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No Deal: Preparedness

Volume 662: debated on Thursday 27 June 2019

4. What assessment he has made of the UK’s level of preparedness for leaving the EU on 31 October 2019 without a deal. (911594)

As a responsible Government, we have been preparing to minimise any disruption in the event of no deal for more than two years. In the light of the extension, Departments are making sensible decisions about the timing and pace at which some of that work is progressing and what further action can be taken, but we will continue to prepare for an EU exit in all scenarios.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has called on local authorities across the whole United Kingdom to set up food resilience teams to assess how different Brexit outcomes could affect food supplies. What reassurances can the Minister and the Secretary of State give that food supplies will not be impacted in the event of no deal?

Only yesterday, I had a bilateral meeting with my counterpart Minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and we discussed the advanced plans that that Department has made in this area. I have also had meetings with the Food and Drink Federation, which represents sectors in the industry, and the British Retail Consortium. The Government are making significant plans to ensure that key supplies, including food, are available in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

One of the major risks of leaving without a deal, which I very much hope will not happen, is cash-flow problems, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. I had understood that the Treasury and the whole Government were making plans to ensure that additional cash flow would be made available, particularly for SMEs, for delays in payments, customs dues and so on. But at the Exiting the European Union Committee yesterday, we heard from all witnesses that they were not aware of any such plans for their members. Can the Minister set out clearly what those plans are and when they will be made known?

The Government absolutely remain committed to ensuring that businesses, whether they are large, small or medium-sized, thrive in any Brexit-related scenario. The Governor of the Bank of England has said that we are well prepared. I will ensure that more details are circulated about what mitigating measures the UK Government will put in place for small and medium-sized businesses.

In the finest traditions of this Government, the Brexit Secretary used an interview in The Times today to publicly air his frustrations with colleagues from the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy at their unwillingness to waste yet more public money on ramping up preparations for a no-deal Brexit. In the same spirit of openness, can the Minister tell the House precisely how much additional funding his Department believes should be allocated to no-deal planning before 31 October and what it should be spent on?

The Treasury has made available over £4 billion for preparations for Brexit in all scenarios. As has been discussed at the Dispatch Box before, it is not possible to disaggregate the spending between planning for a deal and planning for no deal. If the hon. Gentleman or anyone else in the Chamber is concerned about the implications of a no-deal Brexit, I remind them that they have had a number of opportunities to take the prospect of a no-deal Brexit off the table, which is what they say they wish to do, by voting for a deal. The fact that he has failed to do so means that the Government have had to take sensible, pragmatic actions to ensure that we are ready to leave in the event of no deal, but it is not too late for him to repent.

Given that the Brexit Secretary who negotiated the last deal was so disgusted with it that he resigned in protest, I think it is a bit much to blame anyone on this side of the House for not supporting it.

As the Minister will know only too well, we are still waiting to see the results of the coronation of the next Prime Minister—a Prime Minister who will be chosen on the votes of less than one quarter of 1% of the people of these islands. The lead contender—in fact, both contenders have made it clear they are prepared to go for a no-deal Brexit. Will the Minister accept that there is no mandate for a no-deal Brexit in this Parliament, and that there has never been a mandate for a no-deal Brexit from the people of the United Kingdom?

In the 2016 referendum, the mandate was given to this place from the British people to leave the European Union.

The Minister was asked what assurances he could give about food supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and he gave none. He was asked what mandate exists publicly for a no-deal Brexit, and his answer made it perfectly clear there is none. The man who is about to be imposed on us as Prime Minister promised he would get a deal that would not be a no-deal Brexit, and if the new Prime Minister’s promises are worth nothing, whose are?

May I take the Minister back to the desire expressed a few minutes ago by his boss, who wants this House to listen to more than just the voices of London? “Yeah, tell us about it” is all I can say to that. May I suggest that he listens to one of the equal partners in this Union, where the Scottish National party is the stop Brexit party? The only time no-deal Brexit has been specifically put on the ballot paper in the form of the official Brexit party, the Scottish National party—on a promise to be the stop Brexit party—got more votes than not only the official no-deal Brexit party, but the unofficial no-deal Conservative party and the “don’t know what they’re doing about Brexit” Labour party, all three added together. Does he not accept that the people of Scotland, who his Government accept are sovereign, have overwhelmingly rejected any promise of a no-deal Brexit, as indeed would the majority of the people of these islands if they were given a choice? Why does he not make sure that no deal is taken off the table once and for all?

I happen to be one of the people in this Chamber who is in the habit of respecting the outcome of referendums. I am conscious that the hon. Gentleman is a representative of a party that is less comfortable with respecting the outcome of referendums. The simple truth of the matter is that the people of Scotland decided to remain an active part of the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom collectively decided to leave the European Union, and we are delivering on that referendum.