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Leaving the Eu: Customs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:28 pm on 16th May 2018.

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Photo of Jo Platt Jo Platt Labour/Co-operative, Leigh 6:28 pm, 16th May 2018

I am in favour of the Opposition’s motion for a number of reasons. First, seeing the documents would allow us to assess the economic impact that the two options will have. As MPs, we have been promised a vote on the final deal between the EU and the UK, but how can we vote on that deal without the information to inform us of the economic impact it will have? Neither can we wait until we are presented with the final deal to have our say on our trading relationship. The Government have openly stated that they wish to hold the House to ransom in October—it is their deal or no deal. As MPs, we need to have an input into this important debate before any deal is reached.

The second reason I am in favour of the motion is to highlight the importance of Labour’s policy of forming a new customs union with the EU. A new customs union is the only way to secure the frictionless trade with the EU that our economy relies on. As my hon. Friend Preet Kaur Gill rightly pointed out about the car industry, the manufacture of a car involves goods crossing EU borders perhaps a dozen times. If we adopt a policy that adds significant delays and checks at the UK border, what will car manufacturers do—will they carry on as usual, accepting that the UK is less competitive and more expensive, or will we see the gradual relocation of jobs and businesses to the continent? I genuinely fear that the latter may be true.

Under current regulations, if we were to leave the EU without a customs union, 44% of the components of a car need to originate in the UK for us to benefit from free trade, but a car is currently about 25% British-sourced. This means that the car industry, but also many others, will see tariffs on goods. The ambitious free trade deal that the Government want will be meaningless without a customs union. That is why we need to be up front and honest about the impact each trading option will have.

The only word that comes close to describing this Government’s handling of Brexit is “shambolic”. We have even heard reports today that the Government are considering scrapping the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill owing to the risks of defeat in this House, and I hope the Minister will clarify those reports and confirm that the Bill will return to the Commons after it has passed through the Lords. As an Opposition, we must do all we can to shine a light on the dangers of a Tory Brexit, and, as we leave the EU, we must do everything we can to protect businesses, jobs and our economy. That is Labour’s guiding Brexit principle, and I urge colleagues to vote in favour of the motion.