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UK Economy

Volume 660: debated on Thursday 16 May 2019

3. What recent assessment the Government have made of the effect on the UK economy of the UK leaving the EU. (910918)

In November 2018, the Government published their economic analysis of leaving the European Union. In doing so, the Government delivered on their commitment to provide appropriate analysis to Parliament. The publication provides an assessment of how different exit scenarios may affect the sectors, nations and regions of the UK economy in the long run.

If the rumours are true, the withdrawal agreement Bill will come back to the House shortly. There is no credible analysis, including from the Government, that shows that any form of Brexit will be beneficial to the UK economy, so will the Bill include a detailed economic and environmental impact assessment of its impact on every single sector, region and nation of this country?

The hon. Gentleman has been in the House long enough to know that I cannot possibly reveal details of the Bill ahead of its introduction. What I can say generally is that the UK economy is performing strongly—much more strongly than many of his doom-mongers and naysayers have suggested. Employment levels have broken all records, and there are 3.6 million more people in work than there were in 2010. Business investment in the UK stood at almost £47 billion in the first quarter of this year—that is an increase of 30% since we took office in 2010. Generally, the UK is the top destination for inward investment in Europe. Amid uncertainty, the economy is performing well.

Financial services are a critical part of the UK’s economy and one of our top exports. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the withdrawal agreement does not include a specific section on financial services and that access to the EU market after any transition would be a matter of separate negotiation? Will he update the House on his most recent discussions on the issue with his EU counterparts?

The withdrawal agreement is not the end state of the relationship between the UK and the EU; it is merely a mechanism to get to that end state. In a free trade agreement, which I hope we get, our financial services will absolutely be able to have more freedom. They have a brighter future outside the EU than within it.

I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. The creative industries tell me that their economy is already suffering, with the concerns of musicians in particular, for example, not being addressed in any part of the Government’s negotiations or deal. They will have to move kit and people around the European Union, and they are already losing out on bookings. What discussions is the Minister having with representatives of, for instance, the Musicians Union about this problem?

I refer the hon. Lady to the answer I gave just a minute ago. The withdrawal agreement itself does not describe the end state of our relationship between the UK and the EU. It is simply a means to the end. We are discussing all the time with representatives of the creative industries, and we hope that, once the agreement is passed, we can then go on to the second phase of the discussions.

The European Union is mired in low economic growth. Many of its countries have eye-watering levels of youth unemployment and its currency has to be constantly supported by quantitative easing. Can my hon. Friend understand why anybody would want to chain us to this rotten corpse?

I fully appreciate the force of my hon. Friend’s argument. The idea that the EU simply represented the be-all and end-all of economic prosperity has been completely exploded by his remarks. If those record high levels of youth unemployment occurred in the constituencies of any Labour Member, they would be rightly outraged. We have great opportunities outside the EU, which is why I hope that we can pass the Bill and move forward in these discussions.

The car industry, British steel and the travel industry are all citing Brexit as a major cause of concern in their sectors. Does the Minister consider that to be project fear or project reality?

I urge the right hon. Gentleman to end the uncertainty and back the Bill so that we can move on with this debate and get to the next phase of the negotiations. That would provide the certainty that the industries that he cites are looking for.

The Minister reminded us that the Government have done an economic analysis of a number of Brexit scenarios, but, very pointedly, they have not given us an analysis of the impact of the scenario that they are going to ask us to vote on in a few weeks’ time. Every analysis they have done of every Brexit scenario has shown that the economic damage to Scotland caused by Brexit is always made even worse if we also lose our rights under free movement of people. How does the Minister justify imposing this additional economic damage on a country that rejected Brexit by 62% in 2016?

I fully appreciate the concern of the Members from the Scottish National party. They campaigned for two referendums. They got beaten in both of them and now they simply want to re-run them. The fact is that the United Kingdom voted to leave and this Government—and Ministers—are pledged to deliver on that referendum result.

I want the result of the referendum to be respected. I want the 62% of sovereign citizens in my nation to have their declared will respected. Does the Minister not realise that, every time he or his colleagues say that Scotland has to put up with this because Scotland is part of the Union, they are driving another nail into the coffin of that Union? Does he not appreciate that his comments today will simply persuade more and more Scots that, next week, the way to protect Scotland’s interests is by returning an increased number of SNP candidates to the European Parliament and by making sure that, in 2024, Scotland participates in those European elections as a full sovereign member of a partnership of equals?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was in Scotland last week, and the opinion there is very divided on this issue, as it is in the rest of the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate, as a democrat, that the vote in 2016 was a national vote—a United Kingdom vote—and we are pledged to respect the majority result, which was to leave the European Union.