Angela Smith MP

Working hard for you

Church House Declaration 

I write this having just signed the Church House Declaration, along with over 200 colleagues from across the House.  We have done so because we believe that our new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has no right to drag our country towards a No Deal Brexit without Parliament having a say on the matter.  Johnson tells us this is not his intention, but everything points to a catastrophic plunge over the cliff edge.  He is gambling recklessly with the country’s future and riding roughshod over our democratic traditions in order to get his own way, risking in so doing economic and social chaos. 

Make no mistake, a no-deal Brexit will be a disaster for the UK and for the agriculture sector.  Just look at the Government’s own plan for managing no deal, Operation Yellowhammer, which makes it clear that a dramatic rupture from the world’s biggest trading bloc will impact very badly on our economy, with the Government prepared to spend billions in an attempt to limit the damage.  It is even suggested that the Government will buy and destroy our lamb as export markets in the EU are closed off to us.    

Of course, we will survive all of this, if no deal materialises.  But since when has survival been good enough for our country?  The UK has always thrived when it has been ambitious when it has dedicated all its efforts on growth and prosperity.  It does not need and indeed cannot afford the self-inflicted wound represented by a No Deal Brexit.     

Worse still, if that’s possible, the Prime Minister is prepared to prorogue Parliament to stop it having a say. If anything, Brexit was sold to British people on the premise of Parliament taking back control. To stop parliament having a say in the most important decision this country has made since the war is not only undemocratic, it’s a constitutional outrage.   

Next week Parliament sits again after the long summer recess. Time is short, even shorter than expected, thanks to Johnson’s use of prorogation to gag Parliament.  We must, therefore, focus on securing Parliamentary time to debate No Deal, with all the detail on the table as far as impact assessments and planned Government interventions are concerned.  We must also be prepared to legislate to prevent a No Deal if that is the will of Parliament.   

For all Parliamentarians, now more than ever is the time to put the national interest first. If we fail to do so, we will own the consequences.  And history will not judge us kindly.   

Terrifying game of Brexit poker is no-deal

A few weeks ago, the EU granted Teresa May a six-month extension of EU membership, with the proviso that this time should not be wasted.    

Almost immediately the governing party decided to spend the first two and half months of that extension on a Leadership contest, stalling all negotiations while the leadership contenders slug it out as to who will be our next Prime Minister.    

As I write we are down to the last few days of that campaign and on Tuesday 23rd July, we will find out whether our next Prime Minister is Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt. Both have made somewhat reckless promises on tax cuts and public spending commitments.  And both are worryingly intent on playing a sinister new game - who can promise the hardest Brexit possible.  The ultimate bid in this terrifying game of Brexit poker is No Deal, otherwise known as leaving on WTO terms.  

To put into context the damage such a crazy move could do to our agriculture sector, let’s look at the poultry sector.  Current modelling of a no deal scenario suggests a massive increase in the costs of production for the poultry industry, with the price of breast meat, for instance, rising by 25%. Yes, I did say 25%!  

And remember, poultry isn’t the largest part of the agriculture sector – there are other sectors far larger.  It still, however, contributes some £5.1bn Gross Value Added to the economy and around £1bn in tax revenues and employs around 24,000 people, many from EU countries. We can, therefore, start to gauge just how badly a No Deal Brexit would impact on agriculture as a whole.   

It’s not as though both Prime Ministerial candidates haven’t acknowledged such a course of action would severely damage the economy. Indeed, both have admitted that sectors such as agriculture will be particularly badly impacted, to the extent that both have said they will ensure billions of pounds of emergency support.  

For the first time ever, we could end up with a Prime Minister who facilitates a policy he knows will deliver significant damage to the economy and, as a consequence, make us all poorer.  It is very hard to believe this is happening; only a few months ago, such an outcome was thought highly unlikely and frankly unthinkable.         

Even worse, Johnson has said he is even prepared to Prorogue Parliament to get such a policy through. So not only is he prepared to damage the economy, he is prepared to precipitate a constitutional crisis and damage our Parliamentary democracy in the process.  

Given the rhetoric from these two contenders, it is more important than ever that Parliamentarians take a principled stand, one which puts the country first. We must make sure that if No Deal does emerge as the favoured Brexit option, then it should be put to the people for a final say vote.  

The next few weeks are certainly not going to be dull!