Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill
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Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, responding to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, said:
“Thank you Mr Speaker. Over the last three and a half years the government’s mishandling of Brexit has delivered nothing but political gridlock, chaos and economic uncertainty.
It has paralysed our political system, divided our communities and nations and become a national embarrassment on an unprecedented scale.
For people outside Westminster the constant argument and pointless posturing in parliament has only served to demonstrate the political system is not working for them.
So we recognise the clear message from the British public last week, however they voted in the referendum of 2016, and understand their determination to end the never-ending cycle of Brexit debate and get back to solving the day-to-day issues and challenges they face in their lives.
We must listen and understand that we cannot go on forever debating what happened in 2016.
We have to respect that decision and move on.
But Mr Speaker, understanding all this doesn’t mean we as a party and a movement should abandon basic principles or give up the demand for a fairer and more just society.
We warned before the general election that the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal was a terrible deal for our country and we still believe it is a terrible deal today.
It will not protect or strengthen our rights or support our manufacturing industry and vital trading relationships, or protect our natural world in a time of a climate crisis.
Neither will it address the deep inequality in our system or secure the interests of every nation and region in the United Kingdom.
Instead under the Conservatives this deal will be used as a battering ram to drive us down the path of yet more deregulation and towards a toxic deal with Donald Trump that will sell out our NHS and push up the price of medicines to benefit the giant US drugs corporations.
That will take us away from the essential principles we believe in, of a country that looks after everybody and protects those communities left behind by the excesses of runaway capitalism.
This deal doesn’t bring certainty for communities or for business and workforces.
In fact it does the opposite and hard-wires in the risk of a No Deal Brexit in a year’s time.
I’m sure that will delight many of those on the benches opposite but not those who will suffer the consequences in communities and workplaces across Britain.
That is why Labour will not support this Bill as we remain certain there is a better and fairer way for this country to leave the EU.
One which would not risk ripping our communities apart, selling out our public services or sacrificing hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process.
This deal is a roadmap for the reckless direction in which the government and the Prime Minister are determined to take our country.
They have done their utmost to hide its likely impact and continue to use gimmicks and slogans to turn attention away from their real intentions.
And nothing exposes this more than the steps they have already taken on workers’ rights.
For all the promises over the past few weeks that they are the party to protect rights at work, at the very first opportunity they have removed the basic provisions they had said would be part of this bill.
That does not bode well for the separate Bill the prime minister is now saying he will bring forward on workers’ rights.
If he wants to assure people that their rights are safe in his hands he should commit to legislate to ensure workers rights in Britain will never fall behind EU standards in the future and support amendments to enshrine this commitment within this bill.
Mr Speaker, I want to make it absolutely clear how appalled I am to see the government remove the protections in this Bill for unaccompanied children seeking asylum.
Throughout the last Parliament and for his whole life my good friend Lord Dubs has worked tirelessly to ensure children affected by the worst aspects of global injustice are given sanctuary in this country.
Now this government, in its first week in office has ripped up those hard won commitments.
This is a move the director of the charity Safe Passage has described as, and I quote:
Saying it could have and I quote again:
“potentially tragic consequences”.
Shame on this government for abandoning children in this way.
Mr Speaker, on the environment and food safety standards this deal points to a complete realignment towards the far weaker protections and standards that operate in Donald Trump’s America.
If this government is set on pursuing a Trump trade deal with precious few bargaining chips to hand the brutal reality is that Britain will have to lower its standards.
The EU has made it clear that a future trade deal with them will depend on maintaining a level playing field in standards and protections.
So the choice we now face is between keeping the highest environmental and food standards in order to get that future deal with the EU or slashing food standards to match the US, where what are called “acceptable levels” of rat hairs in paprika and maggots in orange juice are allowed, just so we can strike a new race-to-the-bottom deal with Donald Trump.
Turning to the arrangements with Northern Ireland the Prime Minister has emphatically claimed, and I quote:
“there will be no checks between Northern Ireland and GB”
“we have a deal that keeps the whole of the UK together as we come of the EU”
These claims are simply not true.
We know from the analysis carried out by his own Treasury that under his deal there will, in fact, be an abundance of checks and customs declarations in the Irish Sea.
Not only will this have a huge impact on Northern Irish business and society, it will also have implications for the rest of Britain’s economy and manufacturing industry.
The Treasury’s own analysis spells it out: the more the government diverges from EU trading regulations in the future the more checks and disruption will be put in place between Britain and our biggest trading partner.
More checks and more disruption would be deeply damaging for trade and for our manufacturing sector and threatens to take a wrecking ball to our vital supply chains and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that rely on them.
From car manufacturers to the chemical industry disruption to our just-in-time supply chains will have a devastating impact.
This all makes it even more incredible that since agreeing its deal the government has yet to produce a single bit of evidence or analysis to show it will have a positive impact on the economy or our communities in any way.
We scarcely need to ask ourselves, why?
I say to all members new and old that it is our job to question to scrutinise and to hold the government of the day to account.
If we believe the government is taking the wrong approach we should not be afraid to oppose.
And when it comes to our future relationship with the EU and the rest of the world we cannot let this government act in an undemocratic and secretive manner.
Trade deals with the EU, the US, or anybody else for that matter must be done transparently.
This country is about to embark on a major change of direction as we leave a 40 year economic partnership for an unknown future, under the terms of this withdrawal deal.
The government needs to be honest with the people about the real choices and the real risks that lie ahead.
So stop the posturing and the gimmicks and ditch the unachievable red lines that will only lead to another No Deal cliff edge, with all the anxiety and uncertainty that brings.
The Prime Minister may believe that fuelling division and confrontation has helped him realise his personal political ambition.
But it’s no way to heal the deep divisions in our society or find the common ground we need to move beyond Brexit.
We need an approach that puts jobs and living standards first and builds the strongest cooperation with our European neighbours based on openness, solidarity and internationalism.
That is the approach that will bring an end to the Brexit crisis and bring our country together.”