Uk’S Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:27 pm on 13th March 2019.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee 5:27 pm, 13th March 2019

We have only two weeks to go, and businesses do not know whether they need to pay tariffs. We do not know whether public services will face shortages, and families do not know whether their food bills are about to go up. Nobody can plan. As the British Retail Consortium said today, there are ships already on their way to our great trading nation that do not know what kind of customs paperwork they will face by the time they arrive on our shores.

Police officers who are midway through important investigations to stop serious criminals and organised gangs operating across borders have no idea whether the European arrest warrants they have out on those criminals are about to ripped up, which would mean they had to start again. Border officials who rely on European criminal databases to screen, with the flick of a passport, for sex offenders, child traffickers or organised criminals do not know whether those databases will be denied to them.

We should be standing up for British manufacturing and ensuring that it has a level playing field to compete in the world. Instead, no deal would be a hammer blow to the heart of our manufacturing base. In my constituency, we have manufacturers such as Haribo, which depends on ingredients from abroad and does not know what delays it will face; and Burberry, which does not know whether its goods will face tariffs as a result of no deal. Are we really going to say to small businesses that depend on imports that their livelihoods could be at stake because this House is prepared to accept no deal in just two weeks’ time? Think of the florist who gets up early in the morning to collect a delivery, before any of us are even awake, who does not know whether they will be able to get their supplies and whether they will be able to trade. That is why we have a responsibility to say that we will not accept no deal on 29 March.

The Government have tried repeatedly to get their deal through, and they have failed, so we have to face up to what the default position should now be. The Environment Secretary said very clearly in his answer to me that, if we do not have a deal in place, the vote tonight will mean that the default position is no longer leaving the European Union with no deal on 29 March. I would really appreciate it if the International Trade Secretary could confirm that when he speaks tonight, because there have been different and confused interpretations, and it is really important to be clear.

The reason why we asked for and sought these debates was to be clear. We have a responsibility now—two weeks before Brexit day—to be clear about the default position. The Government have maintained for all this time that the default position is no deal, but that is not on any more. We have to decide now and vote tonight to change the default position: to say that we will no longer have no deal as the default position because it is too irresponsible. Tomorrow, we will take decisions on the way forward.