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European Union (UK Withdrawal from Membership)

Volume 614: debated on Wednesday 14 September 2016

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a bill to implement the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from membership of the European Union; and for connected purposes.

The House knows that the position of the Government is very clear. Brexit means Brexit, and we will make a success of it; also, Brexit means Brexit, and we need to get on with it. I think it important for us to understand, agree with, and endorse the position that article 50 is a matter for the Prime Minister alone. She has the mandate of the masses, given to her—or to the Prime Minister, and the Government—on 23 June, and it is right for her to invoke it. I believe that the sooner she invokes it the better, so that we have the security, the stability and the certainty that we need as we seek to build a post-Brexit Britain.

I am introducing the Bill first to give the House an opportunity to endorse and accept the decision of the British people on 23 June; secondly, to talk about the red lines that the British people clearly identify in terms of what Brexit will look like; and, thirdly, to talk about the vision that we can have for the post-Brexit Britain that we will build.

First, let me deal with the issue of where Members of Parliament stood when it came to the referendum. As the House knows, I was very concerned about the border between Calais and Dover: I did not want it to move back from Calais to Dover. The British people did not share my concerns, and I am here today to say that that is their decision, and we must endorse it.

This is an opportunity, in particular, for the Labour party to reject the talk of the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Owen Smith), who says that we should have a second referendum to drag the British people back into the European Union. It is an opportunity for the Labour party to say, “We accept and we will submit to the will of the British people, and we will help to make Brexit a success.” I also say to members of the Scottish National party, who do not seem to like the result of any referendum that is held in these isles, “Do not be the Scottish Neverendum party.” I ask them first to accept the decision of the Scottish people, by an overwhelming majority and with an overwhelming turnout, to remain part of the United Kingdom, and, secondly to accept the decision of the British people as a whole that this country, this nation, this United Kingdom, should seek a future outside the European Union. I say to them that it would be wrong to think that “If at first you don’t succeed, vote, vote again” should be their motto. That would be the wrong approach.

Let me now deal with the red lines. It is clear that the British people are deeply concerned about the level of uncontrolled EU immigration. They were told, and it was pledged in manifestos, that net migration would be brought down to tens of thousands, but last year the figure was 330,000. People in Dover tell me regularly that they are very concerned about the downward pressure that that exerts on their wages, and their concern has been underlined and proved right by important research conducted by the Resolution Foundation which shows that, on average, the mass migration that we have experienced has caused wages to be about £450 lower for the hard-working classes of Britain. According to the foundation, if we did succeed in bringing migration down to tens of thousands, they would have a pay rise. Work by the OECD, published in 2014, emphasises that mass migration does not benefit, and has not benefited, the people of Britain or those in the rest of the world. It does not have an economic good, and it does not work for the British people in their daily lives. That red line is crystal clear: we must end uncontrolled EU immigration.

The second red line—which was confirmed by Lord Ashcroft’s recently published poll—is also very clear. People do not want billions for Brussels: that has to end. We cannot have any kind of Brexit deal that includes the handing over of billions to Brussels. Instead, the money should be spent here at home, and invested in Britain. My constituents say that we need a renaissance for the towns and regions of Britain, and we need to use that money wisely—which brings me to my final and most important point.

What is the post-Brexit Britain that we are going to build? What will this country look like? My constituents say to me, “It always seems to be about investing in HS2, or runways at Heathrow, or £4.7 billion for Crossrail. It always seems to be about benefiting London, or benefiting the jet-set elite. What about us in Dover? Why has the A2 not been dualled? We have been waiting for that project for decades.” Every single region in the country will be able to specify an infrastructure project for which it has been waiting for a long time, while things always seem to work for the jet-set elite and the metropolitan populace in London rather than for other towns and regions. We need a rebalancing for the 90% who live in the towns and regions of this nation, rather than the other 10%. It is time that Britain worked for everyone. It is time that public expenditure worked for everyone as well. London receives about £10,000 of public expenditure per head, while the figure for the south-east is less than £8,000. That is a difference of some 26%. My constituents say, “The allocation of resources in this country is not fair. When we get this money back from Brussels, there will be an opportunity to make it fairer.”

