A withered fruit

Photo: Jonatan Svensson Glad (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Helen Hayes warns of the damaging consequences of the Tory hard Brexit deal

The question today is whether the Prime Minister’s deal secures the best possible future relationship with the EU and whether it is the fullest expression of our ambition and our values. 

Clearly, it is not.  

It is the only trade deal in our history which does not bring us closer to our trading partners but increases our isolation. And it does so at a time when across so many issues, from coronavirus to climate change, and from security to the digital economy, increased collaboration and cooperation across international borders is more important than ever.

This is a bad deal which will make our country poorer. It will cost jobs, undermine our security, weaken our standing in the world, risk workers’ rights and environmental protections and limit opportunities for our children and grandchildren.

The deal contains no substantive arrangements for trade in services, which make up 80% of our economy, and in which a majority of my constituents are employed.  Even the Prime Minister has been forced to admit that it falls short on financial services. 

The digital sector, one of the growth engines of the modern economy, is particularly poorly served. And the provisions on non-regression on workers’ rights and environmental standards are weak and will be difficult to enforce.

The Prime Minister and the Tories are content to put our security at threat by forfeiting the UK’s membership of Europol, Eurojust, the European Arrest Warrant and real-time sensitive data-sharing agreements such as the Schengen Information System (SIS2) without any provisions to replace them in this deal.

The deal continues the UK government’s attack on international aid, providing no framework for collaboration with our European neighbours on the delivery of aid to the world’s poorest regions.

In a completely unnecessary blow, entirely a political choice of the Prime Minister, young people in the UK will now be denied the opportunity to study and attend work placements in EU countries under the Erasmus programme, narrowing their horizons. The Prime Minister’s alternative is an underfunded pale imitation.

Brexit has been the overwhelmingly dominant issue in our political landscape ever since I was first elected as the MP for Dulwich and West Norwood in 2015. I have made commitments at each of the three elections in which I have been a parliamentary candidate to keep representing the views and values of my constituents on Brexit, and I have made these commitments a clear personal priority.

As such, I cannot reconcile support for this bill today with the personal commitments I have made to my constituents when I asked them to vote for me. I accept that the deal is better than the no deal Brexit which the Prime Minister recklessly threatened, and I will not therefore oppose it. 

But this is the Prime Minister’s deal, a weak and thin Tory deal, the withered fruit of a negotiation conducted in a spirit of bombastic, ideological superiority rather than a spirit of cooperation, collaboration and internationalism. A different negotiation would and should have yielded a far better outcome.

Today is without a doubt a watershed moment, in the long and sad road to Brexit. The UK’s future outside of the European Union is settled and the basis of our future relationship agreed. 

What matters now is the future vision for our country which brings people together and offers hope. A path out of the devastation that the coronavirus pandemic has wrought, our ambition for a green, zero-carbon economy with high quality jobs, for the rebuilding of our public services and the re-empowerment of our communities which will help to build a fair and just society. That is the Labour vision that I will work to build.

This is a slightly edited version of Helen Hayes’s House of Commons speech warning of the dangers of the Brexit deal.

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