A motion was put to the House calling for the Government to release the Brexit sectoral impact assessments. I spoke in favour of the motion, as without this information it is impossible for Parliament to do its job: hold the Government to account.
You can read my contribution below.
I rise to urge Members on both sides of the House to support the motion. I do so for the simple reason that, without publication, it is impossible for this House to do its job, which is to hold the Government to account. We must have a full, frank and informed debate about what Brexit means, and particularly about what a no-deal Brexit would mean for our society, for our economy and for jobs, trade and living standards. The fact is that this House and the British people cannot have that debate without access to the key information.
We face a productivity crisis, a weakened pound, creeping inflation, higher input costs and the slowest GDP growth in Europe—all challenges that would be deeply and dramatically compounded by a no-deal Brexit. No deal would mean customs chaos. Adding just an extra two minutes to customs proceedings at Dover would mean a 17-mile queue from Dover almost back to Ashford. No deal would mean airlines were not sure whether their planes would be able to take off post-Brexit. No deal would mean thousands of citizens and businesses left in limbo—maybe temporarily, maybe not—when it was realised that many of their products were no longer eligible for sale across the EU. So let us hope that the Government will now drop their dangerous and vacuous no-deal bluff. The Government contend that to maximise leverage in the negotiations we must make it clear that we are prepared and willing to accept a no-deal scenario. Taking this logic at face value, surely, then, the more bullish we look and the better prepared we appear to be to manage the new tariffs and customs duties at Dover or at the airport, the greater our leverage would be.
If the impact assessments were positive, they would not only have been published—their findings would be screamed from the rooftops. That is why the failure to publish makes it crystal clear that the no-deal rhetoric is a bluff—a bluff that weakens us and undermines our credibility in the negotiations. It is yet another example of the Brexiteer tail wagging the Tory dog; yet another example of the national interest playing second fiddle to the internal factional interests of the Conservative party; yet another example of putting party before country, where the Prime Minister has put the placation of her own Back Benchers ahead of the interests of our country. I ask right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House to put country first and to support this motion tonight.