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No-deal Expenditure

Volume 660: debated on Thursday 16 May 2019

Additional EU exit funding allocated by Her Majesty’s Treasury to Departments and devolved Administrations covers all scenarios. No-deal spending cannot readily be separated from deal spending, given the significant overlap in plans in many cases. Since 2016, the Treasury has allocated more than £2.4 billion of funding for all exit scenarios.[Official Report, 20 May 2019, Vol. 660, c. 6MC.]

Despite talking up and legitimising a no-deal outcome for two years, the Prime Minister applied for two different extensions to the article 50 period to avoid that outcome, because she knows it would be damaging to the country. The Minister talks of £2.4 billion. Would that money not have been better spent on the fight against knife crime, on helping families struggling to cope with universal credit or on 100 other causes that would benefit our constituents, rather than on an argument that, by the Prime Minister’s actions, she has shown she does not even believe in?

Her Majesty’s Government have never had the policy to take no deal off the table; the House has committed the Government through votes to do so. The right hon. Gentleman talks about spending in other Departments. We have, for example, seen record spending in the national health service, making good on the Government’s commitment. If he does not want to see any more money spent on no-deal preparations, it is incumbent on him to bring this to a conclusion, and the best way of doing so is by voting for the withdrawal agreement Bill when it is presented to the House, giving this country certainty and the ability to move forward in a post-Brexit world.

In an op-ed in The Sun on Saturday, the Brexit Secretary argued that

“it would be inexcusable for the Government to not use the coming months to continue to prepare”

for no deal. Indeed, based on his answers today, no doubt he would like to accelerate those preparations. However, as the public know, given that they get advance sight of pending public rows in their morning newspapers, the Chancellor of the Exchequer takes a different view. He recently issued an edict that no further Treasury money will be provided for no-deal planning ahead of the 31 October deadline. When it comes to no-deal planning, will the new Under-Secretary tell us who actually speaks for the Government?

The Treasury has already allocated money for no-deal preparation. We continue to prepare for no deal, because at the moment there is still the possibility that on 31 October the United Kingdom will leave with no deal. Members of the House who are uncomfortable with that position can take a no-deal Brexit off the table by voting for a withdrawal agreement and leaving with a deal, which remains the Government’s policy. If we were to do that, we could move on to the second stage of the negotiations and set about creating a strong working relationship with our European partners and other nations around the world.