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I represent a Black country constituency that is heavily dependent on manufacturing companies, the business models of which are deeply integrated with Europe. It is also a constituency that voted overwhelmingly for Brexit and, out of respect and having voted for the referendum, I felt that I had to follow the logic in that decision through.
I voted for the triggering of article 50 to be consistent with the referendum result, but I also voted for it because I felt that it was only when we entered into detailed negotiations with the EU that we would actually get some idea of the difficulties of realising the promises that were so easily, and often falsely, made to our electors during the referendum period. Far from having countries queuing up to do deals with us, and far from having the EU desperate to do a deal with us because of our relative economic influence, the Government have run up against as yet unresolved difficulties. We must recognise that the so-called transitional period is in fact a recognition of our failure to come up with a deal that actually conforms to the needs of our vital manufacturing industry and, of course, addresses the issues around the Northern Ireland border.
It is important to test the proposals against the requirements of manufacturing businesses. To be quite clear, companies have come to me to say that they are desperate that we accept the deal, not because it is better than the status quo, but because they are so frightened of the cliff-edge, no-deal scenario that they see looming ahead. I therefore want a commitment that, whatever else happens, there will not be a no-deal outcome. However, businesses also acknowledge that this proposal is not a deal as such. It is little more than a wish list wrapped up with warm words and good intentions. The fact that there even is a backstop proposal is tacit recognition in itself that the warm words, whatever they say, may not be realised.
If we get into the backstop, we will be in a position that in many ways replicates elements of a no-deal scenario. The Attorney General acknowledges in his legal advice that the backstop could lead to friction at borders between mainland UK and the EU and with mainland UK and Northern Ireland, which is a totally unsatisfactory and potentially dangerous position for our manufacturing industry. At the end of the day, I cannot see any resolution of the issues around the borders between Northern Ireland and Eire, the UK and Northern Ireland, and the UK and the rest of Europe that does not involve a convergence of regulation, the membership of a customs union and a trading bloc. I will not back a deal until that situation is on the table.