Review of powers in consequence of EU withdrawal

Part of Finance (No. 3) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 8th January 2019.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee 5:30 pm, 8th January 2019

The amendment provides a parliamentary safeguard. It does not, in itself, solve any of the many Brexit issues that we have, but it does provide an additional parliamentary safeguard that says that the Government cannot use the powers in clause 89 to implement no deal without first coming back to Parliament to ask for permission and support for a no deal. The hon. Gentleman is right that there may be other powers that the Government may choose to use. There may be other issues that they may choose to pursue, but this is our opportunity within this Bill to address these powers. That is why it is an important one to come around.

I have heard four sets of objections to the amendment. Some say that it is irresponsible; that it is somehow holding the Government to ransom on powers that they need. Some say that it is undesirable and perhaps even unpatriotic because they think that no deal is a good outcome and should not be ruled out. Some say that it is unnecessary because the Prime Minister’s deal is the best way forward. Some suggest that it is unstrategic because we need the threat of no deal to force a decision one way or another. I want to take each of those objections in turn because each of them is wrong.

First, on the charge that this is an irresponsible amendment, the amendment does not affect the normal Treasury and Government operations; those carry on as normal. It simply requires the Government to get Parliament’s permission if they want to use these powers to pursue no deal. Even if there is deadlock, the amendment provides a way forward. Let us suppose that Parliament votes against any deal that is put and also votes against no deal, and the Government still desperately want to use the clause 89 powers. In that event, they could follow paragraph (b) of the amendment if they still want to use the powers they need to apply to extend article 50. So in fact, this is an extremely responsible amendment. The irresponsible thing to do would be just to stand back and hope for the best, or to stand back and allow the Government to drift towards no deal without any attempt to put the safeguards in place to prevent from that happening.

The second objection is from those who think that no deal is a good option, or at least a good enough option not to rule it out. That is reckless. The damage to manufacturing industry, on which many of our constituencies rely, would be too serious. One local factory has said to me that the cost of its imports will double in price if we go to WTO tariffs. Another has told me that its European parent company would be under pressure to switch production to continental factories to avoid delays. Burberry has hundreds of jobs in my constituency, making clothing that is sold all over the world. It has written to me about the risks and concerns about delays to its supply chain. Its letter says:

“My hope in writing to you is that you will work with your colleagues across Parliament to ensure that there is no scenario possible where a No-Deal Brexit is a possibility.”

That is what I am doing.