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[2nd Allotted Day]

Part of Immigration (Time Limit on Detention) – in the House of Commons at 4:20 pm on 5th December 2018.

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Photo of Chuka Umunna Chuka Umunna Labour, Streatham 4:20 pm, 5th December 2018

We are asked to approve the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration. I will vote against them because they are not in our national interest. I do not believe that they represent the will of this House or the will of our country, which is why we have to give this issue back to the people with the option to keep our current deal—a far superior arrangement. Some will say that that is unsurprising; I represent the area that scored the highest remain vote in the country. It is almost as if what my constituents think does not count, because ever since 2016, there has been a deliberate attempt to dismiss areas such as mine that voted remain and to divide them off from areas that voted leave.

Despite the multifaceted nature of the result and the fact that it was evenly balanced—17.4 million to 16.1 million—areas such as mine are sometimes treated like a small minority and airily referred to as being liberal, metropolitan and elite. In Lambeth, we are proud to be metropolitan and we are proud of our liberal values, but we are anything but an elite. We are the eighth most deprived local authority area in England. One third of the children living in our borough live in poverty. We have higher rates of unemployment and we have more acute social problems than many of the areas that voted to leave, so my constituents have grievances, too. No one side of this debate has a monopoly on grievance. The only difference is that in Lambeth, we did not believe that leaving the European Union would do anything to help us or solve the problems that I just referred to, and nothing in the withdrawal agreement or the political declaration gives us any reason to think otherwise.

As for those who did vote to leave, what were they promised and have the withdrawal agreement and declaration delivered it? Mr Harper, who spoke before me, is absolutely right: it is important that these promises are kept. Vote Leave—I note that the Environment Secretary was the co-leader of that campaign—said that the Government would negotiate new trade deals that would immediately take effect on exit day. Where are those trade deals? I will give way to him if he wants to tell us where they are. We know that they are nowhere to be seen and that we will not see any of them in March 2019. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman chunters from a sedentary position. Not one trade deal will be in place in March 2019. I am happy to give way to him if he wants to disabuse the House of that fact, but he knows that it is not going to happen.

Vote Leave also promised that trade with the EU would not be harmed. The Prime Minister acknowledged in her Mansion House speech that we will have less market access and trade will be harmed. The Government’s own economic impact assessments are telling us that we will be poorer as a result. Then, of course, there was that ridiculous promise of the £350 million extra per week that we were told would go to the NHS—a straightforward lie, which I will not dignify with any further attention.

I want to address what is sometimes the elephant in the room: immigration. If one factor above all else was driving the vote, it was that and the issue of EU free movement. It was exploited in the most disgusting way. Remember Vote Leave’s claim that millions of Turkish people would be coming to our country, bringing criminality and threatening our security—it was an absolute disgrace and those involved in making those claims should hang their heads in shame.

There is, of course, concern about the levels of EU immigration. Let us be honest: views are stronger in respect of non-EU immigration, and there are parallels between the discontent in some leave-voting areas about EU immigration and the discontent regarding the immigration that we have had in this country from the 1950s. There was, after all, a form of free movement from the Commonwealth up until 1971; my father was part of that. I do not deny that immigration poses economic and cultural challenges in parts of our country, but if we implement the right policies, it need not do so.

I turn then to the underlying causes of concern about immigration: not enough well-paid and decent jobs; not enough decent, affordable housing; a shortage of school places; an NHS in crisis. These problems will not disappear or be mitigated if we exit, be it with this withdrawal agreement and declaration or in any other way. As the Government’s own Migration Advisory Committee has said, immigration has no or little impact on the overall employment conditions or outcomes of UK-born citizens; immigration is not a major determinant of the wages of UK-born workers; immigrants make up a small fraction of those in social housing; and, above all, EU immigrants contribute so much more to the health service and the provision of social care and financial resources, and through work, than they consume in services.

It is absolutely clear, therefore, that ending free movement will not solve the problems facing the country. We have to treat our constituents—everyone in this country—like adults and be honest. I am fed up with hearing people say, “People expressed concerns about immigration.” Of course we should engage with that, but let us not lie and say that we agree that they are caused by all these EU immigrants that people refer to. Governments from both sides of the House have not delivered enough for people, and that is the problem, not immigration.

Where does that leave us? We have absolutely no idea because we do not know the proposed post-Brexit immigration arrangements or our future economic relationship with the EU; we just have this declaration of aspiration. This is the point. Beyond immigration and security, we do not know the final Brexit destination, and let us be honest about this too: the House cannot agree what that destination should be either. For all those reasons and more, I cannot see how we can resolve this issue if we do not refer it back to the people to determine. Let us have the people’s vote we need.