[9th Allotted Day]

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Act – in the House of Commons at 5:22 pm on 15th January 2019.

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Photo of Liz Kendall Liz Kendall Labour, Leicester West 5:22 pm, 15th January 2019

Much of this debate has been dominated by questions about the Northern Irish backstop. While those questions are vital, we must not lose sight of the fundamental question we should be asking ourselves tonight. Is this agreement right for our country, and will it make us prosperous and stronger and help us to deal with challenges of the future? It will not. The agreement does not secure our future trading relationship with the EU, as people were promised in 2016. We have not even begun those negotiations, and despite what many businesses hope, they will face huge uncertainty for years to come.

The truth is that there is no free trade agreement that will deliver the same benefits as our current relationship with the EU. There will inevitably be barriers to trade that will make us poorer than we would otherwise have been. At the same time, during the transition period, we will be giving up our say over many of the rules that govern our lives—a say that, whatever the Brexiteers tell us, Britain has always exercised to powerful effect within the EU. How is that taking back control? Neither does the agreement provide answers to the reasons why people voted to leave in the first place. As my right hon. Friend Mr McFadden has said, in many parts of the country the Brexit vote was driven by a deep sense of loss—the loss of industrial jobs and the pride and purpose they brought, and a rejection of what has come in their place.

I know from my own constituency that many people are angry, and that above all they want change, but the EU and immigration have not caused the very real problems people face, and Brexit will not solve them. Britain is better able to cope with the problems created by globalisation when we are part of a strong group of like-minded countries, and most of the powers to transform people’s lives lie within our hands. We should be offering people the chance to succeed, not offering them something or someone to blame. We should be making changes to our economy and public services so that people in every part of the country can thrive in an inevitably uncertain world, rather than pretending that we can somehow stop the clock and make the rest of the world go away.

I will be voting against the agreement tonight, but time is running out. We cannot wait any longer to provide the leadership we need to get us out of this hole. I will support moves to try to build consensus across the House and to rule out the threat of no deal and the chaos it would bring. However, the best way of breaking the logjam is to put the question of where we go next back to the public, because what is on offer now is so different from what was on offer in 2016 and because it is right in principle to say, “This is the reality of Brexit. Do you want to go ahead or stick with the deal we have?” There is no jobs-first or sensible Brexit and we, particularly us Labour Members, should have the courage to tell it like it is.