Imran Hussain – 2019 Speech on the Withdrawal Agreement

Below is the text of the speech made by Imran Hussain, the Labour MP for Bradford East, in the House of Commons on 12 March 2019.

I declare straight away that I have never climbed mountains—there is time for me yet to get into it—but it is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb). Time is short, so I will try to be brief and will not take any interventions, because many hon. Members are yet to speak and it would be unfair, in such an important debate, for Members to be reduced to a time limit of two to three minutes—so, my apologies.

I echo many of the serious concerns that Opposition Members have raised about the Prime Minister’s deal or no deal, and the hugely negative impact that those scenarios will have on our communities, where a Tory Brexit will be devastating. The Prime Minister’s legal guarantee changes nothing. While we have heard lots of debate and emphasis on that today, quite rightly, I wish to concentrate my contribution on the human impact that is at play.

I will start by looking at my home town and constituency of Bradford, and the destruction that ideological Tory policies and the Government’s austerity cuts have brought upon our communities in Bradford in the last decade. We see rampant poverty gripping the city, with more than half the children living in my constituency in poverty according to the End Child Poverty campaign, ​and with not a week going by that I do not have a worried parent in my constituency advice surgery telling me how they are struggling even to clothe or feed their children because of the desperate poverty that they live in. We see poor educational attainment, with far too many children leaving school without enough GCSEs and far too many unable to go university. We see abysmally low wages, with people in Bradford paid less than the national average, or even the regional average.

We see insecure jobs and more and more people forced to take on zero-hours contract roles that do not pay the bills and do not offer the protection that they need. We see cuts to local government funding that have crushed advice centres, libraries, community halls and other services that people rely on and that are vital to the fabric of community life. We see an underfunded NHS, with our hospitals creaking as they are forced to do more with less, and staff underappreciated and underpaid. We see uncertain futures, with no hope of tomorrow being better than today and no bright future for our children.

Do I think that the Prime Minister’s deal or no deal is the right choice and that it will offer people in Bradford a better future? Not at all, because let me be clear: it is the Prime Minister and this Tory Government who have left us in such a state, because it is their austerity that is driving Bradford into the ground, not the EU. We were promised by the leave campaign that everything would be fantastic—that there would be millions more for the NHS, that the economy would be fine and that wages would be higher—but the stark reality is that those promises have failed to materialise and that a Tory Brexit will only devastate our communities further.

A Tory Brexit will help the Government to strip away workers’ rights—rights we have fought hard for and depend upon—and allow them to continue their relentless pursuit of deregulation to make it easier for people to lose their jobs, their holidays and their representation. It will grind down our economy in Bradford and Yorkshire, which exported £9.7 billion of goods—goods that create thousands of jobs but depend on free and unhindered access to the continent—to the EU in 2017. It will hit wages and the pockets of working people as the economy shrinks, jobs are lost and even food prices rise. It will allow the Government to continue their ideological austerity drive, with money set aside for the regions by the EU not coming back to the north but being spent in the south and the Tory shires. Ultimately, it will worsen poverty, as rights are watered down, jobs are lost, wages shrink and austerity continues.

People in Bradford have suffered for years under this Tory Government, who have enacted ideologically driven policies and forced poverty on our communities, so why should they trust a Tory Brexit? A Tory Brexit is not the answer for people in Bradford, and nor is a Tory Government, full stop. I cannot support an outcome that would leave people in Bradford worse off. I cannot allow our communities to be dragged further into the spiral of deprivation, social injustice and poverty.