[2nd Allotted Day]

Part of Immigration (Time Limit on Detention) – in the House of Commons at 5:47 pm on 5th December 2018.

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Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South 5:47 pm, 5th December 2018

This is probably one of the most important debates that I have ever taken part in in this House, and we have had quite a few important debates. Certainly for my constituency and probably for other constituencies up and down the country, we are talking about our young people’s future just as much as we are talking about our constituents today and their interests today.

If we look at the effect on the economy and GDP, the Treasury’s analysis suggests that this deal would leave the economy 3.9% smaller after 15 years than if we stayed in the EU. Unsurprisingly, it also shows that any form of Brexit would leave us facing a huge economic loss. Of course, the worst-case scenario is a no-deal Brexit, which would leave us 9.3% worse off over that 15-year period. We did not need that analysis to tell us that a no-deal Brexit is a significant threat to this country, but the choice facing us today is not between a bad deal or no deal. There are strong economic grounds for us to vote down this deal and to seek a different Brexit with the EU, or to remain as we are.

Coventry has a long history of manufacturing, and 11,000 people in my constituency work in the manufacturing industry, just as I did. Because of that, I have had regular meetings with some of the biggest manufacturers in Coventry, including Jaguar Land Rover, Meggitt and the London Electric Vehicle Company. Throughout the Brexit negotiations, they have been concerned about what Brexit will mean for future business in the EU. Anybody who knows anything about manufacturing knows that manufacturers need at least some stability to look forward four or five years—sometimes it is a lot longer in the aircraft industry—but this deal does not give them that.

The Government have responded to some concerns, but they have not provided enough information for businesses to plan long term, as I have already indicated. Their failure to convince business is shown most of all by the leaked CBI email revealing its true opinion, which is that this is not a good deal. All businesses need stability to plan ahead and to protect the jobs of our constituents. This deal offers no stability and is a stab in the dark that puts the jobs of my constituents at risk. I will therefore not be joining the CBI in backing the deal, which I, and the CBI, have great reservations about. If the deal is defeated on Tuesday, it will set us on a path to a different Brexit—one that puts the jobs of my constituents before the ideology of some of the Prime Minister’s Back Benchers.

I am lucky to represent a constituency with not only skills and success in manufacturing, but two world-class universities, Coventry and Warwick—incidentally, research and development is as important to them as to the manufacturing sector and companies such as Jaguar Land Rover. Those universities bring huge benefits to the local economy and to the UK as a result of their cutting-edge research, which contributes £1.8 billion in GDP annually. They are a crucial part of our community and economy, just as other universities are across the country.

I have been in touch with both universities to see what the deal would mean for them. Unsurprisingly, they are not willing to back a deal that does not mention the word “university” once in its entire 585 pages. Since 2010, they have received close to £100 million in EU funding. There is no mention in the agreement of replacing that. Considering that the previous Universities Minister resigned over the deal, it is clear that it does not deliver for students or universities. Both universities are outward-looking institutions with strong links to Europe, as shown by the fact that about 10% of both students and staff in Coventry come from the EU. The Government say they want diversity to continue, but that is not backed up—the deal fails to mention the Erasmus scheme.

The EU contributes a huge amount to Coventry through funding beyond that given to universities, but this funding has yet to be protected and guaranteed for the long term after Brexit. According to the House of Commons Library, Coventry has received over £400 million in funding from the EU since 2014. This money is a crucial part of the local economy and keeps thousands of people employed. Unfortunately, we all know there is no chance of the Government maintaining this funding as well as increasing funding for the NHS.

The Prime Minister may pretend there will be a Brexit bonanza, but her Brexit will not fill the gap left by EU funding, and that will leave Coventry worse off. She has made numerous vague promises of extra funding for the NHS after Brexit, but this relies entirely upon us starting new trade deals immediately after the transition period, and these deals will not be that easy, despite promises to have 40 of them ready by next March. Without any definitive evidence of extra funding, her warm words on the NHS may as well be written on the side of a bus.

As well as threatening the jobs of my constituents and their public services, the deal threatens their rights at work. Any new workers’ rights protections from the EU enacted after the transition period would not apply to the UK, and if we fell into the backstop—an agreement that we cannot leave unilaterally—workers’ rights would be frozen. It would leave UK workers and trade unions unable to take complaints to the European Court of Justice, despite the Court’s responsibility for this. The Tory right want to cut back on workers’ rights in their ideological vision of Brexit Britain. This deal makes it far too easy for that to happen.