United Kingdom’S Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:18 am on 29th March 2019.

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Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee 11:18 am, 29th March 2019

My hon. Friend makes an important point. My Committee has repeatedly said that businesses and people need to know what is happening, yet the Government advised businesses only in October 2018 about some of the preparations they would need to make for a no-deal Brexit. We estimate huge costs for businesses, billions of pounds—I do not have time to go into it today—just to prepare for a potential no deal alone.

This deal was unveiled last November with none of that information, and it would have been easy, sensible and proper government to be talking to sectors about what might happen. Had the Government done that, they might have heard the reality for people on the ground. Yet we are here with this desperate last-ditch attempt by the Government to rescue themselves, and this country, from a disaster of their own making. We are being asked to agree the withdrawal agreement with no guarantee of what comes next. The little certainty that gives is cold comfort for businesses out there. We are being asked to take a leap of faith, but I have no faith in this Government to deliver on this or any further stages of Brexit. We are being asked to vote for this withdrawal agreement with no knowledge of what will be in the political agreement. It is a leap into the dark, and I am not prepared to take that leap and put my constituents in that position.

The Public Accounts Committee has highlighted, in 10 reports, the problems, challenges and costs of preparing for no deal. Of course, the civil service has had to prepare for both a no deal and a deal simultaneously, double the cost. The cost is high in pounds, but it is huge in the confidence of this nation. This has been an utter failure.