Uk’S Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:13 pm on 13th March 2019.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Chair, Committee on Exiting the European Union 5:13 pm, 13th March 2019

I will not give way, because time is so short. We know that if there is any disruption to the lorries that keep those car factories going every single day, it will affect the production line. The car industry has had enough bad news in the past two months without it being added to by people standing up saying, “No deal is a jolly good idea.”

A professor from one of our major institutions of higher education, whom I happened to bump into on the underground this morning, said to me that no deal would be “catastrophic” for the institution, its research funding and its ability to recruit staff. The truth is that these conversations are repeated in thousands of workplaces up and down the country, in thousands of sectors of the economy. That is why the twelfth report of the Brexit Select Committee said explicitly that leaving with no deal

“cannot constitute the policy of any responsible Government.”

If Members want to read the argument, they can go and look at that report, but I draw attention to the problem faced by a company that makes signs and exports them to Europe to be fitted by its workers. The company asked me what would happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit. I have referred to that in a previous speech. Since then, I asked a written question, to which I received the answer:

UK nationals travelling to the EU for the purposes of work may be subject to extra conditions. Businesses will need to check individual Member State immigration rules for whether there are any requirements or conditions around supporting documentation, work permits or visas. Businesses should also check whether there are any restrictions on the provision of services, such as whether a UK professional qualification is recognised in the country in question.”

What use is that reply to a business that has worked hard to create jobs? There are those in this House who will stand up today and argue that that business’s future should be thrown into doubt, but what use is an answer like that? It basically says, “You’re on your own.”

The final point I want to make is this: given what happened yesterday, today’s vote is the next step required before tomorrow’s inevitable decision to apply for an extension to article 50, which the Brexit Select Committee report—it was published this morning with commendable speed after the events of last night—says will be necessary. Given the rather unhelpful coda, if I may put it that way, to the Government’s motion tonight, I think the House will vote to reject a no-deal Brexit on 29 March this evening, but Ministers need to recognise, be aware of and acknowledge that this House will never vote to leave the European Union without a deal, whether at the end of March, the end of June or the end of October. We are not prepared to take that risk with our economy, our jobs and the livelihoods of the people we represent—not today and not ever.