Leaving the European Union — [James Gray in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:52 pm on 1st April 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Labour, Newcastle upon Tyne North 4:52 pm, 1st April 2019

My hon. Friend speaks from the experience that we have shared as members of the Treasury Committee, scrutinising in agonising and often frustrating and concerning detail the economic impact of the Brexit proposals, and in particular the potential ramifications of a no-deal Brexit.

If anyone had told me when I was first elected to Parliament in 2010 that less than a decade later the Government of this country would be pursuing a policy that necessitates the stockpiling of body bags, I would have questioned my own sanity. Yet this is the appalling position that we now find ourselves in, because the Prime Minister has remained resolutely of the belief that refusing to rule out the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, thereby threatening to drive her own country off a cliff, somehow represents a bargaining chip when conducting an international negotiation. That is precisely what she would be doing to so many businesses in my region, with around 60% of our exports currently going to EU countries, leading the North East England Chamber of Commerce to state that its 3,000 members

“have been clear, North East businesses do not want a messy and disorderly exit from the EU.”

They are perplexed that, despite all the evidence, the Government have allowed a no-deal scenario to be seen as a credible Brexit outcome.

Many people will have wanted the UK to leave the EU last Friday, or just as soon as possible, and not because of an arbitrary date set by the Prime Minister, having triggered article 50 when she did, but because they are frankly sick to the back teeth of hearing about this issue, day in, day out. They have had enough of Brexit dominating every single news bulletin, newspaper headline or radio discussion. Understandably, they just want what has turned into a national nightmare to be finally over.

I, too, am angry. I am angry that we have spent three years not properly focusing on the myriad issues that we know desperately require our attention: climate change, the NHS, public transport, child poverty, food bank use, social care and universal credit. To provide just one example of how all-consuming this exercise in futility has become, it was reported over the weekend that two-thirds of staff at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are now working on Brexit, instead of focusing on other crucial issues, such as tackling poor air quality or rising food poverty.

I am equally furious that billions of pounds can be found by the Treasury to prepare for a Brexit scenario that can never happen, while schools in my constituency are making teachers redundant and women across the country born in the 1950s are facing dire financial circumstances.