It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Hugh Gaffney, and I thank him for his courtesy.
This is not a Noel Edmonds game show. The Government are playing politics with Brexit. They are playing on people’s fears, and they have created a hoax that will divert huge resources away from frontline services this winter. The Chancellor has said that at least £4.2 billion has been set aside for no-deal planning since 2016. That is a grotesque waste of taxpayers’ money on something that will not happen, that does not need to happen and that Parliament must not allow to happen. How much extra help would that £4.2 billion buy for the NHS? How many extra police and how much extra help for our schools would it buy? And that £4.2 billion is only the Government spend. The increased costs now for our businesses do not bear thinking about.
Why am I so confident that a no-deal Brexit does not need to happen? When the Government were negotiating with the EU27, they took a negotiating position about no deal, using the slogan “no deal is better than a bad deal”. That was the negotiating position taken by the Government to try to negotiate the best possible deal with the EU, but the negotiations concluded. The Prime Minister and the EU signed off on an agreement. This is the final deal, according to the Prime Minister. She said as much when she opened the debate that was concluded prematurely.
Given that an agreement has been signed off, pending the approval of the UK Parliament and the European Parliament, why is no deal still being touted as an option? It is there for one reason only: the Prime Minister wants to bully Members across the House into voting for her deal. It is a deal that businesses tell me will lead the UK into a blind Brexit, when nothing about our future has been nailed down. It is a deal that does not give us access to the European Medicines Agency, which gives patients access to cancer drugs six months earlier. The Minister shakes his head, but the deal says that there is an aspiration to join the European Medicines Agency; it does not nail anything down. It is a deal that leaves us following EU rules without having any say in them. It is a national humiliation. We will not be bullied, and we do not want to vote for the Prime Minister’s deal.
The Prime Minister could easily rule out no deal herself. If the House was allowed to vote on the matter, no deal could easily be ruled out. There was even an amendment to the motion that was pulled that would have ruled out a no-deal Brexit. The Government are wasting so much money on something reckless that could be stopped now. And now Parliament is going into recess—18 days off at time of national crisis, when we could be sorting this out.
Why are the Government not allowing Parliament to vote on this now? It is simply because they are trying to escalate the crisis. What responsible Government allow a crisis to develop just to bully MPs? What responsible Government spend millions on fridges for political reasons? What responsible Government, for political reasons, allow businesses to escalate their planning for no deal, which is likely to include making people redundant? Whether people voted to leave or to remain back in 2016, nobody voted for this. A no-deal Brexit was not on the ballot paper and it was not in the prospectus.
I believe that there is only one sensible way out of this crisis: Parliament must be allowed immediately to rule out a no-deal Brexit, without going into recess. Parliament must be allowed, the day after new year’s day—when everyone else goes back to work—to vote on the deal. When Parliament votes against the Prime Minister’s bad deal, as it will, we must revoke the article 50 notice and give the people the final say. This would be the first chance the public have had to vote on EU exit while being in possession of all the facts needed to make the decision. We need a people’s vote with an option to stay in the EU.
I represent Stockton South in the north-east of England, an area with significant inequalities, in need of investment and massively dependent on our relationship with the EU: 57% of the north-east’s trade is with the EU. Our area stands to lose the most from a no-deal Brexit—16% less growth, according to the reports that the Government did not want us to see. North-east businesses are pleading with MPs to rule out a no-deal Brexit. The North East England chamber of commerce, as my hon. Friend Liz Twist said, wants us to stay in the single market and in the customs union to protect jobs. A no-deal Brexit is an existential threat to the NHS. The Government should stop playing politics with Brexit, immediately rule out no deal and give us a meaningful vote without delay.