Many hon. Members have focused their remarks on the impact that a no-deal Brexit would have on communities in their respective constituencies. I intend to speak in the same vein, but I shall also argue that it is the Government’s responsibility to rule out such an outcome without delay.
It has been widely reported that up to £5 billion could be wiped from the Welsh economy under a no-deal scenario, which equates roughly to a reduction of some 10% of the Welsh economy. EU rules, regulation and arbitration mechanisms would no longer apply to the UK as a third country, so the current flow of trade with the EU would be constrained, as unhindered access to the single market would cease. Much of the talk about stockpiling and the sufficiency of port infrastructure to support third-country produce checks has focused on Calais and Devon, but of course the potential for disruption is just as acute in Caergybi, or Holyhead—the main port for the UK’s trade with the Republic of Ireland, the UK’s fifth biggest export partner.
The consequences of a no-deal Brexit for Ceredigion, which relies on the knowledge and rural economies, are just as serious. The education sector alone accounts for 20% of our economic output, sustaining some 5,000 jobs, with over 2,800 jobs directly supported by the county’s two universities. The UK’s ability to participate in Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe and Erasmus+—and all such schemes—will be thrown into disarray by a no-deal Brexit, and the uncertainty that will inevitably occur in such a scenario will weigh heavily on our universities’ ability to recruit EU researchers and students. It is little wonder, therefore, that the chief executive of Universities UK has said:
“A ‘no deal’
Brexit would have huge implications for universities in all corners of the UK, and prove enormously damaging for regional jobs, growth and skills.”
Furthermore, agriculture is a crucial wealth and job creation industry across rural Ceredigion. It is estimated that every £1 generated in agriculture translates into some £7.40 for the local economy through supply chains and spending, and that each job in farming supports 3.5 jobs in other sectors. It will come as no surprise to Members in the Chamber that red meat—especially lamb—exports are the backbone of the agricultural industry in Wales, and we know that the single market is a vital export destination for Welsh food and drink in general. Over 80% of food and animal exports goes to the EU, and between 35% and 40% of all Welsh lamb produced. A no-deal Brexit, and the loss of access to that valuable export market, is simply unthinkable.
The Government are aware of the implications of a no-deal Brexit and the harm that it would cause to the economy. They are now also aware, thanks to the conclusions of the European Court of Justice, that they could avert such a course if ever it seemed likely. I consider it utterly inconceivable for any Government to be so irresponsible as to inflict upon their citizens the level of damage that a no-deal Brexit would cause. That is why I must pose the question again: why are the Government insisting on spending billions of pounds on no-deal preparations, throwing communities across the UK into debilitating uncertainty, when it is within their gift to rule out such an outcome?
The Prime Minister has the power to avoid a no deal by revoking or seeking an extension to article 50, as other hon. Members have rightly outlined this afternoon. I would argue that it is her duty to rule it out now, and dissipate the harmful and unnecessary uncertainty that the mere prospect has generated.