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Uk’S Withdrawal from the EU

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:33 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Pensions) 6:33 pm, 27th February 2019

With 31 days to go, yesterday saw us take the first step back in this House from the precipice towards which we were heading. Had we plunged over the precipice into a no-deal Britain, our country would have been the poorer for a generation. At the next stages, there can be no backsliding on the commitments that have been given, both yesterday and today. The progress made follows sustained cross-party campaigning, exemplified by the excellent leadership of Dame Caroline Spelman.

In bringing home the consequences of a no-deal Brexit, we have built a powerful business coalition, and their voice could not be clearer. Only yesterday they met here, against the background of already painful consequences being felt, including in our factories, such as Jaguar Land Rover, where thousands of jobs have gone.

The CBI said that it had seen the fastest drop in services since 2008. Barclays was moving £190 million of investment to Dublin. Billions were being spent on contingency planning. The TUC talked of a devastating impact: already thousands—tens of thousands—of workers were losing their jobs. The chief executive of Virgin said that the company had invested £30 billion, and had brought in American investment in particular, but now the growing uncertainty was leading to investment decisions being taken against Britain. The Food and Drink Federation said that an eighth of its members felt that no deal could threaten their viability.

The National Farmers Union spoke out. From plough to plate, there were grave concerns about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit. Ford said that vehicles were already in transit, but that it did not know what the tariffs would be when they landed. A major health and safety company that was to make a 1,000-strong investment in Northern Ireland has now pulled back from that investment. The ceramics industry is panic-stricken at hard Brexiteers’ notion of zero tariffs, fearing the impact that it would have on their businesses. The Investment Association talked of the shift of investment to Asia in particular. A major engineering company said that a £35 million regional headquarters had been shelved.

I could go on, but all I can say in the time available to me is that if we have taken a step back from the brink—and we have—there is no majority in the House, and never will be, for a hard Brexit, a no-deal Brexit. It is therefore crucial for us to come together during the next stages, across parties, as we have done, to frustrate a no-deal Brexit and to agree a new settlement for our country that can command the confidence of the country, and will be in the best interests of the country. We stand ready to undertake that great enterprise, and I hope that all Members will do likewise.