Brexit Secretary went over to Northern Ireland only relatively recently.

My hon. Friend Matt Western pointed out the risk to jobs, and we repeatedly hear that directly from businesses. Many businesses have come to see me in private to tell me how disastrous the Government’s approach is. The truth is that the Government know that, but they are just not willing to admit it in public. Many businesses are activating major Brexit contingency plans. We have heard about the automotive sector, but the National Farmers Union has also described the scenario as disastrous. The pharmaceutical industry has warned about the impacts, and the Chemical Industries Association has made it clear that the best thing for us is to retain our membership of the single market and the customs union.

I have spoken extensively with the UK Chamber of Shipping about the impact on Welsh ports, including in my constituency, and it warns that the UK is facing an absolutely catastrophe. The same goes for steel, manufacturing, high-tech industries and, of course, the creative industries. We should not forget about the ability of our musicians and creative people to travel across Europe, making incredible products and selling them to the world.

As my hon. Friend Angela Smith said, we cannot fundamentally divorce all that from the arguments about the single market. I favour our staying in the EEA and in the customs union, and the Social Democratic and Labour party—Labour’s partner in Northern Ireland—has said the same. At the moment, however, the Government are riven in two in public and in private. They are unprepared, irresponsible and incompetent, and, what is worse, they know it.