Whatever we think of Brexit, there’s no denying it’s too big a deal for just 650 MPs to decide without people across Merseyside having their say as well. That is why I, alongside a number of Merseyside MPs and the Mayor of Liverpool, have signed up to support the People’s Vote campaign.
Liverpool and the whole Merseyside region has a proud, outward-looking history. Partly that’s because Liverpool is famously a port city, always looking outwards to the rest of the world rather than inwards. But it’s also a result of the experiences the city and the region has been through, going from a place of great wealth and renown, to being abandoned to decline to now enjoying a cultural renaissance.
Liverpool is a fiercely pro-European place. The whole region received a boost in 2008 as European Capital of Culture, not only in terms of financial investment, but also the fantastic experience of seeing tourists from around the world flock to Merseyside to experience everything we have to offer. We are celebrating the tenth anniversary of that great time this year. The significant level of European investment into Merseyside has also been critical to the rejuvenation of our region. The EU supported us when our own Tory government left us to ‘managed decline’, something which has not been forgotten or forgiven on Merseyside.
The majority of Liverpool and other parts of Merseyside voted to Remain in the EU during the 2016 referendum. We knew that the problems faced by our country, our city and our region, including the ever-increasing wealth disparity between North and South, would not be solved by leaving the EU. On the contrary, the vast majority of those problems would be made much worse by Brexit. However, we do accept that a narrow majority of the country as a whole voted to Leave, so the government does have a mandate to try and negotiate a Brexit deal.
What Ministers absolutely do not have is a mandate to force a bad Brexit deal on the people of Merseyside. We’ve already seen the government’s own analysis showing that, even if the Prime Minister can negotiate a free-trade deal with the EU, the North West would suffer an 8% hit to GDP growth. That would be catastrophic for already-stretched public services, including our NHS.
That’s why I have joined my Labour colleagues here and Labour colleagues in the North East in calling for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.
Whatever you think of Brexit, there’s no denying that it’s a big deal, and it is only now that the full implications of any Brexit deal are becoming apparent. People are therefore entitled to have their say on the deal before irrevocable steps are taken.
I believe that Brexit will harm our economy and that the final deal must include provision for the UK to participate in a single market and a customs union to protect trade with our biggest trading partners on our doorstep. We need to secure a future relationship with the EU that puts people’s jobs and living standards first. Seeking to retain the benefits of both the Single Market and the Customs Union in the future will be vital , not least because 44 per cent of our exports are to EU countries and 50 per cent of our imports come from the EU. It is in all our interests that this trade remains tariff-free. Many businesses on Merseyside have supply chains and production processes that are integrated across Europe, with parts and assembly going back and forth across Europe. It is important that there are no tariffs or barriers that could put these processes at risk.
The government is now saying it wants the UK’s future customs relationship with the EU to be ‘as tariff-free as possible.’ This is not good enough for our local businesses and our country. I will therefore be seeking to amend the government’s Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill to ensure that a UK-EU customs union is a negotiating objective in the talks ahead. I will look at the details of specific amendments closely before the Bill’s Report Stage, which I hope the government will not delay.