[7th Allotted Day]

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 12:37 pm on 11th January 2019.

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Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Labour, Warwick and Leamington 12:37 pm, 11th January 2019

It is an honour to follow Andrew Rosindell.

As elsewhere, the people of Warwick and Leamington remain extremely concerned about this crisis the country now faces. Like others, I came into Parliament to work to make our society more equal and to make lives better through a stronger economy. I therefore cannot vote for any deal that will lead to people being worse off, and I have to say this deal would lead to that.

We were told over a year ago by the Prime Minister that nothing had changed. Certainly in the past month nothing has changed. The Prime Minister is still in place, despite the efforts of a great many in this House. A month on from when I was due to make my speech before the vote on 11 December, nothing has changed: there are no reassurances, and no re-reassurances; there is nothing in writing and no changes to the Prime Minister’s deal—and let us be clear, it is the Prime Minister’s deal.

Two and a half years on from the referendum, we learn that the Prime Minister has made her first phone calls to union leaders. We heard on Wednesday that my right hon. and learned Friend Keir Starmer had not once in the last two and a half years had contact from the Prime Minister, and nor had the Leader of the Opposition. It has also been revealed that, disappointingly, there has been a Government strategy to marginalise Parliament, first by claiming that analysis did not exist and then by limiting MPs’ access to the Government’s economic impact studies showing the economic damage that would be wrought not just by no deal but all other deals.

The process of Brexit has also shown that for nearly all this time the Prime Minister has worked as some kind of rogue negotiator in parallel to the Brexit Secretary of the day. Evidence of that came to light with the Chequers deal, which the Prime Minister shared with her Cabinet colleagues just hours beforehand—apparently the Brexit Secretary was blissfully unaware of the details. There was also evidence of that in the Prime Minister’s disastrous general election campaign when she failed to collaborate with Cabinet colleagues. We are now witnessing once more her autocratic tendencies.

These past few months have seen Parliament being subjected to what can only be described as relentless verbal waterboarding. The Prime Minister tells us all that it is either her deal or no deal. This week’s Brexit Secretary tells us it is her deal or no deal, and so it goes on. This is not debate, and it is not leadership either. Sadly, it is the Prime Minister’s failure to utilise the talents on her own Benches or to engage those of us across the Floor that has caused this impasse. That was brought into sharp focus on Tuesday evening when the Prime Minister finally met MPs of all parties to hear our views on why no deal was not an option. I thank her for meeting us, but why did she not consider doing that 18 months ago?

Two months ago, I attended an event here hosted by the Japanese embassy. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Secretary of State for Transport were also in attendance, along with many others. If anyone here was present that evening, they will recall the speech made by the chair of the Japanese chamber of commerce. His words were chilling. He said that his member companies would act with purpose to protect their investments. That is natural, but let this country be under no illusion: there are 1,000 Japanese companies with major investments here in the UK employing 150,000 people. They are here because they sought and want continued open access to the European market and European talent.

The Government are playing the ultimate game of brinkmanship, running down the clock and seeking to force Parliament to accept the deal. We are not seeing the Government taking back control. The harsh reality of the global economy is that many UK companies own foreign businesses and vice versa. Just yesterday, we heard from Ford and Jaguar Land Rover about the pressures that they face from the downturn in the global economy.

I mention that because I fear more than anything the social and economic damage that will be caused by leaving the EU’s customs union and the single market, neither of which is covered by the withdrawal agreement. If businesses needed any reason to divest from the UK, Brexit and particularly a no-deal outcome will provide it. Since the referendum was called, international companies will have been actively reviewing their UK investments and evaluating the risks. Now, this is all being brought into sharp focus by what is happening globally, primarily as a result of the downturn in the Chinese economy. As I said, job cuts at Jaguar Land Rover were announced just yesterday.

The “Project Fear” of 2016 was misdirected. I am talking about what I see as “Project Reality” and how Brexit will ultimately impact on UK manufacturing—not today, this year or in the next five years, but certainly in the next 10. It is worth reminding people of the statement made by the economic liberal Professor Patrick Minford, who claims that any loss of manufacturing in the UK will be a price worth paying for leaving Europe. Universities, too, will be hard hit. We are seeing a decline in the number of EU students applying for graduate and PhD courses in the UK; it is down 9% on last year.

Had the situation not been so serious—this is surely a national crisis—and had the Government not been in the death throes of their final negotiation with Europe, there is no doubt that the Prime Minister would be no longer. Two days after she pulled the meaningful vote, she was facing a leadership contest. We are running out of time. That is why I was pleased to support the amendment tabled by Mr Grieve to accelerate the next steps of the process. We have to move on from the vote next week and consider all the other options. The clock is ticking, and the Prime Minister knows it. Autocratic government is not what is needed in a time of crisis. Her deal must be voted down. As an exercise in negotiation—including drawing up red lines right at the beginning declaring what she did not want out of the deal—it has been an abject failure. We must let Parliament take back control of this process and ensure that the people are represented and all options are urgently considered, then let the best deal be put to the public against the option of remaining in Europe. But let us also be clear that no deal is absolutely not an option.