1st Allotted Day

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Act – in the House of Commons at 9:01 pm on 4th December 2018.

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Photo of Anna Soubry Anna Soubry Conservative, Broxtowe 9:01 pm, 4th December 2018

Indeed, it is nothing more than warm words of good intentions. There is no mention of the frictionless trade that we were all promised. Services that make up 80% of our economy barely get a mention, and of course, the political declaration is the high point as we now go to the negotiations in March.

The worst part of the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration is that it will make our constituents and our country poorer, and I did not come to this place and will not vote to do anything that makes my constituents poorer, especially when a far better alternative exists. On their own admission, the Government are urging people to vote for this so-called deal in the clear knowledge that it will reduce the future economic prospects of the people of this country. And that is on their best assessments—or rather, guesses—because we know of the inherent problems and inaccuracies, in effect, of the impact assessments and the forecasts that have been made. Those just give us the best assessments when, in fact, many believe that it will be far worse than even those estimates.

No one should be under any illusions about how bad a place the backstop will be. I will not rehearse some of the arguments that have been put forward very well by others. This is not just vassalage; it will convey only a bare bones customs union, with none of the regulatory alignment that is so critical for business. Northern Ireland will have limited benefits, but those benefits will be better than the rest of the United Kingdom, which is clearly a threat to the Union of our country. I say to Members on the Government Benches: as members of the Conservative and Unionist party, on what possible basis can you vote for that? As others have observed, we will not be able to deliver any of the unicorn trade deals that have so far eluded us, but which will apparently magically appear in the next two years; nor, it seems, will we be able to benefit from the dozens of great trade deals that we already have because we are a member of the European Union. That is the reality.

This is not what leave voters in Broxtowe voted for. They have seen through the lies on buses and they now know of the broken promises. They see that whichever way we cut it, Brexit will make them poorer and reduce the life chances of their children and grandchildren. Now that they see the reality of Brexit, they are entitled to change their minds and have a final say by way of a people’s vote.

It is said that this Brexit is a price worth paying, but I reject that. I understand the political consequences—many hon. Members have mentioned the need to deliver this—but we must all put our country and our constituents first. If we do that, we will understand that the best deal with the EU is our current deal with the EU. It is not just good for trade; it is also about the country we are—open-minded, open-hearted. I fear for our country if we set course now, agree to this deal and make the grave mistake of leaving the EU, which has conveyed so much prosperity and delivered peace and a better country.