Skip to main content

EU Referendum

Volume 608: debated on Tuesday 12 April 2016

9. What discussions his Department has had with the Department for Work and Pensions on the potential effect of the UK leaving the EU on employment. (904409)

The Government’s view is that the UK will be stronger, safer and better off remaining in a reformed EU. More British people are in work than ever before, and nine out of 10 people in work in this country are UK nationals.

Airbus, which is based near my constituency, employs 15,000 people directly, has 100,000 people in associated businesses and has taken the unprecedented step of writing to all its employees urging them to vote yes to stay in Europe, because it says that

“we…don’t know what ‘out’ looks like.”

Will the Minister endorse that decision and tell the House what “out” looks like?

Airbus is typical of a large number of advanced manufacturing companies that are based across national borders within Europe but benefit from the European market, and which also give business opportunities to a host of small enterprises through their supply chains. That reinforces my view that it would be a severe blow to employment and hopes of growth for this country to withdraw from the EU.

Given the cross-departmental nature of the question, does my right hon. Friend agree that the Prime Minister could very helpfully agree to go before the Liaison Committee to deal with all these cross-departmental questions?

The Prime Minister agreed with the Liaison Committee that he should make three appearances during 2016. The next one is scheduled to take place before the summer recess. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has also been at this Dispatch Box on many occasions to answer questions about European policy, and my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) has taken ample advantage of the opportunity provided by those events.

It is not just those in employment, but pensioners who would suffer the consequences of Brexit. What can the Minister say about any British pensioners living in Europe who may be caught up in the “frozen pensions” scandal if we leave the European Union?

It is the case that British pensioners and other expatriate UK citizens who are resident in other EU member states get certain rights and benefits as a consequence of our EU membership. We cannot guarantee that in the event of a British withdrawal, the negotiations on exit would lead to those rights and benefits being retained.

In the Minister’s publicly funded glossy brochure—I have a copy here—which claims to set out the facts, the Government state:

“Our EU membership magnifies the UK’s ability to get its way on the issues we care about.”

Will my right hon. Friend explain how that squares with the fact that the UK has been outvoted every time it has voted against an EU measure—72 times in total, and 40 of those defeats under this Government?

I suggest that my hon. Friend checks the footnotes to the leaflet, which have been published online so that everybody can see the basis on which those statements are made. We have been successful in roughly 87% of votes in the Council of Ministers, and most outside observers say that we have a better track record than most other member states in getting our own way.

Given that after 40 years the European Union has still not managed to negotiate a trade deal with the United States of America, surely if we left and regained control of settling our own trade deals, we would be able to make trade deals much faster than the EU.

I am glad to hear that my hon. Friend speaks for that faction of the Brexit camp that supports the transatlantic free trade agreement, because not everybody on his side of the argument does. The United States, through its chief negotiator and the head of its chamber of commerce, has made it clear that it is interested in a deal with 500 million people, the biggest market in the world, but not terribly interested in giving priority to a deal with a country of just 65 million people.