It comes down to this question: who does Britain work for? Who do my constituents, and the constituents of the towns and regions of this nation, feel that Britain works for? They feel that it too often works for the Philip Greens of this world, for the privileged few rather than the hard-working-class kids of Dover and Deal and Doncaster and Darlington, and they think that that needs to change. First, big business needs a change of culture. We all know how Apple has been gaming the tax system and paying hardly any tax in this country: it is a bad Apple. We also know that Amazon has a Luxembourg structure. We should look closely at its books, and I hope that HMRC will do so. On Google, we need to make sure that the Public Accounts Committee is supported in its searching, and make sure that Google pays a fair share of tax in this country. When it comes to car rental businesses like Avis, it just shows that we are being taken for a ride when, the other day, it imposed a Brexit tax on Britons but is not paying any corporation tax to Britain because it has a Luxembourg structure. It is that kind of thing that drives the people of Dover and Deal round the bend and we need to call a stop to it. We can do that when we leave the EU very simply, because we will not be struck by its anti-discrimination rules that make it so hard for us to secure our tax base.

We need to make sure that Britain works for the people as a whole, rather than have the bloated boardroom bonuses we have seen too much of in recent years. The ground-breaking research of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp) recently showed that pay in the boardroom for chief executives is 150 times that of employees of FTSE 100 companies. That is not right, and that has doubled in the last 12 years. When a shareholder vote rejects that, companies like BP just say, “Well, we’re not accountable to you; we’ll do what we like.” That culture needs to change.

We need to have a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. It is important that we make sure that we have more investment for the regions—that we have runways in places like Bristol and Birmingham and Manchester and that we have railways and roads that work for everyone in the regions. It is important that we have bigger investment.

Finally, I simply say that Brexit means Brexit. We are going to make a success of it, but it is also an opportunity to change how we run Britain, to change our national way of life and who our country works for and make sure it works for literally everyone, rather than just the privileged few, which is how people have felt for too long. That is the kind of change we can make.

It was the towns and regions of this country that decided to take us out of the EU, and they should be supported in leading the charge for the kind of future we can build as we head out into the single market of the world.

I want to decline the right of the hon. Member for Dover (Charlie Elphicke) to bring in his Bill. He said that we in Scotland, the Scottish National party in particular, should respect the decision and the outcome of the referendum. I very much respect the decision of those nations who voted to leave the EU; I would simply say to my friend from Dover that perhaps he and his colleagues should respect the wishes of those nations who voted to remain in the EU.

It is always sweet to be chided by the hon. Gentleman, who railed against the jet-set elite and talked about the imbalance in boardroom pay. We do not need to leave the EU and destroy our trade opportunities to tackle the imbalance in boardroom pay. He talked about the imbalance in public spending, and he was right to do so; indeed, other parts of the country—the east of England, the north-west of England—get even less than the south-east gets, such is the imbalance. But we do not need to leave the EU and weaken job opportunities and export opportunities to rebalance public spending throughout the English regions. If only we had an English Parliament to deal with these things, then things would be so much better. The hon. Gentleman spoke about corporate tax and how little is paid by some of the Goliaths of the global corporate world. We do not need to leave the EU and weaken opportunity further in order to deliver fairness in corporate taxation.

In essence, though, the hon. Gentleman made a pitch to leave now because, he said, “Brexit means Brexit” and we will “make a success of it”; I think I am quoting accurately. The problem, and the reason why no one can support this ten-minute rule Bill, is that when the Prime Minister—the leader of Government, the high heid yin of the Tory party—is asked, “If Brexit means Brexit, does it mean we will be staying in the single market?”, she does not know. When she was asked the most straightforward question earlier today—“Will the passporting in place for financial services be maintained?”—she said “I refer you to the answer I gave last week,” which is, “I don’t actually know.”

So on the basis that “Brexit means Brexit” is no more than a meaningless campaigning expression, and that none of the benefits described by the hon. Gentleman in terms of Brexit—tackling corporate pay and corporate taxation, tackling the imbalance in regional public expenditure in England—will in any way, shape or form be addressed, let alone improved, by Brexit, I fear we are going to have to call against the hon. Gentleman’s valiant attempts to drag the whole of the UK, including those parts who voted to stay in, out of the EU before there is even a plan.

Question put (Standing Order No. 23).