Ed Davey condemns the Future Relationship Bill

Just before noon today, Ed Davey spoke in the Second Reading debate on the European Union (Future Relationship) Bill, and we bring you his speech now. It should be noted that, due to the number of MPs wishing to speak, his intervention was limited to four minutes.

Watch here. The text is below:

Our country is gripped by two crises: Britain’s hospitals are overwhelmed and Britain’s economy is in the worst recession for 300 years. A responsible Government, faced with those crises for people’s health and jobs, would not pass this bad deal, for it will make British people poorer and British people less safe.

This is not really a trade deal at all; it is a loss of trade deal. It is the first trade deal in history to put up barriers to trade. Is that really the Government’s answer to British businesses fearing for their futures and British workers fearing for their jobs? We were told that leaving the EU would cut red tape, but the deal represents the biggest increase in red tape in British history, with 23 new committees to oversee this new trade bureaucracy, 50,000 new customs officials and 400 million new forms. Some analysts estimate the cost of this new red-tape burden for British business at over £20 billion every year. This is not the frictionless trade that the Prime Minister promised.

At this point, he gave way to an intervention from the former Plaid Cymru (now Independent) MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Jonathan Edwards;

I fully agree with the points that the right hon. Member is making. Is he concerned at reports that the lack of equivalence for sanitary and phytosanitary measures means that Welsh farmers will face more red tape exporting to the EU than New Zealand farmers?

Ed continued;

I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman; he is absolutely right. The more businesses see this, the more they will be very disappointed. These reels of red tape will put more jobs at risk at a time when so many are already being lost to covid, and all these new trade barriers will raise prices in the shops at a time when so many families are already struggling to make ends meet. From the failure to agree a good deal for Britain’s services sector—80% of our economy—to the failure to agree a stable deal that investors will trust, this is a lousy deal for Britain’s economic future.

The Conservatives can no longer claim to be the party of business, and with this deal they can no longer claim to be the party of law and order, for our police will no longer have real-time, immediate access to critical European crime-fighting databases such as Schengen II. Such sources of key information about criminals and crimes are used every single day by our police; in one year alone, they are used over 600 million times, often in the heat of an investigation. Thanks to the Prime Minister’s deal, British police will lose that privileged access and criminals will escape.

There are so many things wrong with this deal, from its failings on the environment to the broken promises for our young people on Erasmus, yet the irony is that, for a deal that is supposed to restore parliamentary sovereignty, our Parliament has been given only hours to scrutinise it while the European Parliament has days. And business has just days to adjust to this deal. The Liberal Democrats called on the Prime Minister to negotiate a grace period to help businesses adjust, forgetting, of course, that this Government no longer care about business.

The Government leave us no choice but to vote against this deal today. Perhaps that will not surprise too many people—the Liberal Democrats are, after all, a proud pro-European party who fought hard against Brexit—but we have genuinely looked at this post-Brexit trade deal to assess whether it is a good basis for the future relationship between the UK and the EU, and it is not. To those who argue that a vote against this deal is a vote for no deal, I say this: the Liberal Democrats led the charge against no deal when this Prime Minister was selling the virtues of no deal.

Today, the question is simple: is this a good deal for the British people? It is a deal that costs jobs, increases red tape, hits our service-based economy, undermines our police and damages our young people’s future. It is a bad deal, and the Liberal Democrats will vote against it.

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This entry was posted in Parliament.


  • I was very impressed. Certainly compared with the contributions from the prime minister and leader of the opposition he was brilliant.
    The treaty is not yet finalised of course. This will be an important issue for years to come.
    Let us hope that Ed keeps up the good work, he certainly has the ability as he showed in the debate.

  • Yes I agree Ed Davey made a great speech yesterday, one that echoed my own thoughts completely!

  • John Marriott 31st Dec '20 - 11:43am

    What great speech? Hardly a mention of it outside of LDV. We need more than great speeches in parliament. On second thoughts, that appears to be all some LDV contributors are bothered about. As David Raw wrote in another thread, what if the motion had actually fallen? Chaos here we come. Why? Because it was trade that the deal was all about. We left the EU last January, or have some people forgotten?

  • John Marriott: Wrong, it was not about ratifying the trade deal, only about implementation after ratification (so could have been done after the deal was ratified). The government could simply ratify the deal by Royal Prerogative, and it probably would have done so anyway even if defeated in Parliament on the implementation legislation. Essentially the vote was unnecessary and just for show. If the UK were to crash out without a deal, then it would be because the government chose to allow that to happen.
    It doesn’t matter if our speech hasn’t been mentioned much. What matters is that, unlike Labour, we didn’t fall into the political trap set by the Tories for the opposition parties, and now will be able to attack the government over the (almost certainly dire) consequences of the Brexit deal without our support for it being thrown back at us. As a side point, Labour will no longer be able to credibly attack us as being “in bed with the Tories” when they voted for the Tories’ flagship policy and we voted against it.

  • Just because Ed Daveys’ speech gets unreported in the media does not detract from it’s content or delivery, Give credit when it’s due.

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