Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)
I now call Tom Brake to make an application for leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration under the terms of Standing Order No. 24. The right hon. Gentleman has up to three minutes in which to make his application.
Thank you for granting this request, Mr Speaker. I rise to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration: the consequences of leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement or future political agreement. I have been pleased to receive support for this application from Plaid Cymru, which is well represented here today, as well as from the Scottish National party, the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw), the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), my Liberal Democrat colleagues and others who are here in the Chamber today.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister will board the latest shuttle to Brussels to attempt to recast the backstop she had painstakingly negotiated over a two-year period. This is the backstop that she described as a necessary guarantee for the people of Northern Ireland, adding that there is no deal available that does not have a backstop in it. Frankly, I doubt very much whether she expects to return from Brussels with anything more than her duty-free. The EU has made it clear for months that the backstop that the Prime Minister secured for the UK is the backstop that is on offer. This is just another round of kicking the can down the road, bringing us two weeks closer to crashing out of the EU. This reckless game is costing jobs, business investment—Nissan being the latest example—and damaging our international standing and credibility.
Airbus said that if the UK left the EU without a deal it would
“lead to severe disruption and interruption of UK production.”
Airbus employs 14,000 people in the UK. Ford warned that a no-deal Brexit would cost the company an estimated £612 million this year. Sainsbury’s, Asda, McDonald’s and others have warned that stockpiling fresh food is impossible and that the UK is reliant on the EU for produce, particularly in March. Standard & Poor’s warned that UK unemployment would rise from 4% to 7% by 2020 in the event of no deal. In the face of mounting evidence of the damage that no deal would cause, leading Brexiters still maintain the pretence that it would do no harm, with some saying that
“We want to be out and we know it will work just fine”,
and that a free trade deal could be “done in an afternoon.”
Yesterday, we debated sport in the UK, and we will debate beer and pubs later this week. I do not want to minimise the importance of those debates, but with an uncontrolled departure from the EU just 50 days away, I ask you, Mr Speaker, to allow an urgent debate in this House to consider the Government’s unwillingness to rule out crashing out of the EU without a deal, with all the associated harmful consequences.
Let me respond to the right hon. Gentleman, to whom I granted the opportunity of a three-minute application. I have listened carefully to his application. At this time, I am not persuaded that the matter is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 24, but I have a little more to say. The right hon. Gentleman is a former deputy Leader of the House, and he will doubtless know that the Standing Order does not allow me to give the reasons for my decision or, at any rate, does not exhort or compel me to do so. However, the House will be aware that the Standing Order states:
“In determining whether a matter is urgent the Speaker shall have regard to the probability of the matter being brought before the House in time by other means.”
There have of course previously been SO24 debates appertaining to Brexit, and it is perfectly possible and readily imaginable that there may be others in due course.
I do not skit at the right hon. Gentleman. I am conscious of the pressing timescale. I am also conscious that we have been promised a statement on, if memory serves me, Wednesday of next week and a debate and likely votes on Thursday of next week. I genuinely believe that there is something to be said for observing processes taking place outside of this Chamber and coming to a view about what further consideration of this subject will be required.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the growing proximity to the intended departure day of 29 March, and I have that in my mind. He may rest assured that this matter will not be allowed simply to rest or to linger, nor is it the case that only the Government can choose when it is debated. I think I have demonstrated several times that I do not accept for one moment that only the Government can determine when the matter is debated or, indeed, the terms and amendability or otherwise of any motion. The Chair is rightly the custodian of some of those powers, which I exercise for the benefit of the House. I say no for now, but I have the matter under review, and I feel sure that the right hon. Gentleman and a great many other Members on both sides of the House will be doing the same.
Kitchens in Rented Accommodation (Benefit Claimants) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Frank Field presented a Bill to require landlords to meet standards for the hygienic storage and preparation of food and the provision of cooking appliances and equipment in accommodation provided for tenants in receipt of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 15 March, and to be printed (Bill 329).