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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:54 pm on 1st April 2019.

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Photo of Chuka Umunna Chuka Umunna Independent, Streatham 5:54 pm, 1st April 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray, and also a pleasure to follow my neighbour, Helen Hayes. I agree with every single word she said. I want to speak to e-petition 235138 on holding a people’s vote, but, most of all, I want to talk to e-petition 241584 on revoking article 50 and remaining in the EU, which, as has been said, has been signed by more than 6 million people, including more than 25,000 people in my constituency, which is just under a third of the registered electors in Streatham.

I do not want to speak for long, but I will make these points. There is clearly no mandate whatever for the chaos that we have seen unfold in this country since the vote in 2016. Whether people voted leave or remain, there is simply no majority in the country for the mess that has unfolded, despite the comments that we have heard in this debate. Given that there is not a mandate for this mess in this House, hopefully the indicative vote process will indicate what there is a majority for. I very much hope it will be for a people’s vote. However, if there was no resolution, and on either 11 April or 21 May we faced falling off the cliff, it is clear that no responsible Government would allow this country to leave the European Union without a deal. I want to explain why, with particular reference to the Government’s own documents on the implications of our leaving the European Union with no deal. I want to draw attention to four or five of the points made in the documents that the Government—I hope the Minister will speak to this—have published.

First, we are told:

“Despite communications from the Government, there is little evidence that businesses are preparing in earnest for a no deal scenario”,

and the evidence indicates that small and medium-sized businesses in particular are unprepared for such a possibility. Secondly,

“individual citizens are also not preparing for the effects” of our leaving the European Union with no deal. According to the evidence that the Government have published—their own economic impact assessments—if we were to leave without a deal on an orderly basis, we would be looking at the economy being 6.3% to 9% smaller than it otherwise would have been, but one of the things missed in the commentary is that that is an assessment of an orderly departure. If we were to leave and crash out on 11 April or 21 May without a deal on WTO terms, the contraction in the economy is likely to be far bigger.

Look at the practicalities:

“Every consignment would require a customs declaration, and so around 240,000 UK businesses that currently only trade with the EU would need to interact with customs processes for the first time”.

I quote directly from the Government’s own briefing papers. If we read between the lines, we are looking at an increase in food prices, panic buying by consumers and tariffs in the region of

“70% on beef... 45% on lamb... and 10% on finished automotive vehicles.”

And that before we look at the non-tariff barriers and their impact on the majority of the economy, which is service based. Based on the things that I have quoted from the Government’s own document, I do not see how any responsible Government could say that they had a mandate to bring about the disaster that they have published in their own papers.

[Steve McCabe in the Chair]