Future Relationship Between the UK and the EU

Part of Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:39 pm on 18th July 2018.

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Photo of Owen Smith Owen Smith Labour, Pontypridd 6:39 pm, 18th July 2018

For the avoidance of doubt, let me start by saying that I am absolutely campaigning for a second referendum. I am doing so because I want to give the people of this country an opportunity to turn away from Brexit, which I think will be damaging to their prosperity and to the security of all of us in this country. I will continue to make that argument in all sincerity.

Today’s debate and the events of the past 10 days have been edifying and terrifying in equal measure. They have exposed the full horror of the Tory civil war and, more importantly, the gravity of the risks that all the people in this country are now being exposed to as a result of the potential outcomes of that Tory civil war. We have seen resignations and revelations, and even the sinister, though softly spoken, speech by Mr Baker, who is now not in his place, threatening in effect his Front Benchers—the governing classes, as he put it, by which I think he was coyly referring to the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and other people advising the Conservative party.

Those threats have been heard in the country and they have revealed, as other speeches have today, that some of the Brexiteers have always wanted sovereignty to absolutely trump security or prosperity. They have always wanted an isolated, independent Britain. They have wanted to row back to a fantastical past that cannot deliver in the modern era. We in the Opposition have to acknowledge that, and that the scale of risk that the country faces is grave. The Prime Minister’s White Paper was a brave attempt to try to recognise that, and to at last acknowledge that an integrated, involved relationship with the European Union is not only necessary but inevitable. There are over 100 references in the White Paper to common rules, common partnerships, common objectives, the common rulebook—just about every page is littered with such examples, which is precisely why it sparked the neuralgia on the European Research Group Benches, and precisely why we have effectively seen the coup of the last week and the capitulation of the Front Benchers to the ERG.

We must realise how grave the risks are, because we are now blithely talking about an exit on World Trade Organisation terms, as though that is something that we can countenance in this House. We cannot. The risks are enormous. Calculate what it would cost our country in extra borrowing, which is something that the Tories used to bang on about endlessly when I first came into the House. “You are hanging debt around the neck of future generations,” is what we used to hear from George Osborne and David Cameron. The reality is that the hit that the country will take—the extra borrowing that we will require as a result of the hole in our public finances—if we pursue the Chequers model is around £40 billion per annum in the long run, at 15 years out. We will not, unfortunately, get to a good place in 10 years, as one hon. Member said. The Government’s own analysis says that we will be £40 billion worse off.

What happens if we pursue WTO terms—if we take the no deal option that is now being openly, terrifyingly advocated by so many on the Tory Benches? We heard earlier that there is ostensibly now a majority among the ERG group for that, and much more than the 40 that we heard from the hon. Member for Wycombe would vote for it. According to the Government’s analysis, the impact would be a 7.7% reduction in our GDP. That equates to about £150 billion less per year. It is more than we spend on the NHS. We are talking as though we are about to throw away the entire annual expenditure of the NHS to satisfy the fantasies of Sir William Cash and others, who have been banging on about this not just in the past few years, but for 30 years.