Tory MP demands £1bn pot in Budget to fund infrastructure for Brexit
The Dover MP said the UK should “insure” against “things going wrong at the last minute” in the Brexit talks.
At least £1 billion should be set aside in the Budget to prepare for Brexit regardless of whether a deal is struck, MPs have heard.
Conservative Charlie Elphicke said it would be in the “national interest” for the UK to start investing and preparing for all eventualities, dismissing suggestions it would be “wasted” spending.
The Dover MP added the UK should “insure” against “things going wrong at the last minute” in the Brexit talks by making certain it is “ready on day one”.
Speaking in a Commons debate, Mr Elphicke said preparing for no deal will also ensure the UK can “get the best deal”.
He went on: “This is no regrets spending. We should have made this investment long ago.
“Our customs systems are creaking, our border systems are ageing, our roads are not resilient. In other words, this is investment we ought to make anyway.”
Mr Elphicke said the UK could follow the lead of Singapore and Australia in having “world-class” customs systems.
He also argued that “gridlock” in his Dover constituency will mean “gridlock in the British economy”.
Mr Elphicke said: “A no deal scenario without planning could also cause delays, damaging the economy and prevent Britain taking advantage of Brexit’s opportunities.
“Even if a deal is struck Britain will be hampered if we don’t have world-class infrastructure.
“That is why we ought to be investing in it now.”
He added: “There are those who say it would be wrong to invest now… it is in the national interest that we invest now.
“At least £1 billion should be allocated in the November Budget to invest in upgrading our systems and infrastructure so that we will be ready on day one to forge ahead on day two.”
Chancellor Philip Hammond will announce details of the Budget on November 22.
Brexit minister Steve Baker said it was “responsible” to spend to prepare for all outcomes.
Responding to Mr Elphicke, he said: “I agree with (Mr Elphicke) that it is responsible to spend in preparation for that range of outcomes.
“To support departments the Treasury has committed over £250 million of new money to departments like Defra, the Home Office, HMRC and the Department for Transport in this financial year for exit preparations – including for no deal.
“My Treasury colleagues are talking to all departments about their funding requirements in 2018/19.”
Mr Baker went on to say the Government did not “want or expect a no deal outcome but we will be ready in any event”.
Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith poked fun at European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker as he hit back at MPs who questioned if the UK was speaking with one voice over Brexit.
Dover MP @CharlieElphicke says “we all want a deal” with the EU but better placed to negotiate ‘divorce bill’ if we are prepared for none— Helen Catt (@BBCHelenCatt) October 24, 2017
He said: “I remind them Germany hasn’t got a government yet. Spain is in total chaos. The Netherlands only just managed to get a government.
“Mr Juncker seems to spend an awful lot of time in bars getting 28 pints of beer and not being able to figure out who is with him.
“And the last element is they all now gave separate messages about what their relationship with the UK would be going forward.”
How can you agree a price until you know what you are paying for? Labour’s blank cheque would be an irresponsible waste of taxpayer’s money.— Charlie Elphicke (@CharlieElphicke) October 24, 2017
Sir Iain also called for an end to talk of “no deal”, as he said there would have to be “a deal” under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
He asked: “Does he not agree with me that we should not persist with the idea of a deal or a no deal scenario – these are simple variations of a deal.
“And the reality is that a free trade deal may or may not be secured, but there is a deal to be done under WTO which may in a sense include free trade, subsequently, but not a specialist free trade deal.
“So could we stop talking about ‘no deal’ and start talking about ‘a deal’ which the European Union will have to meet with the UK?”