13 March 2019
Andrew Bridgen calls on MPs to keep no-deal on the table

Andrew Bridgen calls on MPs to keep no-deal on the table as it is our insurance to get out of the EU.

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con)

When this House voted overwhelmingly to invoke article 50, we knew that the default position was that we would the leave European Union on 29 March with no deal. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs opened this debate with his usual enthusiastic and energetic manner, but his words will have struck horror into the hearts of the 17.4 million people who voted to leave and Conservative activists and members across the country. Our manifesto said that no deal is better than a bad deal, and the Prime Minister has said at the Dispatch Box on over 100 occasions that we are leaving the European Union on 29 March with or without a deal. Where does that leave our democracy or belief in politics?

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) spoke at length, as he is wont to do as Father of the House, and I respect him for his consistent opinion on the European Union. He mentioned that the referendum was three years ago, which seems a long time, but he led the remain campaign in the east midlands while I led the leave campaign. I remember well that we debated, we were on television, we were on the radio and we went out to hustings, but when the votes came in at the end of the day the result was 59% to 41% in favour of leaving the European Union. He is right that his seat voted to remain, but it was one of few in the east midlands to do so, and I am disappointed, as will be the people of the east midlands, that he is treating that democratic decision so badly that he would invite us to revoke article 50 and go against the will of the British people, to whom this House decided we would give the decision in a referendum.

Mr Kenneth Clarke

As my hon. Friend knows, I never said that I would change my lifelong opinions on the strength of one opinion poll. If I fight an election and urge the case for a Conservative Government, but the Labour party wins and takes office, does my hon. Friend think that I should then attend this House as an Opposition Member supporting the Government’s policies because they had just won a democratic mandate for them? That is not how we do politics in this country. It would be an absurd way to proceed.

Andrew Bridgen

My right hon. and learned Friend makes his points in favour of the European Union, as he has done consistently throughout his career, but the answer is that the people of the east midlands voted to leave the European Union, and I would have hoped that he respected that.

We have heard nothing about the Government’s preparations for no deal, which have been played down. Some 9,000 civil servants are working on no-deal preparations, and the Treasury has allocated £4.2 billion of taxpayers’ money to prepare for no deal. The preparations are moving forward. Business has been told that we are leaving and to prepare for no deal on 29 March. We have seen on the news that the Government have reserved warehouse space for extra stock. All that cost has been incurred by our country.

If we leave on 29 March—business does not like uncertainty, we know that—we end the uncertainty if we leave with no deal. We have already heard that is not no deal—it is a managed no deal. We have a huge trade deficit with the European Union—£67 billion. We can offer it GATT 24, with tariff-free and quota-free trade the moment we leave, which it would be advised to accept, given that it trades with us so much.

The European Union is on the verge of a recession. Germany has no growth and has only stopped quantitative easing for three months, since November, and it has slipped into recession. The European Union has started printing money again to support the euro. Now is the time, when we still have economic growth—it needs our markets—to push for more concessions. It is not the time to take no deal off the table; it is the time to keep it there as a threat to bring the European Union to heel. When we get to the compression point, it cannot be this Parliament or this country that blinks first. I urge all colleagues to keep no deal on the table. It is our only insurance for getting out of the European Union.