Clive speaks in Parliament to explain why he will not be supporting Theresa May’s Brexit deal
Clive Efford’s speech from Hansard, 4 December 2018
“I voted remain in 2016 and I did not hide my disappointment at the outcome of the referendum. However, since then, I have honoured the result. I have watched as the negotiations progressed. Like my right hon. Friend Margaret Beckett, I have learnt and I was willing to go along with the Government’s negotiations and plans to leave the European Union. I was always clear that the 52% of people in my constituency who voted to leave did not vote to make themselves or their families worse off, or to diminish our country’s status in the world.
The people who campaigned for Brexit never said at any stage that things would be worse. They accused opponents of being doom mongers and pedlars of “Project Fear”. On 14 June, during the campaign, the Ministers of the Vote Leave campaign wrote in a joint letter:
“There is more than enough money to ensure that those who now get funding from the EU—including universities, scientists, family farmers, regional funds, cultural organisations and others—will continue to do so.”
What else did they promise? Here is a list of things that was on their website and they put out in adverts on YouTube and so on: hundreds of new schools, more primary places in our current schools, more spending on scientific research, more health spending, raised pay for junior doctors, the abolition of prescription charges, the building of new hospitals, maintaining all current EU spending, more public support for agriculture, new roads, improving railways, expanding regional airports, reversing changes to tax credits, paying state aid to the steel industry, new submarines, protecting research grants and the old chestnut pothole repairs. It goes on: lower taxes, lower business taxes, a cut in VAT on fuel, a reduction in council tax—all of this promised on the back of money that we would save from the European Union. Of course, there is the other one that everyone refers to: the £350 million per week for the NHS on the side of the bus.
In June, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that estimates on EU contributions and the savings that could be made were over-exaggerated. The £350 million is a bogus figure. The institute estimates it to be nearer £170 million. Last month, the Government’s own forecast said that, in 15 years, GDP would be 10.7% lower than if the UK stayed in the EU. The Bank of England said that GDP would be at least 1% higher in five years if the UK had voted to remain. Mark Carney went on to warn about the worst-case scenario, a disorderly no-deal Brexit, where the economy would contract by 8%, house prices would tumble by 30% and interest rates would have to rise to combat inflation.
After the referendum, it did not stop. The chatter continued. In July 2016, soon after he was appointed, the former Brexit Secretary, Mr Davis, wrote:
“within two years, before the negotiation with the EU is likely to be complete, and therefore before anything material has changed, we can negotiate a free trade area massively larger than the EU. Trade deals with the US and China alone will give us a trade area almost twice the size of the EU”.
And then there is the Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, who famously went on the “Today” programme in July last year and said:
“The free trade agreement that we will have to do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history.”
Later that year, in October, he said he would have dozens of international free trade deals within the next 18 months. He went on to say that Britain would simply copy and paste existing EU deals with third countries. That was quite an admission. My constituents who were part of the 52% will ask, “What did we vote for when we voted for Brexit if deals are simply going to be cut and pasted from the European Union to trade deals once we have left the EU?”
We will also need to have trading schedules. If once we leave the European Union we want to trade under World Trade Organisation rules, we will have to have schedules in place. Those schedules will have to be cut and pasted from the EU if we want to start dealing with countries outside the EU immediately after we leave.
The WTO has rules. It recognises us under EU trade deals. If we want to begin trading without any problems, we will have to stick with them. All those who make the argument that leaving is simple have failed to explain the complexities of WTO rules. They ignore, for instance, the most-favoured nation rule, which means that, if we cut our trade tariffs with another country without having a trade deal in place, we have to offer that opportunity to every other single member of the WTO. That would effectively make us a tariff-free nation. We would then be open to cheap imports, undermining jobs and local businesses. The notion that we will be completely free agents if we walk out of the European Union is, and always has been, a complete fabrication. If we do not leave with an EU deal in place, we will not be able to start negotiations to do deals with economies as large as the US, China or India.
I have listened to the arguments, and I have learnt, and it is clear that the Prime Minister’s proposal is the worst of all worlds. She is caught up in her own rhetoric—“Brexit means Brexit”, “no deal is better than a bad deal”—but now we know that no deal is the bad deal. My constituents who voted to leave wanted sovereignty to come back to this Parliament. They wanted to take control of their borders and to stop payments to the European Union, but they did not vote to make themselves worse off. This proposal will be lost in the vote next week. No doubt there will be a vote of confidence, and I and my Opposition colleagues will vote against the Government, but assuming that the Tory allies re-rat, the Prime Minister will then be charged with bringing to the House her plan B within 21 days.
I have added my name to amendments that mean we will get meaningful votes here in this House and that Parliament is taking back control. There is no majority in this House for no deal. The amendment tabled by Mr Grieve means that we will get a vote to deliver on that and to stop no deal. So the Prime Minister should stop threatening Members of the House, saying that, if we vote down her deal, it means that we will have to vote for no deal. It is time that we started talking to people about how we take this issue forward. I believe that, eventually, we will have to suspend article 50 and continue negotiations with the European Union.”