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There is stalemate within the Cabinet. In the blue corner, we have the Prime Minister leading the charge for a substandard customs partnership; in the purple corner, we have arch-Brexiteers pushing for an economy-wrecking maximum facilitation scheme. Neither is workable, and they have both been rejected by the EU, so why are we even discussing them?
We are told that a high-tech computerised system can be used to process people at the border without the need for checks. Do we need reminding that, less than two years ago, this House found Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to be improperly targeting ordinary hard-working people through an outsourced company? Do we need reminding that, just a couple of weeks ago, the Home Secretary resigned because of serious Home Office failings? How can we even begin to entertain the idea that a hi-tech computerised system will give us frictionless trade? Every lorry crossing the border into Switzerland is stopped while drivers’ paperwork is checked. Upwards of 15,000 lorries a day pass through Dover. None of the proposals put forward by the Government would result in frictionless trade; it would be a “frictionful” trading nightmare, and if it is going to be a trading nightmare, why are we even considering it?
For me, there is only one option: a customs union between the UK and the EU. That is the best way to ensure that there are no tariffs or customs checks within Europe. When I talk to businesses, they tell me that they want tariff-free trading with Europe, and they want it without a mountain of paperwork. When I talk to our trade unions, they say that they want workers’ rights protected. They want a deal that raises living standards, not threatens them. If the Government get their way, the burden will be placed on our businesses and our workforce—ordinary hard-working people. Not being part of a customs union will cost far more than any other proposed trade deal, and if it is going to cost us more, why are we even considering it?
We are being told day in, day out, that leaving the European Union will make us worse off, that business will be hampered, that jobs will be harmed and that our rights will be watered down. I fear for this country when the Brexit Secretary presents us with the final deal. I stood up for my constituency of Tooting when I voted against triggering article 50, and I will not hesitate to do the same when it comes to the final deal. I will not vote for a deal that makes Tooting and our country worse off.