European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 29th January 2019.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee 4:15 pm, 29th January 2019

I am going to make some progress because I am worried about getting through everything in the time.

We should also be clear about why the amendment is needed. I know there are some on the Government Benches who say to the Prime Minister, first, that no deal might be desirable and, secondly, that it might be better than any kind of extension beyond 29 March. I strongly disagree. Other people will suffer if we in this Parliament, and this Government, allow no deal on 29 March.

Haribo in Pontefract is worried about the Government’s contingency planning for a 75% to 90% reduction in the volume of EU trade through our ports. That will hit the ingredients that they bring in from abroad. That is bad for Starmix, obviously, but it is also bad for jobs and for investment. For Burberry, which makes Yorkshire macs in Castleford that it sells all over the world, that would mean an impact on supply chains and manufacturing production. Burberry contacted me to say that it respects the outcome of the referendum and remains hopeful of an orderly withdrawal and a workable transition, but it is deeply worried about no deal. Listen to Airbus, Ford or Jaguar Land Rover. We should be standing up for British manufacturing, the very backbone of our national economy. We should be helping our industry to compete with the best in the world, not holding it back or doing it in.

It is even worse for small businesses, because entrepreneurs who have mortgaged their house or used their life savings to set up, say, a florist that depends on bringing flowers in from the Netherlands cannot cope with delays in transit. Some of those small businesses could end up going under because of delays and decisions in this House and by this Government.

For our public services, it is just shocking. What have we come to when our NHS is having to spend millions of pounds on stockpiling medicines and on fridges and air freight, and when it is being told that it needs to call in the Navy? That money should be going into patient care.

I am most worried of all that tariffs on food—the WTO tariffs that some people are so blasé about—will hit the poorest families hardest. Some 14 million of our fellow citizens, including 4.5 million children, are already living in poverty. In Airedale in my constituency, local councillors have set up a holiday lunch club. Children are going hungry when they do not have a free school meal, because their parents cannot afford their food bills. Are the Government really going to stand back and let tariffs be put on our food, pushing more of those families into poverty, if we end up with no deal? It will not be Government Ministers or the hard-liners who pay the price; it will be the poorest families in the country.

We have also had warnings about the real threat to national security. Last week, the country’s most senior counter-terrorism police officer, Neil Basu, described no deal as a “very bad place” for this country and Europe, because we will lose the crucial databases and criminal tools that we use. The top police officers who are making those warnings are not “Project Fear.” Their job is to reassure, and they work and they cope with whatever situation people throw at them, and when they are warning of the risks of no deal, we should be supporting them and not making it harder for them to do their crucial job of keeping us safe.

I know how hard this debate is for many on both sides of the House. Accusations, false claims, fake news and abuse are being thrown about, and I know how hard it seems to have become to have a calm, common-sense debate without words being lifted or twisted. I know, too, how much many people want somebody else to take responsibility, and I fear that that is what the Prime Minister and Ministers want, but we cannot be cowardly about it.

The Prime Minister is running out of time. Too few dare say it, but everyone knows it. Before it is too late, we have to be honest. I urge people to support amendment (b) to give the House a chance to discuss the Bill, because if we cannot be honest at such an historic time, I do not know what politics is for.