Countdown to Brexit: 60 days – A critical week in Parliament as Airbus announces major job losses in event of a no-deal Brexit

This week in Parliament is coming to the crunch on the terms of Brexit on 29 March.

Tomorrow, MPs will vote on the Prime Minister's proposed next steps.  Her negotiated deal failed to receive the House's approval on 15 January - and last Monday she made a statement setting out what she intended to do next.  MPs have proposed amendments to her plan.  This is not a vote to formally approve the negotiated deal - but does allow the House to express its views on what should happen next.  

On the Committee corridor, two former Brexit Ministers, Dominic Raab and Steve Baker, give evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs and European Scrutiny Committees respectively - while the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee considers Parliament's role in directing the Executive.

Monday 28 January

  • The Scottish Affairs Committee continues its inquiry into the future of Scottish agriculture post-Brexit.

  • The Welsh Affairs Committee will visit the Port of Holyhead to consider its readiness for the various Brexit scenarios - and implication for Welsh trade.

  • The Immigration and Social Security Bill receives its second reading.  Key measures include repealing free movement and other EU related rights, and bringing EU nationals under UK immigration control.

Tuesday 29 January

  • The Treasury Committee looks at the powers of financial regulators to legislate and change rules during a two year transition period or in the event of no-deal.

  • The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee considers the mechanisms which allow Parliament to direct the Executive.

  • In the afternoon MPs will debate the motion to consider the PM’s next steps.  The proposed Business Motion - to be agreed first - allows the Speaker to select any number of amendments.  Voting will begin not later than 7pm.

Wednesday 30 January - five Select Committee sessions:

  • The Science and Technology Committee looks at no-deal preparedness.

  • The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee hears from former Brexit Secretary of State, Dominic Raab on the implication of the EU Withdrawal Agreement and the Irish backstop.

  • The International Trade Committee hears from the Foreign Office's Director for International Agreements about the impact of UK-EU agreements on wider UK trade.

  • The European Scrutiny Committee hears from former Brexit Minister Steve Baker on the conduct of Brexit negotiations.

  • The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee starts its pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Environment Bill.

Publications

The Committee for Exiting the EU published its latest report this morning in response to the Government's defeat on 15 January.  It reiterates the Committee's call for indicative votes and says a “managed no-deal cannot constitute the policy of any responsible Government”.  We will report in more detail on this tomorrow.

Airbus

Taking questions in the House of Commons, Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, said the Government is taking a warning from Airbus Industries “seriously.”  

Airbus have announced that they will reassess their commitment to investment and jobs in the UK if there’s a no-deal Brexit.

Airbus employs 14,000 people directly in the UK - and supports another 110,000 jobs in the supply chain and servicing of its plants.  Mark Tami, a Labour MP whose constituency includes Airbus’s wing assembly plant in Broughton, north Wales, said that the manufacturer’s concerns illustrate why he’s opposing a no-deal Brexit - even if it makes some of his constituents angry. 

Darren Jones, a Labour MP representing a Bristol constituency near Airbus’s Filton plant, also said he would do everything he could to stop a no-deal Brexit.  “For Airbus to be so clear that the Prime Minister’s position is a “disgrace” is a sign that No10 really isn’t listening,” Jones said.

Airbus employees have also been rattled by the statement from the aerospace giant.  Unite - whose General Secretary, Len McCluskey, will be at the meeting with May - immediately responded and demanded that a no-deal Brexit should be taken off the table. “Ministers and MPs must stop gambling with the futures of U.K. workers and their families.’’

Barclay acknowledged that businesses require certainty over Brexit.  He criticized various amendments seeking to delay the UK’s departure from the EU - calling on Parliament to back May’s deal next week.

Background

On Thursday, Tom Enders - who runs Airbus - said his company would have to make "potentially very harmful decisions for the UK" in the event of it leaving the EU with no deal.

And in a video message, he said: “Please don’t listen to the Brexiteers’ madness which asserts that ‘because we have huge plants here we will not move and we will always be here’.  They are wrong,”

Enders has spoken out before on the proposed divorce agreement but the timing of his comments, in which he said it was “disgrace’’ that businesses are unable to properly plan for the future and condemned the “madness’’ of Brexiteers, will add bite to today’s talks.

Conservative MP, Mark Francois, immediately rounded on the business leader for saying that Brexiteers were "mad" to say the company would never leave the UK.  Francois - vice chairman of the European Research Group of Brexiteer Tories - said he would never tell a German MP how to vote in the Bundestag - and he wanted Mr Enders to give him the same courtesy.

When a BBC correspondent tried to ask a question about next week’s vote on Theresa May's deal, Mr Francois returned to the issue - referring to the “Teutonic arrogance” of the EU - and tearing up a piece of paper containing Mr Enders' words.

He added: "My father, Reginald Francois, was a D-Day veteran.  He never submitted to bullying by any German - and neither will his son".

Conservative Brexiteer, Steve Baker, also criticized the Airbus statement.  “Airbus could make such a constructive contribution in the interests of the UK, the EU and themselves,” he said. “I regret they do not choose to do so time and again - despite the obvious need for change emerging across the continent.”

Brexit Partners View

Frankly, gentlemen - that kind of rhetoric is not helpful with 60 days to go until Brexit and more likely to harden attitudes and add weight to the decision to leave the UK as the UK leaves Europe.

 
John ShuttleworthComment