Calls for a ‘no-deal’ would be laughable, if they weren’t so serious and potentially damaging. Some £2billion is being wasted preparing for a no-deal situation, which if allowed to happen would have a catastrophic impact on our economy. We could expect medicine and food shortages; an economy 10% smaller; £6billion in tariffs—£2.1billion on vehicles alone, £1.6billion on food, £1.1billion for metals, and so it goes on. The million diabetics who depend on insulin will be put at risk. We have heard from those in the medical profession about what a ‘no-deal’ would mean for radioisotopes, since 80% are imported from EU countries. This cannot be a serious proposition from a serious Government. The idea that we should face this catastrophe unless we accept a botched deal that nobody wants is completely unreasonable.
This week I have published a Bill, which has cross-party support, to take the option of a ‘no-deal’ off the table. It proposes that we revoke Article 50 if Parliament cannot agree on a deal that is then ratified by the public. It is the only way to honour the parliamentary and representative democracy we have in the UK, while also making sure that the public have a definitive call on what happens next.
People would be given the choice to either stay in the EU or accept the Withdrawal Agreement the government has negotiated. It is the only way out of the parliamentary gridlock and give a clear direction of what the people’s will really was and is.
People voted, quite reasonably, for more money, more jobs and more trade, and for control of migration and their laws. All reasonable things to vote for, and I would not knock anyone for doing so. The problem is that the people who did vote for those things are not getting any of them in the Government’s deal. It is therefore reasonable for them to reject it, and reasonable and proper for them to have the right to reject it in a public vote.
Some people say “oh well, they voted this way, and if we force them to have another vote, they will be terribly angry.” They will be much more angry when they lose their jobs and their livelihoods. Many people I speak to in Swansea say, “I voted leave, but I did not vote to leave my job.” Some 25,000 people in Swansea Bay rely on EU exports. They are critically worried about tariffs and constraints even within the proposed deal, because we will not be part of the single market.
In my 2017 election manifesto—my personal promises to Swansea—I pledged to do my utmost to ensure that we were in the single market in order to avoid those problems, and give the people the right to have the final say on whether they wanted the deal. My share of the vote went up by 50%, to 60%. It was the highest Labour share in history: higher than the one in 1945 and higher than the one in 1997, without there even being a Labour government. It was a leave area, but people have changed their minds because they have seen the facts, as any rational person would. The irrationality is on the part of the Government who say, “That is what they thought two years ago before they knew the impacts, so we must force-feed them.” People who ordered a steak and got a bit of chewed-up bacon still have to eat it, which is completely ridiculous.
Under the Prime Minister’s deal we will end up as a rule-taker rather than a rule-maker. There will not be less migration; it will merely be from further afield, and culturally different. There will not be more trade; there will be less trade, because we will not have the collective leverage of the EU to negotiate with China, with Donald Trump, or with any other large market. When it comes to all the bilateral trade deals, anyone in their right mind, whether from Uruguay or Chile or from South Korea, will say, “Hold on: we are negotiating with a single country rather than a collective. We want a better deal.” We will have worse terms and worse trade, less money and fewer jobs. People do not want that.
And still some say, “People will be very angry if we have a people’s vote.” People will be absolutely enraged if they find that they are much poorer, with poorer jobs, because we forced through a botched deal—although obviously it is not the catastrophe that is now being said to be the choice.
People may talk about parliamentary democracy, but parliamentary democracy involves a duty of care to our citizens. I have been saying, on behalf of Swansea, “We want a vote, and we want to stay in the single market at least, as well as the customs union.” My constituents have endorsed that. They expect me to think about these things, day in day out, which I do.
No deal would be a disaster. It should be taken off the table. It is irresponsible, and a waste of £2billion. We should give the people the final say, and then decide what is best. Ultimately, our children and our children’s children will make a judgment on what we have done. If what we have done sets us off on a road to ruin and isolation and to be inward looking, rather than being part of a collective that espouses the values of rights, democracy and the rule of law, shared prosperity and the creation of a better world—if we choose wrongly—they will never forgive us, so let us give the people the final say.