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Contributions to the Brexit debate, House of Commons, 1st February

Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab)

I do not agree with the Prime Minister’s plan to take us out of the single market and the customs union, because the effects will be dangerous and devastating to our economy. That is well understood and well documented where it concerns the City of London and Canary Wharf, which my constituency borders. Some 70,000 to 100,000 jobs—not just financiers at the top end of the institutions, but receptionists, caterers and all the people who serve the City and Canary Wharf—are at risk. The sector contributes more than 2 million jobs to the country and some 12% of taxation revenue for public expenditure, so it is really important that we do not throw the baby out with the bathwater, which is what the plan to leave the single market will effectively lead to.

Our hard-won rights for workers and women, and our protections for human rights, are seen and admired all over the world. We are putting those things and investment in our public services at risk. The decision will cost dearly, and will be deeply problematic and damaging to our economy. Some 44% of our exports are to the EU. The head of the World Trade Organisation even indicated that if we leave and end up on WTO terms, UK consumers will lose some £9 billion.

It is because of the damage that this change and the move away from the single market will do to my constituents, to our country’s economy and to our rights that I cannot support triggering article 50. It is not in our interest as a country that is supposed to be outward-looking and internationalist, nor in the interest of future generations.

Ms Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP)

As with the disastrous policy to pursue the ideologically driven austerity at all costs, this Government are pursuing Brexit at all costs. As many of my SNP colleagues have said, we were told during our referendum that Scotland should vote to keep Scotland in the EU. The people of Scotland have not forgotten the promises made, and the other side are going to have to come up with some answers. When David Cameron gave his first keynote speech of the campaign some two years ago, he talked of the UK having one of the most stable currencies in the world and said that that stability was “hugely attractive for investors”. He spoke about us having “real clout” in Europe. If David Cameron was right, we have gone from being a country at the centre of Europe to one at its periphery, and from demonstrating solidarity with our great allies in France, Germany and beyond, to begging for scraps from the table of President Trump. That is a distasteful downward spiral if ever there was one.

It is not simply that we are seeking to walk away from the table; many Government Members seem intent on burning our bridges on the way out. They seem to have forgotten the language they have used through this entire debate about the EU nationals; they think those people are a drain on this country, yet they want to do deals with their Governments. For goodness sake, what sort of negotiations are they going to enter into on that basis?

Tonight, I will therefore be joining my excellent SNP colleagues and some Labour Members in voting against this Bill. I will do so because that is what the majority of my constituents want, because Scotland was promised continued EU membership if we remained in the UK and because this Government are attempting to leave the EU in a haphazard and reckless way, without regard to the constitutional, social or economic consequences. We are not prepared to let them take Scotland over that cliff with them.

 

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