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[3rd Allotted Day]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 2:56 pm on 6th December 2018.

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Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee 2:56 pm, 6th December 2018

In the referendum, Sheffield voted 51% to 49% to leave. My constituency voted two to one to leave. Like the country, the city was split, with the more affluent western parts voting to remain and the poorer eastern part voting to leave. Whatever happens with this deal and the vote on it, we have to understand the reasons that led many of the poorest parts of the country to vote to leave. People feel left behind, disadvantaged, and that the burden of austerity has been placed on them unduly. That is the truth of the matter, and we have to recognise that. As I said to the shadow Chancellor, my right hon. Friend John McDonnell—and I think he agreed—we need a major programme of economic and social reconstruction to help these areas.

We also need to understand the issue of migration, which affected many people in these areas. It is not good enough simply to dismiss the concerns and fears that people had as racism. We should recognise that migration from eastern Europe had real impacts on communities, which got very little help to deal with it—in fact, they got no help at all from the Government. We also have to recognise the feeling that people come over here and claim benefits, having paid nothing into the system. We did not use the 90-day rule in the way that countries such as Belgium did to prevent that from happening. It could have removed many of the concerns, or more appropriately dealt with them.

I think back to Sheffield in the 1970s and 1980s, when we lost 45,000 jobs in steel and engineering in the Don Valley alone. Now, with the advanced manufacturing research centre, we have Rolls-Royce coming in, and Boeing and McLaren, and, building on the companies that are left, such as Forgemasters and Outokumpu, we have created new, high-tech, advanced jobs. I will not vote for any deal that puts those at risk. That is the fundamental issue for me to consider in deciding whether to vote for this or any other deal.

Some 56% of Sheffield exports go to the EU. That is higher than the national average. I have had a lot of advice, as I am sure all hon. Members have, from constituents telling me how to vote. Interestingly, very few people have written to me saying, “Vote for this deal”. The Prime Minister has managed to unite leavers and remainers against her deal. I have, however, had one letter, from Tinsley Bridge, an important exporter in my constituency, saying, “Please vote for the deal”, not because it thinks it is a particularly good deal, but because it worries that the alternative is a no-deal, which would put its just-in-time business at risk. I say to Tinsley Bridge and other businesses that we are not going to have a no-deal; that is not a good reason for voting for the bad deal that the Government are putting forward.

In the end, businesses are concerned about uncertainty, and the Government’s deal is all about uncertainty. It perpetuates uncertainty. Everything is postponed until 2020, at the earliest, and almost certainly until later, and the chances of getting a good deal then will be lessened because we will have given away all our bargaining power. The EU can keep us in the backstop until it chooses to let us go. We will have no bargaining power whatsoever. According to an article in the Financial Times, the path to an independent trade policy

“is one of the most ambiguous and contradictory parts of the political declaration.”

This is an uncertain deal, an unclear deal and a contradictory deal. I cannot vote for no deal, because that is the greatest risk to jobs in my constituency, but I cannot vote for an inadequate deal either. I want a deal that keeps us in a customs union and closely tied to the single market. If we cannot get a deal that protects jobs in my constituency and preserves living standards, environmental protections, health and safety protections and workers right—or rather if we cannot get a change of Government to secure that deal, since no one can trust this Government any more to secure a deal in the interests of the British people—I will, at that point, be prepared to consider voting for a second referendum, so that the British people, knowing clearly what they are voting for, can choose between clear-cut options. If we have to do that, it should be seen as an enhancement of the democratic process, not a negation of it.