We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Preparations for Leaving the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:32 pm on 21st October 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jon Trickett Jon Trickett Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office), Shadow Lord President of the Council 6:32 pm, 21st October 2019

I thank the Minister for his courtesy in providing me with a copy of his statement 30 minutes ago. I join him in thanking everyone who serves the House for the arrangements on Saturday, and I pay particular tribute to the civil servants who are working under huge stress to prepare for this remarkable event at midnight a week on Thursday. The House hardly needs reminding, but we are right on the edge of a potential precipice.

The Minister has told us that the Cabinet XO Committee will be meeting daily, and I hope he will be able to keep the House fully informed of its further decisions, as and when appropriate. When the Prime Minister appointed him as Minister for a no-deal Brexit, I think the idea was that he would try to avoid such a situation rather than trying to make it possible. His statement fills me with foreboding for the country, because it appears as if the Government really do think that 31 October is a date this House will tolerate. I have to tell him that I do not believe that will be the case. In any event, the Prime Minister himself sent a letter to the European Union—he forgot to sign it, apparently—saying that he will pursue a delay, so 31 October seems to be an artificial date.

I will be brief, as there is still much to do this evening. The Government’s own assessment shows that a no-deal Brexit would be a disaster for jobs, for industry and for living standards. Their own assessment says there will be a 10% loss of GDP over the next 15 years, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies says that a no-deal outcome would result in Government borrowing rising by up to £100 billion, debt escalating to 90% of national income and growth flatlining. None of those is just a number on a spreadsheet, as I am sure he understands. These are real people’s jobs, livelihoods, communities and even family businesses, often built up over generations—all of them are now at risk.

This is not “Project Fear.” It is already happening here and now. Is the Minister aware that the manufacturing trade body, Make UK, has warned that even the prospect of a no-deal Brexit has meant that exporters are already suffering losses? The most deprived regions of the country would be hit hardest by a no deal, and the Government’s own figures show that people on the lowest incomes will suffer the most. [Interruption.] Many people are shouting from a sedentary position, "Vote for the deal." The Prime Minister’s free trade Brexit deal will result in every person in our country being £2,250 worse off, which is why we will not support the deal.

Instead of taking a no deal off the table, the Government are continuing to spend billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on Operation Yellowhammer, and they are probably diverting thousands of civil servants. How much money does the Minister estimate will be spent on this futile project? Surely the money would be better spent on rebuilding our country. Can he confirm that Operation Yellowhammer would not even come close to managing the economic disaster the whole country will face if we crash out with a no deal? That is not to mention the problems facing Ireland.

Operation Yellowhammer shows the disastrous impact of no deal on medical, food and energy supplies, which is why Members on both sides—this is a very important point—have repeatedly shown there is no will in this House to turn for a no deal. It will not happen.

Some have argued that a no deal was really just a negotiating tactic, a ruse to force concessions from the EU, but the Government have now finished their negotiations with the EU. Why, then, have they continued to place this sword of Damocles over the whole country?

The Minister claimed this weekend that the risk of leaving without a deal has increased, but how can that be? The opposite is the case, because the House has voted repeatedly to stop the Government crashing us out with no deal. The truth is that the Prime Minister thinks the only way to get legislation for this sell-out deal through this House of Commons is to bully and blackmail MPs with the threat of a no deal, but he has lost the consent of the House. He double-crossed the DUP, and he has taken a bulldozer to most of our procedures. His behaviour has thrown away the good will of hon. and right hon. Members. More than anything else, he has disposed of the good will of the House in the manner of the Godfather casting confetti at a mafia family wedding.

Even at this late stage, I press the Government to change course. A no deal would damage our country, injure our economy and inflict lasting damage on the nation. Abandoning a no deal might have the inadvertent and, some might say, lamentable consequence of placing the Minister for no deal on the Back Benches. Regrettable as that might be, some of us might think it a price worth paying.