[7th Allotted Day]

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 11:16 am on 11th January 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Labour/Co-operative, Liverpool, Wavertree 11:16 am, 11th January 2019

Few debates in this House have ever had such an impact on the people of Liverpool Wavertree and on the country as the one we are conducting this week. Every home, every business and every citizen in Liverpool will feel the impact of Brexit. The stakes could not be higher for jobs, the price of our goods, wages, the cost of mortgages, businesses large and small, our economy and our standing in the world. It is hard to see what has changed since the Prime Minister delayed the meaningful vote in such a discourteous fashion before the Christmas recess. The only tangible change is that the hands of the clock have moved ever closer to the Brexit deadline, with the Prime Minister presenting her false choice of her deal or no deal. She should tread carefully.

There are those who wish to see Britain crash out of the EU without a deal in place, as the final act in their anti-EU drama. No responsible Government should even entertain the prospect of a no deal Brexit, and it is beyond belief that that option has not been ruled out, given the uncertainty that it is creating across our country and the billions being spent in preparation for that possibility. We should be crystal clear about what a no-deal Brexit would mean for our constituents and the country, including for our food prices given that 30% of our food supplies come from the European Union. Our gas and electricity prices would also increase disproportionately, having an impact on the poorest and most vulnerable, as about 5% of our electricity and as much as 12% of our gas is imported from the EU.

With no alternative currently in place, our constituents will no longer be covered by the European health insurance card, and will need to pay for health insurance when they go abroad. The manufacturing sector that I represent in my constituency will be hard hit, with firms relying on just-in-time production unable to properly guarantee their production. I have heard from many of my constituents, including Rob, the owner of a small chemicals business, who would struggle to source raw materials or maintain the same level of sales. He is an employer, and many of my constituents rely on jobs in his firm.

Worst of all, our public services, including the national health service and social care, would suffer as we would be unable to recruit from countries within the EU. In the Select Committee on Health and Social Care, we heard that there is a real threat to medical supplies. The permanent secretary at the Department for Health and Social Care told us that he was having sleepless nights over the continuation of imports of vital medical supplies, and that the issue was very complex.

In Liverpool, we are proud of our universities, and we have welcomed students and academics from across the EU. Our university leaders tell us that crashing out of the EU is one of the biggest threats to our higher education sector. The Russell Group reported just last week that postgraduate student enrolment from EU countries has already fallen by 9% this academic year, starving our universities of cash. More than 100 universities have warned of an academic, cultural and scientific setback from which it would take decades to recover, because a no-deal Brexit would isolate and hobble Britain’s universities.

Those are the things that we can predict with confidence, but the real threat comes from the unintended consequences—the 1,001 things that we cannot foresee that will have a negative impact on our citizens’ lives. The bottom line is that things will be worse for most of the people we represent. That is the reality that we are contemplating in this debate. Our politics is broken and our system has failed, and neither the Prime Minister’s deal nor the no-deal scenario has the support of a majority in this House. Our Parliament is in a state of gridlock, so how can we break it? The Prime Minister could draw a magical rabbit from the hat—a political masterstroke of some kind—that breaks the logjam and enables Parliament to move ahead beyond the current paralysis. While we live in hope, the chances of that happening appear incredibly slim.

The opposition to the Prime Minister’s deal is about more than the backstop on the Northern Ireland border, critical though that is. I am grateful to my hon. Friend Peter Kyle for analysing the debate that was abruptly brought to a close before Christmas. He found that Members from across the House had many concerns about security, migration, citizens’ rights, and trade and the economy, which was the No. 1 issue. However, the backstop, on which we are told this whole debate rests, came fourth.