I completely agree. I presume that Members in all parts of the House have been lobbied by representatives of the manufacturing sector. Living in a manufacturing constituency, I have had an awful lot of lobbying, and I am yet to come across any trade association or any representatives of individual companies who think that the no deal scenario is anything but a disaster.
Looking at those who seem to want a no deal scenario, I would divide them into two categories. There are the no deal deniers—those who still try to perpetuate the myth that this is all the politics of fear and that none of these things will really happen. The fact is that this is not something being generated by politicians to pursue a particular political objective—it is the words of people who have invested in companies; who make the decisions on which the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of our electors depend; and who will have to implement the decisions and deal with the measures that will have to be taken if a no deal scenario actually occurs. They cannot be disregarded. There is also the myth perpetrated by Government Members that the compromise withdrawal deal that is being promoted by the Prime Minister is somehow a way forward. Certainly, some businesses have said that we should go for it on the basis that it at least buys them a bit of time before the disaster hits them. However, there is nothing in the withdrawal deal that satisfies me that that disaster would not occur.
Today, literally just before I walked into the Chamber, I had an email from a business in my constituency involved in the motor supply industry. It says:
“If we leave the EU with May’s proposed deal we will have access to the European Single Market, but no say in the development of its rules. The automotive sector is bound by enormous amounts of rules governing safety and environmental issues which constantly change. There can be no doubt that our competitor nations will use their very best endeavours to use these rules to their advantage and our disadvantage. All of the main automotive companies in the world have made it plain that they have no interest in investing in a UK that is outside the EU. May’s proposed deal would therefore lead to the decline and eventual disappearance of our industry in the UK.”
I think that is the authentic voice of the small businesses involved at the sharp end of our manufacturing sector.
No deal is also a disaster for our public finances, with £2 billion being spent on preparatory measures. What could we have spent that £2 billion on? There are so many better alternatives—I will not go into them now, but that did not come out in the course of the referendum debate. It also disregards the personal hardship, worry and concern for literally hundreds of thousands of people involved in businesses who have to face Christmas without knowing what the outcome of these negotiations will be and the potential impact on their personal finances.
It all could have been different. People have talked about the Prime Minister’s determination and sense of public duty. I agree that she has it, but that does not alter the fact that we are where we are because of the series of disastrous personal and political positions that she took. Her rhetoric at the Tory party conference was hardly that of a person who wanted to sensibly negotiate with a body such as the EU. There was also the announcement of the red lines, the opposition to Parliament having a say on the withdrawal agreement—something that was actively fought for and grabbed by this Parliament—and the constant pandering to the no deal deniers or ideologues on the Government Benches. That is not symptomatic of someone who wanted to reach out and come to an agreement, which I think was possible at one stage.
We only have to look at the vote on triggering article 50 to realise that there was a consensus on both sides of the House at a given time that we had to go forward and respect the will of the people. I have been a remainer and a pro-European all my life, but I voted to trigger article 50 because I respected the view of the people and thought it was necessary to try to implement what they wanted. Equally, as a representative of an important manufacturing constituency, during these negotiations I could not disregard the interests of those companies and the people who work in them, which seem to have been disregarded by the Government’s policies.
This Government’s policy must be to state quite categorically that their overriding political objective is to avoid no deal and that they will take whatever measures necessary, including extending article 50 or talking to Opposition Members to see what sort of deal can be done, to ensure that we do not come out with no deal. I will conclude with a quote from the same manufacturer who contacted me just before I came here today. He says:
“Neither my employees nor I will easily forgive anyone in parliament if this disaster is not stopped before it is too late.”
Only the Government can stop it, and they can only do that by making it quite clear that no deal is not an option.