[3rd Allotted Day]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 3:16 pm on 6th December 2018.

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Photo of Janet Daby Janet Daby Labour, Lewisham East 3:16 pm, 6th December 2018

I stand today to discuss the economic aspects of this deal, but the fact is that too much is still uncertain. We know, however, that the Government’s own economic analysis illustrates that the deal will make our country poorer, and with GDP falling by around 3.9%—£100 billion in real terms—every region of the UK will be worse off. I note with enormous disappointment that the Prime Minister has dropped achieving frictionless trade as a priority, and it seems there will be barriers to trading goods. For the service sector, the political declaration states that market access will be limited, and in areas such as financial services, it offers no firm mechanism to protect the industry.

Like many in this Chamber, I was devastated when I realised that more areas had voted to leave the EU, but it soon became apparent that no one really knew what it meant and how it would affect all regions and nations of the UK. In that respect, the referendum lacked clarity as the precise effects of leaving have only recently become clear.

There is much speculation about why our nation voted the way it did and what that meant, and like my hon. Friend Mr Betts, I think that we must consider why people voted in such a way. Lost in the division and debate of the past two years is any analysis of why people voted the way they did and why it varied and was so different in many parts of our country. It is clear, however, that poverty and an ongoing lack of opportunity played a part.

A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation revealed that poverty levels are high and affect 14 million people, including 4.1 million children—a shocking statistic. The recession and long and hard-hitting austerity have seen many people made redundant. People have been forced to take on zero-hours contracts, and some may have two or three jobs but still live in poverty. Food and fuel prices have risen, and wages have fallen behind the standard cost of living. There has been a sharp spike in private rental accommodation, in which people often live in unbearable conditions. Property in certain parts of the country has become unattainable, and social housing waiting lists are forever growing longer. People, especially in London, are being placed in B&Bs and temporary accommodation, often too far away when it comes to taking their children to school, going to their place of work or caring for their loved ones.

There has been an increase in the threat of terrorism and the prison population, and the ability to attain higher education has moved further away from some people and their families. The rise in food bank provision makes people feel like they have failed in life, when really it is the Government who need to be held to account.

The leave campaign focused on a contentious message of blame culture: “Let’s blame others—immigrants.” They used them as a scapegoat when the nation’s sense of dissatisfaction should have lain at the Government’s doorstep. It is successive Governments who are failing to create jobs, to correct the benefits system, to provide education bursaries, to regulate rents in the private sector and to build more social homes. They are failing to root out racism and discrimination in our society, to promote gender equality by giving pensions to WASPI women, to invest more in education, including higher education, and to invest in our public services.

Many of my constituents are proud to be called Europeans: 70% in the borough of Lewisham voted to remain. A deal is an agreement, but this deal has not been ratified by our country. What is the only way to regain a mandate on a clear way forward? I have faith in Members of this House, but the gravity of this decision is too much for us alone.

If the Prime Minister is confident with her proposed negotiations, she should be confident enough to bring them before the electorate. Under the circumstances, it is only right that the people are given some say over what happens next.

This is not about frustrating Brexit; it is about allowing people to make an informed decision across the country about a known quantity. Before the Prime Minister sets her Brexit boat sailing, she needs to consider the weather and the course of the journey. It will be too late to turn back if the weather gets tough. I could not vote for anything that will make our country poorer.