Uk’S Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:54 pm on 13th March 2019.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 3:54 pm, 13th March 2019

I will just make some progress and give way again in a minute.

The Prime Minister used to tell us that no deal would not be the end of the world. Past Brexit Secretaries even talked up the merits of leaving on WTO terms or told us how crucial threatening no deal was to the negotiations. But Labour Members have been steadfast in insisting that no deal is not a viable option. Why? It is hard to know where to begin. First, there is the economy. On this, the vast majority of businesses and the trade union movement speak with one voice—and that does not happen very often. I have been to meetings with businesses all over the country, and I have spoken to trade unions in those businesses, and I have taken notes of what they tell me. At the end of those meetings, one could almost rub out the identity of who was in the meeting and have the same read-out of their level of concerns. That persuades me that they have a very good point and a very strong case.

Only today, Carolyn Fairbairn from the CBI said that no deal would be

“a sledgehammer to the economy.”

Frances O’Grady from the TUC said that a no-deal Brexit

“would be a hammer blow to our manufacturing industries and the communities they support.”

A no-deal Brexit could be terminal for Britain’s manufacturing and the thousands of skilled jobs it provides. As the son of a toolmaker, I remember when manufacturing was in the doldrums, but now there has been a revival. Manufacturers operate a just-in-time regime that relies on open borders, and they do so successfully. No deal poses a huge risk to them.