Labour MP for Redcar, Anna Turley, has called on the Government to secure a Brexit deal which empowers Teesside and protects vital British industries.
Speaking in a debate on Parliament’s role in scrutinising Brexit yesterday, Anna said the desire for more control over the economy after the closure of Redcar steelworks means the Government needs to commit to protect British industry and manufacturing against unfair competition.
Anna also called for an exit deal which empowers Teesside to attract the inward investment to bring new jobs to the area. She told the Government that a ‘Hard Brexit’ without trade agreements “would be potentially disastrous for our area, threatening many thousands more jobs”.
Supporting calls for MPs to scrutinise the exit negotiations, Anna told the Government that Teesside’s vote for Brexit did not give them “a blank cheque to negotiate away their jobs, their rights and their security”.
“Like other colleagues, I speak as someone who fought to remain, but who accepts the result. On Teesside, every single one of our boroughs voted to leave the EU by more than 60%. Our constituents sent a clear message to Westminster that the current social, economic and political settlement is not working for them and that they wanted to see change. We must hear that loud and clear. Now we and the Government must ensure that their concerns are met, and that the negotiations for Brexit work for them.
“However, while the message from the country to leave the EU was clear, the terms of Brexit were not on the ballot paper, and it is therefore vital, as the motion says, that Parliament plays a key role as the exit negotiations go forward. The people of Teesside voted for Brexit, but they did not vote to give the Government a blank cheque to negotiate away their jobs, their rights and their security.
“As today’s discussion has shown, there were many reasons behind people’s decisions on how to vote in the EU referendum, but many people I spoke to voted to leave because they were angry about the loss of our steelworks last year, and they believed the Government when they hid behind untrue claims that they could not intervene because of EU state aid rules and that they could not tackle Chinese dumping because of EU tariff rules. So, now that we have been liberated to drive our own industrial strategy, those people are looking to the Government to protect British industry and manufacturing—but what do we see?
“We see a leading Brexit Minister, the Secretary of State for International Trade, saying that the Government “must turn our back on…voices that tell us: it’s OK you can protect bits of your industry”,and who also urged the Government to be “unreconstructed, unapologetic free traders”.
“So there is no protection for our vital industry in crisis—another premise on which my constituents voted swept away. Such a laissez-faire approach will have serious consequences for the UK steel industry, which has suffered from a flood of cheap Chinese steel. My constituents who voted for Brexit wanted an active, interventionist Government working to support British industry. Will the Government commit to ensuring that when we are outside the EU, vital British industries will be defended against unfair, state- sponsored competition from abroad? Will they promise that we in this House will get to debate these vital trade deals and tariffs, which will have a huge impact on British industry?
“Moreover, thanks to this Government’s failure on steel, we on Teesside have a huge task to rebuild our local economy. It is vital that Brexit empowers our region and allows us to attract the inward investment we need to bring new businesses and industries to the area, creating the decent, secure, and well paid jobs we desperately need.
“Our two major assets on Teesside, which will be vital to our economic recovery, are Teesport and Wilton International. Both benefit hugely from access to the European single market, and maintaining this access must be a key part of Britain’s Brexit deal. A hard Brexit, without trade agreements in place to ensure Teesside’s businesses can continue to trade freely, would be potentially disastrous for our area, threatening many thousands more jobs.
“What is more, our Tees Valley devolution deal with the Government was also underpinned by access to EU funding. Will the Government confirm that these funding pots be maintained going forward? Regional development funding has made a huge impact, supporting growth, innovation, upskilling and job creation in our region. We must continue to receive this support for Teesside’s economy to grow.
“We have to make the most of the opportunities provided by Brexit, and I urge the Government to ensure that they help rather than hinder areas such as Teesside. We in Parliament, as representatives of our towns, cities and communities that will be deeply affected by these Brexit negotiations, must have a role to ensure that that happens.”