European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:33 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of John Baron John Baron Conservative, Basildon and Billericay 6:33 pm, 3rd April 2019

No. Mr Speaker has told us to be brief, and I will be brief.

I ask the House to reflect for a moment and use moderation when it comes to this issue of so-called crashing out or falling off a cliff by leaving on no-deal WTO terms. I gently remind the House that in 2016 there were lots of dire predictions about what would happen if we voted to leave. We had predictions from the trade bodies, the business organisations and the Government—the Treasury Front Benchers. We had predictions of 500,000 extra unemployed by Christmas 2016, and the CBI came out with a figure of 950,000 extra unemployed within a couple of years. They all proved to be wrong, so much so that the Bank of England had to apologise.

What has happened since? We have had record low unemployment, record inward investment and record manufacturing output. I suggest to the House that the reason we for that is that economic reality, trade and comparative advantage trump predictions. When we talk about comparative advantage, factors such as how low our corporation tax rates are compared with those in other countries, how much more flexible our labour markets are, our financial expertise, which is unrivalled—certainly within Europe—our research and development, and our top universities are more important, in aggregate, than WTO tariffs and leaving with no deal. The proof of the pudding is in the economic reality. We would all agree that a low unemployment rate is terribly important, as high unemployment is one of the social evils in our society, and our unemployment rate is nearly half that of the EU average. That is the issue in point. We trade with many countries outside the EU, very profitably, on WTO, no-deal terms, so I suggest to the House that if we want to respect the referendum result, the triggering of article 50 and our election manifestos, we should be leaving the EU on 12 April on no-deal, WTO terms if we cannot agree a deal before then.