I voted to remain in the European Economic Community in 1975. As a young man who had just turned 18, I was lucky enough to be able to make a decision that affected my economic future. It is a matter of regret that 16 and 17-year-olds were not able to vote in June 2016. The terms on which we leave the European Union will have a massive effect on their lives, far more so than on the lives of the over-70s.
The result in 1975 was very clear. Given the economic circumstances in which this country found itself in 1975, I am not at all surprised. The six original nations of the EEC had growing economies, flourishing trade and bright futures. The UK had just come out of the three-day week. If anyone had seriously suggested in 1975 that 43 years later, the UK would be the fifth largest economy in the world, would they have been believed? I fail to understand the logic of so many Government Members who say with one breath that this country is flourishing and with another that we should tear up a major part of the economic framework that has put us in that position.
I want to focus on the future—on the future of young people in Ipswich today and on the effect that this so-called deal is likely to have on them if we leave the EU on these terms. First, the Government’s own economic analysis shows Brexit on this deal costing us around 3.9% of our GDP, dwarfing the current level of contributions to the EU. I cannot in all conscience vote for any deal that leaves my constituents worse off and I cannot understand how any other Member of this House could either.
Secondly, without a strong single market, much of the current growth in tradeable services will be stymied. Much has been made about manufacturing industries and I will say nothing to belittle their importance, but in my constituency, and in many others besides, it is in financial services, insurance, software design and creative industries that the future lies for our young people. They are already embracing those new industries and we run the very real risk that our market for those new industries will be chopped down just as it starts to bear fruit. Thirdly, this deal provides no guarantee that the UK will continue with key educational, scientific and other research programmes
Ipswich has one of the fastest-growing economies in the UK and that growth is in many of the same sectors as we have in Cambridge, the current success story. That is put at risk by any block either to our ability to sell knowledge-based products, or to the free movement of those engaged in research and the knowledge economy. All of us need young people in the UK to be able to share and learn from each other across Europe; otherwise, what developed knowledge-based economy are we going to have? Where is the money going to come from to support us in our old age? We cannot all live on dividends from offshore investments. I do not believe that there is enough in this withdrawal agreement to mitigate the appalling damage that would be done to our future by leaving the EU without a deal. Hon. Members should not support something that they know to be wrong just in case the Government might plunge us into an even worse situation.
I will support any amendment that seeks to rule out a no-deal Brexit altogether. If Government Members agree to hold a general election now, I believe that it will still be possible, whatever Michel Barnier might say, for an incoming Government, focused on the future prosperity of our country, to produce a withdrawal agreement that would be less damaging to our economy and acceptable to the EU. However, if that option is not available to us, I urge hon. Members to consider what the younger residents of the UK would want us to do, including those who were not old enough to vote last time round.