Pro-Brexit MPs tried and failed to remove scathing criticism of the Government’s EU negotiating position from a powerful committee report.
The Exiting the European Union Committee today warned Theresa May has no idea if leaving the EU without a trade agreement would be worse than a “bad deal” offered by Brussels.
The committee heard evidence from Brexit Secretary David Davis, who admitted the Government had not investigated what “no deal” would do to the UK’s economy.
In its report, the committee warns that leaving the EU without a trade deal would be a “very destructive outcome”, and urges the Government to look into the impact this would have on Britain.
Last week, six members of the committee voted against including that criticism in the report – all Brexit campaigners in last year’s EU referendum.
Labour’s Pat McFadden, a Remain campaigner who sits on the Committee, told Huff Post UK: “The report reflects fully the evidence that the Committee has heard, including from [former EU Ambassador] Sir Ivan Rogers and David Davis. It’s a shame that not all members of the committee agree with that.
“The key finding is that the Government’s claim that no deal would be better than what they call a bad deal has no foundation in any assessment of its impact on the UK economy.”
The committee, chaired by Labour’s Hilary Benn – also a prominent Remain campaigner – met last Wednesday, March 29, to agree the report’s conclusions and recommendations.
The meeting got off to a tense start when five of the 17 members present – Tory MPs Maria Caulfield, Karl McCartney, Craig Mackinlay, Dominic Raab, and the DUP’s Sammy Wilson – voted against even going through the report for a second time.
When it came to the specific criticisms of the Government’s “no deal is better than a bad deal” approach, those same five MPs - plus former Tory Cabinet Minister John Whittingdale - voted against including those paragraphs in the report.
The same MPs then voted against submitting the report at all, while 10 voted in favour.
It was reported last week that some members of the committee walked out in protest at the document being too “gloomy”.
Speaking today, Benn called for MPs to have say on whether the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
He said: “Leaving the EU without a future trade deal and in doing so defaulting to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules is no less an important decision for the UK’s economic future than the terms of any future Free Trade Agreement between the UK and the EU.
“It is therefore essential that such a step is not taken without Parliament having a vote on the matter.”
He added: “The Government is right to try and negotiate both the divorce settlement and a new trading relationship in tandem, but it should also be prepared for the worst case – i.e. that a new trade agreement is not reached or ratified by the day we leave - because the timescale allowed by Article 50 is particularly tight.”