There are a significant number of Conservative and indeed DUP MPs and even some Labour MPs who were very strongly of the opinion that our departure from the EU would be the right thing to do, with no consideration of the very hard impact on our nation. Much worse than that was the willingness of most of them to support a departure to take place in a way that meant that they did not have any certainty of our deals and indeed sadly too many of them were even prepared for us to leave without a deal. None of them raised concerns with Boris Johnson that the deal they voted for was introduced less than two working days before they had to vote and indeed within less than 10 days before we were due to leave. This is despite the fact that Hayes opposed the Theresa May deal which was far less threatening than the deal he supported. Anyone with any sense would have called for a deal several weeks or ideally several months before the departure with the opportunity to change the deal and if necessary block the departure entirely as we should have done to protect the Irish peace situation. Indeed it is deeply concerning that the challenge of the Irish situation was not admitted before or certainly after the referendum as one of the reasons why the departure would not be good for our nation. Of course there are many other issues that are impacting us and indeed in the last couple of days on Wednesday John Hayes who is one of the most dominant departure MPs raised concerns with the impact of the VAT challenge in the deal his Prime Minister proposed and which he voted for back in December. Before we read that concern let us see some of his recent comments about our departure.
14th March 2019: once you have agreed to have a referendum, which is what this House did by an overwhelming majority, and once you have stood on a manifesto that pledged—as both Labour Members and she did, by the way—to honour the result of that referendum, if you then choose to delay, defer, obfuscate or dilute that commitment, you will be seen to have breached the trust in which people deserve to hold those they choose to speak for them in this mother of Parliaments.
30th October 2019: Hard-working British patriots who voted to leave the European Union with fresh eyes have in their sights the bourgeois liberal elite who are trying to steal Brexit from them.
9th January 2020: Yet there are few in this House who would disagree with my claim that it is almost impossible to exaggerate the significance of the Bill and what it facilitates—our departure from the European Union. The case I make today is that even more important than the Bill’s provisions is its purpose. Even more important than leaving is the reason that we are leaving.
Of course his concerns about the VAT issues are perfectly reasonable except that the reason we got here is entirely due to his comments and the actions of him and his colleagues. It is very disturbing that he and his colleagues did not try to resolve these issues long ago. Of course the VAT impact on many businesses is much less of a challenge than the potential end of the Good Friday Deal, and potentially the breakdown of the UK, but all of that was predictable in the first few weeks after the referendum. So here is his concern from Wednesday.
In making those gentle criticisms, I wonder whether my right hon. Friend will challenge the Government on the issue of small businesses that now have to pay VAT when dealing with the European Union. They can reclaim it, but there is a delay, which brings cash-flow problems. I am mindful particularly of the heritage craft sector, from blacksmiths to silversmiths and so on; they do so much for our economy and employ nearly 200,000 people.
What will happen next John? After all you demanded all of this to take place!