European Union Citizenship: 7th March 2018

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
It is generous of the hon. Gentleman to give way. Is he aware that in the past few hours Donald Tusk has made it absolutely clear that the choice that this Government now face is whether to stay in the single market and customs union or to have a free trade arrangement? Just 52% voted to leave and I can assure Members that nobody who voted leave in my constituency voted for that, especially given the Government’s own assessment. This must be the first Government ever in the history of our country to admit that, even if we got what the Prime Minister wants, a free trade agreement will make this country less prosperous. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this is the stuff of madness?

Stephen Gethins
The right hon. Lady makes an excellent point.

The Scottish Government have published their analysis of what will happen if we leave the single market for a free trade deal, and it is striking that reports show that it would have a devastating impact on our economy. It looks like the same is true of the UK Government’s analysis. They must acknowledge that and publish the analysis. At least the Scottish Government have published theirs. If GDP declines, that will be devastating for our public services. I am glad that the Scottish Government have raised taxes very slightly for a minority of the population protect public services, but that is a drop in the ocean compared with what a hit to GDP will mean for our economy, the NHS, education and other public services.

Anna Soubry
I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the benefits of our remaining in the single market and the customs union. However, I disagree with him when he says that the Prime Minister’s policy is to have a hard Brexit. If one thing absolutely came out of the Mansion House, it was a firm rejection of a hard Brexit. Does he at least agree with me on that?

Jonathan Edwards
I am always delighted to hear from the right hon. Lady, with whom I work very closely on these matters. However, I fear that the Prime Minister in her speech managed to continue the strategy of trying to placate both sides of the Conservative party. Ultimately, she is going to have to make a call one way or the other. The fact that the right hon. Lady welcomed the speech and the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) welcomed the speech—

Anna Soubry
I suggest that one reason there was such a strong remain vote in Scotland was not just that, as the hon. Gentleman said, people think themselves more European than perhaps British—I do not agree with him about that—but that, as I think we can agree, there is a real understanding of the positive benefits of immigration. When I served on the Scottish Affairs Committee, it was striking that Scotland was crying out for more people to come in and work there. Does he think that the fact that the Scottish people have not been afraid to talk about the positive benefits of immigration may be a large part of the result north of the border?

Drew Hendry
The right hon. Lady has stolen my thunder slightly, because the fact that we have received many benefits was exactly where I was going to go next. The very next line of my speech—I am very grateful that she brought this up—is that the long-term issues in the highlands have not been about immigration, but about emigration. That has been a historical problem. Depopulation has been a critical issue in the highlands. Our deepened relationships with the EU have presented an opportunity to welcome EU Scots to our region, a great many of whom have settled in the area.