Angela Smith MP

Penistone & Stocksbridge

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!