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European Union (Withdrawal) Acts

Part of Prime Minister’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 12:11 pm on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 12:11 pm, 19th October 2019

I have taken a lot of interventions and will take more later, but first I will make some progress.

It is important that we work through not just the technicalities of the deal, but where it leads us politically, because this is about the direction of travel for our country. If we go to a bare FTA, which is what it would mean, the Government’s own estimates show that there will be a loss of approximately 6.7% to growth in GDP over 15 years, and every region and nation will be poorer for it. The Prime Minister’s letter of 19 August to Donald Tusk made it clear that from the Government’s point of view and his own, the point of our exit is to allow the UK to diverge from the rights and standards of the EU. Let’s nail this one: you do not need that if you want to go up and have better standards. We do not have to break the rule to bring in better standards—we can do that under the existing rule—so anybody who wants to change the rule is not doing it to have the freedom to bring in better standards, because they do not need to change the rule for that; the only reason to diverge is to go down. That is why, on this question of divergence, it is very important to focus on the level playing field protections. As I say, those have been taken out of what is legally binding and put into the political declaration, and they apply in full only until the end of the transition period in 2020.

It is obvious where the Government are going. They want a licence to deregulate and diverge. I know they will disavow that, I know they want the deal through, and I know they will say, “Never. Of course not”, but it is obvious where it leads. Once we have diverged and moved out of alignment with the EU, trade will become more difficult. The EU will no longer be seen as our priority in trade and the gaze will go elsewhere to make up for it. Once we move out of alignment, we will not move back, and the further we move out, the harder it will be to trade with the EU27, and once that happens, we will have broken the economic model we have been operating under for decades, and we will start to look elsewhere—across to the United States.

Our gaze will shift to the United States, and that is a different economic model. It is not just another country; it is a different economic model, a deregulated model. In the US, the holiday entitlement is 10 days. Many contracts at work are called contracts “at will”. Hugely powerful corporate bodies have far more power than the workforce. This is not a technical decision about the EU but a political direction of travel that takes us to a different economic mode—one of deregulation and low standards, where the balance between the workforce and corporate bodies is far worse.