I rise to speak today on what is the United Kingdom’s 96th birthday. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland started 96 years ago. When I think back to John Major talking in the ’80s about 1,000 years of British history, I have longed to utter those words and make people realise that the UK is not as old as he thought.
On this 96th birthday of the United Kingdom, we are in what I would call a Laurel-and-Hardy situation with Brexit. It is clear that Brexit is crazy, silly, nuts, wacky, cuckoo, potty, daft, cracked, dippy, bonkers—the list goes on. In Gaelic, I could say that it is gòrach, faoin, amaideach, caoicheil, air bhoil—the list again goes on. We are seeing that the UK will struggle to see its 100th birthday as a result of this nonsense. As the Chancellor laid out in his speech earlier, Brexit will have opportunity costs. He gave us five scenarios, but we are down to two scenarios from the Government. The Prime Minister has given the UK a choice between a deal or no deal, leading to economic damage of between 3.4% and 6.4% of GDP or 6.3% to 9% of GDP respectively. Each percentage point of GDP equates to up to £26 billion. By way of contrast, the 2008 crash was a 2% event. Those percentage points mean a loss of jobs, wages, prosperity, housing, infrastructure, taxation for health and education funding and so on.
How does all that happen? Well, there are a few examples. For instance, Toyota takes 50 lorries a day across the channel to factories in Derbyshire, with a four-hour lead-in time. If there are snarl-ups at the border, that will not happen. Honda takes 200 lorries. It is no wonder that the Japanese Prime Minister, Japanese companies and Japanese diplomats here in the UK are concerned, and we should be worried, too. The situation will affect our lamb, shellfish, cattle and many of our other exports, and chemical companies, such as BASF in my constituency, are well aware of that. Some people suggest that we should use ports such as Zeebrugge rather than Calais, but that would take longer to do the same thing. The UK is already laggard in productivity, so to take longer to do the same thing will make matters worse.
Why are we in this situation? The Prime Minister made contradictory promises. She said, “We will be out of the customs union and the single market,” but she also said, “There will be no border in Ireland.” Something had to give and, as we know now from the loss of the DUP’s support, she reneged on those promises. She had to, because there was a catastrophe coming down the way. One of the funny things about the Brexiteers is that they all want Brexit, but they do not want it in March, because they know full well the damage that Brexit is about to do. While they want Brexit in their wild abstractions, they do not want it coming this March, because they know what Brexit will do. Brexit will be economically damaging to everybody in the United Kingdom and, as a result, it is a folly for us that we are stuck in the United Kingdom.
In this crazy fantasy, 96 years later, the Irish are delighted that they have left. For those who voted no in Scotland in 2014, there is an awakening going on, and that is without a campaign—incidentally, people can visit SNP.org/join if they want. People are seeing the two unions differently. One is a union of independent nations of Europe meeting as equals, and the UK now knows the muscle of independent Ireland and Varadkar, with 26 behind them in a regional trade agreement. Leaving that union is tearing up trade arrangements. By contrast, when Scotland leaves the United Kingdom, we will merely be completing devolution to move political powers from here to Edinburgh, closer to the people.
Had we left in 2014, this folly and nonsense of Brexit would not have happened. Brexit, in actual fact, overturns the will of the Scottish people. It does not respect Scotland or the result of the votes of the Scottish people. Brexit shows the epic misgovernance of England, so what chance is there for Scotland when England cannot govern itself well? The escaped Irish have belly laughs, and their biggest wind-up is to go on television at various points of crisis and tell the UK to stay calm. Back in Tipperary, Waterford and Galway they are laughing, because they know exactly what it means to tell London to stay calm. The UK has many problems, and they are of its own making. The UK has crashed the Rolls-Royce, and the Prime Minister is trying to tell us that the choice now is to go down the second-hand car shop to choose a second-hand car or a moped. It is an absolute mess.
David Schneider, the comedian, tweeted today that in 2016 the Brexiteers said “‘Take back control! Make Parliament sovereign again!’”, which he contrasted with Lord Digby Jones, who said on Twitter yesterday, “Beware the tyranny of Parliament!” As Laurel and Hardy said, what a fine mess they have got themselves into.