(2 weeks, 6 days ago)Commons Chamber
First, I reassure the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) that I will not mention the “Kama Sutra”, so no upset caused there. [Interruption.] Oh, sorry—I just did.
I welcome the Minister’s comments about the importance of sticking to the deadline and our promise to the British people. The Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union, of which I am a member, received evidence relating to the effect of covid-19 on the negotiations. The negotiations are progressing and intensifying, but no amount of extra time will resolve the sticking points. The European Union is refusing to follow its own precedent and incorporate terms that it has accepted in other trade deals. The Select Committee’s report spoke of the possibility that covid-19
“may focus minds on arriving at a timely deal.”
I hope that causes the EU to recognise that its position is unreasonable and accept its need to compromise.
The report also highlighted the importance of giving certainty to business. The SNP’s motion would only give way to months more of uncertainty. It is reckless and acts as a thin veil for the party’s desire to cancel the decision taken by the United Kingdom in 2016.
I thank my hon. Friend for making that really important point. We have moved on now, and there is no more time for dither and delay. We need to move on.
It is hardly surprising that the SNP called this debate, given its form for disregarding referendum results. Fifty-seven per cent. of the people of Dewsbury, Mirfield, Kirkburton and Denby Dale voted to leave the European Union. I was proud to campaign for a truly global Britain to take back control from Brussels and reclaim our independent trade policy. During the last general election, the spectre of the Brexit party risked splitting the leave vote and allowing the Labour party to hold the seat. Imagine my relief when my Labour opponents, in their infinite wisdom, published election leaflets branding me as the Prime Minister’s chum and a no-deal Brexiteer. I would like to thank the Labour party for its gleaming endorsement, without which I probably would not be standing here today. I believe in giving credit where credit is due. The fact that the Labour party thought those leaflets would hinder my chances rather than endear me to the electorate just shows how out of touch it is.
I echo my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Jacob Young) in asking where Labour Members are today. Where are they? Looking at the sparse Labour Benches, there is little sign that anything has changed. It is deeply worrying that the Opposition could muster only one Back-Bench Member to speak in this debate—[Interruption.] And I am not sure where the hon. Member for Croydon Central (Sarah Jones) is. I want to offer Labour Members—who are, hopefully, watching or listening in their offices—some genuine advice: listen to the British people and accept the result of the referendum and the enormous benefits of being an outward-looking nation. They should unanimously oppose this motion. By doing so, perhaps they would get a little bit closer to reconnecting with their traditional voters.
I must confess that I am not, in fact, a no-deal Brexiteer. That is not to say that we should be fearful of a no-deal Brexit, given adequate preparation. However, I am optimistic that the Government will secure a deal that works for the whole United Kingdom. They are on track to deliver a deal that protects our legal autonomy and takes us out of the single market and the customs union. We will then be able to secure the vast boons of trade deals with countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Japan. My constituents have no desire to dither and delay, and nor do I. I will be opposing the motion with a spring in my step.
Break in Debate
Order. I think we have to move on—sorry. I call Lee Anderson.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I must say to the hon. Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson) that I think that is highly unlikely.
It is clear that the path being steered by the UK Government is compounding the economic uncertainty caused by covid, and is at odds with the interests and the wishes of the people in Scotland. It is certainly at odds with the interests and the wishes of the people in my constituency, who rejected Brexit by three to one. I am really confident that as an independent country Scotland would not be on this path. People in Scotland see through the spin, the bluster and the deceit that are at the core of this Government and the strategy they are pursuing.
Scotland’s Government are taking a considered and cautious approach to getting us out from under this dreadful pandemic. There is no way the same could be said of the UK Government’s response. That is not a party political point: 70% of Scots who voted Labour or Conservative in 2019 approve of the Scottish Government’s handling of the pandemic. With the full powers of independence, we could have made different choices reflecting our different circumstances. It is notable that across the UK fewer than half the people think that the UK Government have handled the pandemic well—a figure that bumps along the bottom of international rankings alongside their pal Trump’s shambolic Administration. This lack of planning and structure bodes very poorly for Brexit.
