European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of Leaving the EU – in the House of Commons at 7:12 pm on 14th January 2019.

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Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade 7:12 pm, 14th January 2019

The hon. Gentleman is extremely courteous and always punctilious about the truth of what is said in this Chamber. I simply stated the fact that the Prime Minister had said it was impossible to renegotiate but that, when she faced defeat, she tried to do what she herself had said was impossible.

The Government could have used some of this time to respond to the Treasury Committee by providing proper economic assessments containing an analysis of the Northern Ireland backstop and setting out the short-term economic impact of the Prime Minister’s proposed deal. On 11 December, the Committee published its report on the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration. It concluded:

“The White Paper scenario, which is akin to the Chequers proposal, represents the most optimistic and generous reading of the Political Declaration, insofar as it is consistent with it at all. It does not represent the central or most likely outcome under the Political Declaration. Therefore, it cannot be used to inform Parliament’s meaningful vote on the Withdrawal Agreement. The information provided includes no analysis of the Backstop, and there is no short-term analysis of any of the scenarios, including on public finances and on regional and sectoral job losses and gains. The Government has only provided long-term analysis, which does not show how the economy will transition to a new trading relationship, or the path taken by inflation and unemployment”.

The Chair of the Committee, Nicky Morgan, commented:

“The aim of this report is not to recommend how MPs should vote, but to ensure that MPs are as informed as possible when it comes to choosing a division lobby. Yet the Government has made this difficult to achieve. The Committee is disappointed that the Government has modelled its White Paper, which represents the most optimistic reading of the Political Declaration, rather than a more realistic scenario. The Committee is also disappointed that the Treasury has not analysed the backstop and fails to include short-term analysis of any of the scenarios, including impacts on public finances and on regional and sectoral job losses or gains.”

In the Chancellor’s letter responding to the Committee, he revealed that

“there is not yet sufficient specificity on detailed arrangements for modelling purposes, and therefore the provisions of the backstop have not been included in the analysis.”

Indeed! Members are being asked to take one of the most important decisions for our country on the basis of inadequate financial information, and it is precisely this lack of specificity that has left Members across the House unable to have confidence in the Prime Minister’s deal.