European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:47 pm on 4th September 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston 4:47 pm, 4th September 2019

Vauxhall Motors in Ellesmere Port has been producing cars for over 50 years. It employs around 1,000 people, with many thousands more in the supply chain and associated businesses, but statements made by the parent group over the summer have made it crystal clear that the plant’s very existence is dependent on the UK avoiding a no-deal Brexit.

We know the plant faces challenges, as every car manufacturer does, but in the past, with the help of the Government, management and unions, everyone has pulled together to make it work, but now we have the absurdity of the Government actively pursuing a policy that will destroy the industry. WTO terms mean a 10% tariff on all car exports, and around 80% of the vehicles built in Ellesmere Port are exported to the EU. We know the plant just will not be able to compete with other plants across Europe with a 10% albatross around its neck. It is as stark as that: no deal means no Vauxhall.

I have always said that I will abide by the outcome of the referendum, but that does not mean I will do so at any cost, and certainly not at the cost of my constituents’ jobs, which is where we are now. The Government are effectively asking me to put my constituents on the dole queue, and I cannot in all conscience do that. I am astounded that any Government would choose that course of action, so let us be clear about where we are.

The Conservative party, which used to have a reputation as the party of business, has purged itself of 21 Members who voted against a policy that they know could knock 10% off the economy. If anyone had said a year ago that that is where we would find ourselves, I would not have believed them, but such is the reckless ideological madness we see from the Government. That is exactly where we are today.

The Prime Minister tells us that he cannot negotiate with the EU if a no deal is taken off the table, but given that he claims the primary change he wants to make is on the Irish backstop, which is a very specific issue, there seems to be no connection between the changes he says he wants to make and the need to keep the threat of no deal on the table.

I am, as many hon. Members are, at a loss to understand how the Prime Minister can reconcile his statement yesterday—that the first thing the EU asks in respect of any proposals made by the Government is whether they have the support of Parliament—with his refusal to share his proposals with Parliament. How can he say we would support his proposals if we do not even know what they are?

It is not only the automotive sector in my constituency that is under threat: aerospace, chemicals and petroleum, to name but three, employ thousands of people whose jobs are at risk from a no-deal Brexit. I have just come from a briefing by the Road Haulage Association, which has clearly said the sector is not ready for a no-deal Brexit on 31 October; it says that with just 42 working days left it still does not know what the customs documentation process will be or who it can go to for advice. It is doing what it can, but at the moment we face haulage businesses going bust and food rotting on lorries because it cannot be delivered on time, leaving aside the effect that will be had on medicine supplies.

So let us, as a country and as a Parliament, pull ourselves back from the edge at the eleventh hour. Let us have a moment of clarity. Let us have a moment of reason and of compromise, so that we do not force Brexit through by 31 October regardless of the consequences, because those consequences will be devastating and enduring, and they will do nothing to heal the deep divisions that have led us here in the first place.