[6th Allotted Day]

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Act – in the House of Commons at 4:08 pm on 10th January 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mark Pawsey Mark Pawsey Conservative, Rugby 4:08 pm, 10th January 2019

I shall support the Government on Tuesday because the withdrawal agreement delivers on the referendum while gaining control of our money, laws and borders. If people want to know what the UK is getting out of this agreement, they should look once again at the opening remarks of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Since the withdrawal agreement was announced, I have engaged with many of my constituents, from those who want to leave with no deal and cut all ties with the EU to those who were arguing for a second referendum. Of course, this agreement is not going to satisfy either of them. It is a negotiation, so it has to go between two parties. I have done enough negotiation in my career as a businessman to know that neither party gets everything they want out of a negotiation. Having said that, I recognise the concerns that have been expressed about the backstop, and I hope that my colleagues will be given some comfort on that issue in the coming days.

I also recognise the lack of detail in the political declaration because, of course, that is the next stage; that is what we come to once we accept the withdrawal agreement. Based on my business background and the evidence that I have heard from the business community as a member of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, I think this deal is right for our country.

Of course, the voice of business is important. Some of my constituents have told me that it is too loud and that big business is running the show, but I have to say to them, and to the Opposition, that when big business does well, workers do well. There are more people in jobs, there is more secure employment, people in work get more hours, and there are more promotion prospects. When business does well, pensioners do well, because its profits fund the pensions that people receive. When business does well, the economy does well, and generates the wealth to do all the things that we want Governments to do. It is therefore vital that the views of business should be listened to.

There are important voices from big business and from smaller businesses. Only today, I have heard from the Coventry and Warwickshire local enterprise partnership, which surveyed businesses across the region in December, and 60% of them argued that Brexit is negative. They are concerned about pricing uncertainties as a consequence of the value of the pound, reductions in sales, the administrative burden on exports, loss of confidence and delayed investment plans.

As a west midlands MP, I have particular concerns about the motor industry. Coventry is its historic home. The business declined due to issues in the ’70s, but in recent years it has been resurgent. London Electric Vehicle Company in my constituency has built many of the electric vehicles that people are seeing around the streets of London, but regrettably—I hope this is not an early case of postponement of investment—it took a decision only yesterday to delay the introduction of the electric light commercial vehicle. We have seen tremendous improvements in Jaguar Land Rover under the ownership of Tata, but there has been more bad news on that today. Members will rightly point out that that is due to changes in the diesel legislation and a downturn in the Chinese market, but it is also linked to Brexit. In addition to the company itself, we must remember the 200,000 companies in the supply chain.

We have seen investment in the UK from Japanese companies. This morning, the Business Secretary talked on the radio about Margaret Thatcher’s welcome to Nissan in the north-east. In our evidence session in the BEIS Committee, the managing director of Toyota reminded us of why it was here. Margaret Thatcher said to the head of Toyota, “Come to the UK, where you can build cars as part of the European Union and export to the European Union as a free and open arrangement.” If we do not accept this deal—if there is any danger of us crashing out—how are we going to attract that level of investment in the future? In fact, the Prime Minister of Japan is in the country today. He has spoken about the need for predictability and stability. I want to be able to say to him that Britain is the best place to set up and grow businesses.

The Committee heard from other manufacturing sectors. We heard from aerospace that the deal is not perfect, but the longer it takes to get certainty, the more likely it is that investment decisions will go against the UK. The food and drink sector spoke of real concerns. Business welcomes the language in the declaration but is bothered about business that would otherwise have come to the UK going overseas. Only yesterday, the chief executive of Rolls-Royce, which has a plant in my constituency, stated in a letter:

“I have been clear that a deal is better than no deal for Rolls-Royce, our customers, suppliers and employees. Agreement of the Government’s deal will provide certainty which all businesses require and will ensure an orderly withdrawal from the European Union.”

Getting the right deal for business is phenomenally important to the UK. I encourage my hon. Friends to bear that in mind. I also ask Opposition Members to think long and hard about the consequences for the businesses in their constituencies if, as a consequence of voting down the deal on Tuesday, we end up with no deal.