This is as much about the way that the UK Government consider the needs of all our communities. To borrow a phrase, “lions led by donkeys” is a not unreasonable description of the relationship between the UK’s Government and its citizens. Ironically, the donkeys of yesteryear and those of today, some of whom sometimes lounge on the Government Front Benches, share a remarkably similar outlook: dismissive yet underprepared, and uninterested in experts but well-schooled in Latin soundbites—not of much practical use given the circumstances we are dealing with.
Why would anyone think that this Government—a Government who are all over the place on this pandemic and whose mismanagement of it has affected all four nations of the UK—are capable of rebuilding the economy in a sustainable and fairer way, while they say nothing at all on issues such as child poverty? Why would anyone think that that kind of Government are capable of negotiating an exit from the EU other than by crashing us out, which many on the Government Benches appear to want to do, no matter the harm it does?
It may be late in the day, but it is not too late to do the right thing by delaying the end of the transition. The problem is that leading members of this Government and their advisers have no interest or track record in doing the right thing. It is not just in their dealings with the EU that that is the approach. Inability to negotiate is often associated with a domineering culture. That is how the UK Government conduct their relationship with the devolved Administrations. Having failed to get their way through the four-nation approach to the pandemic, the UK Government simply wandered away down a path of U-turn and confusion. In typical domineering style, their solution is not to improve their ability to work with others, but planning to use the powers of this place to undermine those they should be working with.
Brexit, as it is now appearing from under the desk of Dominic Cummings, will not come quietly. The devolved Administrations tried to work with the UK Government on a post-Brexit settlement that respected the democratically expressed wishes of the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But when the UK Government’s proposals emerge, they will represent a power grab on the devolved Administrations on a grand scale. Having seen the chaos that this Government have presided over in recent months, few voters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will welcome these proposals.
The best recruiting sergeants for the cause of Scottish independence are those who are wilfully charging on with their plans for Brexit and riding roughshod over our votes in Scotland once again, while the rest of the world watches in disbelief as they put at risk the wellbeing and economic future of their citizens. My message to the UK Government is clear, as they set about pushing down this road that Scotland expressly voted to avoid: as you set out to shake the Union to its foundations, do not be surprised if it is not left standing when you are finished.
(4 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
If he will develop a scheme based on the future jobs fund to support young unemployed people into work. 
What assessment he has made of the potential effect on levels of unemployment of withdrawing the (a) coronavirus job retention scheme and (b) self-employment income support schemes. 
Break in Debate
The hon. Lady mentioned plans from other countries. It is worth bearing in mind that those plans relate to spending commitments over many years and are actually better compared with what we outlined at Budget, where we set out a £600 billion investment programme over the remainder of this Parliament, including many initiatives such as carbon capture and storage, the nature for climate fund and improvements in air quality. Conservative Members wholeheartedly believe in a green revolution, and we will provide the capital to make that happen.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. No support scheme can substitute for safely reopening our economy. I enjoyed seeing his Facebook page with his tour of Sutton, Eastwood and Huthwaite, and all the establishments that he mentioned—including a candle shop, I believe—and I pay tribute to all his local businesses for following the guidance and implementing safe measures so that they can welcome their local communities back with open arms.
Break in Debate
I entirely agree with the hon. Lady about the importance of credit unions. I am a member of Money Box Credit Union in Hereford and can vouch for their importance, especially for people on low incomes. She makes a very valid point, and it is one that we will continue to consider as we move forward.
As the Prime Minister said last week, we are doubling down on levelling up, and he committed last week to £95 million for shovel-ready projects in the east midlands, in addition to the £10.25 million of accelerated funding from the towns fund for Kirkby-in-Ashfield. I look forward to working with my hon. Friend in his commitment to levelling up his constituency.