European Union (Withdrawal)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party 7:00 pm, 3rd September 2019

I have given way many times to many people, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman will make a wonderful contribution when he gets to make his speech.

No deal threatens peace and stability in Northern Ireland, and threatens our policing and counter-terrorism co-operation with Europe. No deal will mean food shortages and medical shortages, and it will bring chaos to our ports and transport networks. Earlier, we had a Minister at the Dispatch Box proudly telling us that 1,000 more staff have been employed in order to deal with congestion that will be happening at the channel ports. Is that not an indication of the Government’s own admission of what the problems are going to be if we leave with no deal?

Our economy is already fragile—the economy contracted in the last quarter and manufacturing has contracted at the fastest pace for seven years—and no deal would accelerate that decline. As I said, now is not the time to play Russian roulette with our economy. These are not the warnings of some ultra-remain group. These are warnings outlined in the Government’s own assessments and the warnings of leading industry figures. Members do not have to take my word for it. They do not have to listen to me if they do not want to. Instead, they can listen to the likes of Make UK, which represents 20,000 British manufacturing companies and has said that leaving without a deal would be

“the height of economic lunacy”.

They can listen to the National Farmers Union, which has said that no deal would have a “devastating impact” on British food and farming and

“must be avoided at all costs”.

Or they can listen to the British Medical Association, which has made clear:

“The consequences of ‘no deal’
could have potentially catastrophic consequences for patients, the health workforce and services, and the nation’s health.”

We must listen to what every sector of society is telling us regarding the damage of a no-deal Brexit and what it will do to our society and our economy. If we, as a Parliament, do not make this stand today, there may not be another opportunity—it may simply be too late. We must listen to those warnings, If people in this House know better than the BMA, the NFU or Make UK about their own sectors, or know better than the trade unions that represent the people working in those plants and delivery facilities all over the country, they should say so now. I have met trade unionists all over the country in the past few months and spoken to the TUC about this. They are all deeply worried about the continued job losses in manufacturing because of the uncertainty that no deal will bring.

I understand that there will be some concern about the Bill that may follow this debate—some concern from Members across the House that supporting such a Bill would be an attempt to block Brexit or reverse the results of the 2016 referendum. That is not the case; this Bill does not close other options to resolve the Brexit impasse. The Bill is about preventing a damaging no deal, for which this Government have no mandate and for which there is very little public support. The Bill is designed purely to provide vital breathing space in order to find an alternative way through the Brexit mess that this and the previous Government have created.

Today is another historic day in Parliament. It is our chance to seize this last opportunity and to stand up to a bullying Government who have shown themselves ready to dodge scrutiny and silence debate. If we do not act today, we may not get another chance. Whether people voted leave or remain, they did not vote to shut down democracy. The very large number of people who were on the streets last Saturday, from both the leave and remain views, were very concerned about the way in which this Government are trying to shut down debate, shut down democracy and lead us into what I believe would be the problems of a no-deal Brexit. So I urge all MPs today to do what they believe to be right for their constituents—for their jobs, their living standards and their communities—and support the proposal today that we may debate the Bill tomorrow and prevent a no-deal Brexit, with all the damage it would do to our community and to our society.