Boris Johnson has brought back an amended “Deal”. On the historic Saturday sitting this week, I voted against it, and the Government was defeated once more. However, the Government then won the vote on the second reading of the Bill to pass its Brexit deal on Tuesday night. I spoke in the debate and said I couldn’t possibly support it without knowing what it would mean for jobs in the manufacturing and services sector in Tameside, or for the future of the Union. This is the biggest decision any MP will ever be asked to take. To be asked to vote for a deal like this without knowing what it would actually mean for the people we represent is not acceptable.
However, the Government then lost the vote on the timetable they had put forward for the Bill to pass through the various Parliamentary stages. They wanted to do this in just 36 hours, which would have been unprecedented. The Northern Irish MPs, in particular, were furious at this suggestion.
So having won the vote, the Government then chose to pause their own legislation. The most likely way forward is that they will agree to a sensible timescale and the Bill will resume again. This is my full speech to the House:
“The argument for this Bill is that it will “get Brexit done” and that appears to be, listening to the debate today, the only argument for it. I’ve actually heard very few people advocate for the measures that are actually in this deal. I understand that because we are all tired, we’re all a bit sick of this, we’d all, I think, like to talk about other things but there are two things that we should acknowledge and be straight with the public about.
The first is that this deal, or any deal, doesn’t get Brexit done. We have years of this to come and we all know that. This is only the end of the beginning. We’ve got the future relationship with the EU to negotiate and then we’ve got future trade deals all of whom will raise the same issues of national sovereignty up against economic integration.
The journalist Tom Hamilton put it like this yesterday: He said voting for this deal to get Brexit done was like saying you want your pregnancy to be over so you can get back to going to bed early and reading your favourite novels and I couldn’t put it better myself. The Conservative Party just needs to acknowledge that, it needs to own that. It needs to be straight about that. Our job as MPs has surely got to be about asking: is this still good for constituents and for the country? Because we will never make a bigger decision and if we get it wrong, we will never be forgiven.
I’m reminded of the debate about Article 50, there was tremendous pressure to trigger Article 50 I personally voted for that, it was the test of whether you accepted the referendum result and now we all widely recognise that that measure was a disaster, that the timetabling we got into, the timescale we imposed on ourselves was a disaster for the national interest of this country.
There are three things, I want to know. What does this deal mean for manufacturing? What does it mean for services? And what does it mean for the Union?
I recognise that not everyone voted on economic grounds and indeed that there will be a short-term boost in the economy because of investment decisions that have been deferred through the process so far, but that’s not the issue. That isn’t the measure of success. It’s about the next 10 years, the next 20 years, the next 30 years because if we get it wrong this will be like a slow puncture at the heart of our economy, and we will regret everything we’ve done to get to that point.
Let’s start with manufacturing. There is a big difference between this deal and the last one. The last one essentially offered some voluntary single market alignment on goods and that’s been taken out of this deal. So what does that mean? This is quite a hard Brexit for Great Britain what does it mean? I genuinely ask because no one has given anyone in this chamber an explanation of that decision. Does it mean that just-in-time supply chains will no longer function? Does it mean that rules of origin will now be required? I think surely yes looking at the evidence. Does it pass the Nissan test – that a business model like Nissan’s, a huge success story for this country, will continue? I have no answers to those questions and I have 3,500 jobs for my constituents that depend on that.
Then let’s talk about services because the biggest problem with a bare-bones FTA is what it does on services. We are a services economy. The last deal was poor on services, this deal was equally poor. That’s not a reason to walk away and pass it. So what is the plan? For all the imperfections of the single market and services let’s remember that trade and services between EU Member States is freer than it is between federal states in the US or between different provinces in Canada. The UK is a powerhouse of financial, business, legal, accountancy, consultancy, tertiary education services, what does this deal mean for them? We hear so much about fishing. With respect, the UK computer games industry is worth 10 times the value of the UK fishing industry So let’s talk about the things that really matter.
Finally let’s talk about the Union. I don’t want to vote for anything that will lead to the break-up of my own country. I don’t think that is a dishonourable position to have. Northern Ireland is getting a totally different Brexit deal in terms of what is being proposed. It could be a lucrative one, I admit that. It could very lucrative at the expense of the North West of England. I can see why Northern Ireland is different, why the Good Friday Agreement requires something different, I think to be honest, for colleagues in the DUP, if you have to do a Customs declaration to export from Northern Ireland to the Britain, that is a huge question for them and whether they can sign up for it. But for me the bigger danger is Scotland, it’s about the precedent this sets for Scotland. I believe England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are stronger together and I don’t want to undermine that. We have no answers on those things.
I just want to say in my final few seconds of the 4 minutes I’ve got to discuss the biggest issue of all that we will ever be asked to be vote on, I recognise it’s possible that any deal could have these problems that even the best deal possible to negotiate could be a bad deal for the UK. I think, in that situation, the public have to absolutely be told what they are getting and I have to take responsibility for that. They have to know with their eyes open what that will mean. At the minimum, that requires a scrutiny process in Parliament and I think frankly it now requires them having the final say on it.”