Global Britain

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:41 pm on 3rd February 2020.

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Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union) 3:41 pm, 3rd February 2020

I thank the Secretary of State for the advance copy of his statement.

The Foreign Secretary is right that the last three years have been difficult and divisive for our country. He is also right that leaving the EU does not mark an ending. We have left the EU, but Brexit is far from done. As he knows, the next stage is more difficult—agreeing our future relationship in all the areas he set out, and in more besides—and we will continue to be dogged by the central dilemma that was at the heart of much of the wrangling over the last three years: will the new relationship be determined by the economic interests of our country or by the ideological commitment to break with the European social model that drove so many of the Brexit enthusiasts? I am sorry to see that today’s statement and the Prime Minister’s comments over the weekend suggest that ideology has trumped common sense.

Difficult decisions lie ahead for our country, and if the Government are serious about bringing people together we need reassurance that they will conduct the next stage of negotiations in an open and accountable way—and not by banning journalists from their political briefings, as they apparently did earlier this afternoon. The Government stripped Parliament’s role in providing accountability from the withdrawal agreement Act, so will the Foreign Secretary at least commit to publishing all negotiating texts and proposals and reporting to Parliament on each round of negotiations? [Interruption.] I want to see this Parliament in no less a place than the European Parliament, as the EU negotiators will. Will he also set out exactly how the three devolved nations will be consulted at every stage of the process?

The country is faced with two options—two opposite destinations: we can either form a new and close relationship with our biggest trading partners, or open the door and lower our standards by pursuing the damaging trade deal with Donald Trump that the Foreign Secretary welcomed in his comments. [Interruption.] I see the faces of some Government Members. They may change when the farmers whom many of them represent respond to Trump’s ambitions for that trade deal, which would damage not only farming but manufacturing, lower standards and expose our public services to real risks. As Government Members might have noticed, this weekend the UK’s former ambassador to the US, Sir Kim Darroch, made it clear that Trump would aim to force the NHS to pay higher prices for pharmaceuticals. The NHS itself has expressed concern about that.

The reckless pursuit of a Trump trade deal is limiting the Government’s aims in their negotiations with the EU. We started with a commitment to the “exact same benefits” as we currently enjoy with the EU. That was scaled back to “frictionless trade”. Now it is either a damaging Canada-style deal or leaving without a deal—rebranded as an Australia-style deal. Do the Government still recognise their own analysis from 2018—the Foreign Secretary will note that the former Prime Minister, Mrs May, is sitting behind him—which shows that a Canada-style deal would lead to a 6.7% reduction in our GDP, while a WTO-style deal would lead to a 9.3% hit, hurting every region and nation of our country?

Business will be alarmed by the casual way in which the Foreign Secretary talks about leaving without an agreement, and other sectors—such as universities, which are critical to our future—will be concerned about the fact that they were not mentioned at all in his statement, or in the written statement from the Prime Minister. Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that the Government will press for association with Horizon Europe and continued participation in Erasmus?

Labour will continue to press for a relationship with our European partners based on common regulation and a level playing field, for a new place in the world based on internationalist values, and for a future with equality and social justice at its heart.