It saddens me that in the middle of this political crisis what we have is a pathetic masquerade from this Government pretending that they are competently arranging our departure from the European Union, when in fact everyone knows that there is no agreement as to how that departure will take place and that without an agreement it is simply not possible to plan in a proper way how it would take place. The responsibility for that is entirely of the Government’s own making: a mixture of their bellicose intransigence in their negotiations with our European partners and their arrogant contempt in trying to establish a political majority in this Chamber, and using the Brexit vote for their own narrow political ends.
Now the Government are in a situation where the only thing they can possibly do is contemplate crashing out of the EU without a deal. I have to remind the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that that approach would be illegal, because we have passed a law to say that we will not leave the European Union with no deal. I therefore want to ask him why is he preparing this document, which is called the “No Deal Readiness Report”? Perhaps it should be called “Preparedness for Breaking the Law” since that is essentially the course on which he is now engaged. Why is he preparing this, rather than trying to come back to this House properly with proposals we can debate on the negotiations they are having with the European Union? To my eyes, and to those of many colleagues, it looks as if the Government are not in the least bit serious about getting a deal at all, but are in fact engaging in gesture politics, deliberately setting conditions they know cannot be met in order to come back here and try to blame everybody but themselves for the consequences that result.
I have two specific questions relating to the statement. The Opposition spokesman referred to the IFS report, a damning report that came out this morning. It tears away all credibility for there being an economic case for Brexit. The IFS is saying that the difference between asking for an extension and considering this issue further, or crashing out with a no deal in three weeks’ time, is 4% of GDP over the next three years. I invite the Minister to tell us whether this now means that, as we complete the first decade of Tory austerity, he and his Government are preparing for a second decade, because that is surely the consequence of the course they are on.
Finally, may I ask about the status of EU nationals? The Minister makes much of this, saying that everything is rosy in the garden. The truth is that most of the 1.5 million people he refers to as having some status have got what is called pre-settled status. It is not at all sure that they are going to get settled status. If he genuinely believes, and if it is the Government’s policy, that European nationals living in this country should not suffer any disbenefit to their rights as a result of Brexit, will he commit now to let each and every one of them have a permanent right to remain in this country?