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Automotive Sector

Exiting the European Union – in the House of Commons on 24th January 2019.

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Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

What recent discussions he has had with representatives of the automotive sector on the UK leaving the EU.

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

The Department has engaged extensively with the automotive sector to understand its priorities as we leave the EU. We met leading manufacturers in summits at Chevening House last year. Those were held with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. It is a dialogue that we are keen to pursue.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

Over 800,000 people are involved in the automobile industry. What views did they pass on to the Minister, and what concerns did they express to him, about the Brexit deal? Can he answer that question?

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

Absolutely. It is a very simple question to answer: people in the automotive sector, the businessmen we talked to—as across many other industries—have all said that they want to see a deal. They want certainty, and they want to be able to plan for the future, which is why, as I have said many times, we want to land the deal—we need a deal.

Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

The Government are pretending that they would take this country out without a deal at the end of March. This morning, the CEO of Airbus said:

“Please don’t listen to the Brexiteers’ madness which asserts that, because we have huge plants here, we will not move and we will always be here. They are wrong.”

Airbus alone employs 14,000 people in the UK. The Prime Minister is using hundreds of thousands of UK jobs as leverage with her own MPs. Is it not now time for the Prime Minister to tell the truth, that she will not take the UK out of the EU on 29 March without a deal?

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

The hon. Lady will understand that the current legal position is that if we get to 29 March without a deal, we will leave without a deal. That is the legal position. The hon. Lady will have read the remarks of the CEO of Airbus and she will have noticed that further on he says very explicitly that he, his industry and his business need clarity. We have to vote for a deal. We have always said that the deal is our favoured option, which is why we want to see it over the line.

Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

If the hon. Gentleman insists that his Government are ready to take us out without a deal in nine weeks’ time, what will he do to support the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing workers whose jobs would be threatened?

Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

We are committed to investing £4 billion in the industry over the next few years. There is no doubt that a deal is our favoured option—that is why we encourage Labour Members to support the deal. It seems ridiculous to me that they complain about no deal while at the same time opposing the deal. That is like complaining about the rain and then rejecting the use of an umbrella when we offer it to them. It is absolute madness. That is why I urge the hon. Lady to back the deal.