Speaking at a press conference revealing leaked Brexit documents, Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn said:
Thank you all for being here. In this election we’ve shown how Boris Johnson is trying to hijack Brexit to sell out our NHS and working people.He is trying to hijack the hope for change that many people had in 2016 and use it for his own ends.
For Johnson Brexit is about something very different from what most people voted for. For him it’s about reversing the hard-fought gains won by working class people over generations so that the corporations and the billionaires can cream off more profits. It’s about unleashing Thatcherism on steroids.
Johnson and his Conservatives know there’s no support for the damaging agenda they want to inflict on our country. So they’re trying to do it under the banner of Brexit instead. But Labour is exposing their deception.
Last week, we revealed the secret plot to sell out our NHS as part of a toxic deal with Donald Trump which could mean our NHS paying £500 million a week more for medicines. As trade experts have since confirmed the NHS is very much on the table in those talks. But the secret documents not only shredded Johnson’s credibility on the NHS they undermined his credibility on Brexit too. “Get Brexit done” the Tory slogan at the heart of this election campaign is a fraud on the British people.
While Labour will get Brexit sorted in six months – because we won’t be ripping up our main trading relationship – Johnson’s deal will be just the beginning of years more painful negotiations and broken promises.
And today I can reveal further hard evidence that Johnson is deliberately misleading the people about his deal. What we have here is a confidential report by Johnson’s own government marked “official – sensitive” that exposes the falsehoods that Boris Johnson has been peddling. This is the cold, hard evidence that categorically shows the impact Johnson’s damaging Brexit deal will have on large parts of our country.
Fifteen pages that paint a damning picture of Johnson’s deal on the issue of Northern Ireland in particular.
We caught the Tories red-handed selling out our NHS in the Trump trade talks and now we’ve caught Johnson red-handed misrepresenting his own Brexit deal. So let’s test some of Johnson’s claims against his own government’s findings. Johnson has said definitively and I quote, “there will be no checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain” under his deal. He told the people of Northern Ireland to their faces “There will be no forms, no checks, no barriers of any kind – you will have unfettered access.” Now look at page 5 of this confidential report.
In private, the government says something very different. It says there will be customs declarations and security checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. It’s there in black and white. For trade going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain the government cannot rule out regulatory checks rules of origin checks and animal and public health checks. And for trade going the other way from Great Britain to Northern Ireland there will be all of the above plus, potentially, damaging tariffs.
This drives a coach and horses through Boris Johnson’s claim that there will be no border in the Irish Sea. It’s simply not true.
Johnson’s deal will be disastrous for businesses and jobs across the whole UK. And the government’s confidential report confirms this. Let me remind you Johnson said his deal was, I quote, “a great deal” for Northern Ireland. But look at page 8 of the confidential report for what his own government really thinks: his deal will inflict huge economic damage on Northern Ireland.
It will, I quote, be “highly disruptive to the Northern Irish economy.” It says this deal will be the equivalent of imposing tariffs on 30% of all purchases in Northern Ireland.
What will that mean? The report spells it out: “high street goods [are] likely to increase in price” which is “likely to affect business profitability.” If that’s how Johnson defines a “great deal” for Northern Ireland what’s he got in store for the rest of us? In fact this isn’t just about Northern Ireland.
Page 9 of the confidential report reveals that Johnson’s damaging deal may have, quote, “a significant effect” on the economies of Scotland and Wales. This is people’s livelihoods we’re talking about. So why is the government hiding this information from the people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?
And there’s more. Page 10 warns of the potential for fraud saying Northern Ireland could become, quote, “a back door into the GB market for the avoidance of import duties.” Let’s test another of Johnson’s claims. When I debated him in the first leaders’ debate on ITV Johnson said, and I’m quoting him again: “We have a deal that keeps the whole of the UK together as we come out of the EU.”
Compare and contrast page 12 of his government’s secret report. I quote: “The Withdrawal Agreement has the potential to separate Northern Ireland in practice from whole swathes of the UK’s internal market” meaning Northern Ireland will be, quote: “symbolically separated from the union.” Remember when Johnson spoke at the DUP conference last year, he told them that no British Conservative government could ever countenance such a thing. He sold out his friends in the DUP after promising he wouldn’t. How can you trust that his deal doesn’t sell you out?
There will be other secret reports like this one in every government department that reveal the disastrous impact of Johnson’s damaging deal on the safety of the food you eat, on the rights you have at work, on the pollution in the air you breathe and on the jobs and industries that you work in. Those reports exist but the government is hiding them from you because in this election the Conservatives want you to vote blind.
Ask yourself: if they hid this report what else are they hiding? How will they sell you out? At every stage throughout this campaign Johnson has chosen to deepen divisions. His whole political strategy is to turn one side of the Brexit debate against the other. I start from a very different place.
I believe a prime minister must talk to and listen to the whole country because we have to bring our divided country together. And if, as a result people accuse me of talking to both sides at once in the Brexit debate then so be it. I’m proud of it.Why would I only want to talk to half the country? I don’t want to live in half a country. That’s why I’ve set out honestly how a Labour government will sort Brexit so we can bring our country together and get on with delivering the real change that people are crying out for.
First, Labour will quickly secure a sensible deal based on terms we’ve already discussed with the EU including a new customs union a close single market relationship and guarantees of rights and protections. Unlike Johnson’s fraudulent Brexit, a deal on our terms will respect the priceless peace in Northern Ireland and protect manufacturing and people’s jobs and then we’ll put that deal to a public vote within six months.
Those who want to leave the EU without selling out our NHS or trashing our economy will be able to vote for it. Those who want to remain in the EU will be able to vote for that. Either way only a Labour government will take the decision out of the hands of politicians and trust the people with the final say. And in that vote I will be an honest broker not taking sides committed to carrying out whatever the people decide, because once the decision has been made we will need a prime minister able to speak to both sides if we are to bring the country together. I think we’ve had just about enough of this division. We’ve had just about enough of the government only listening to half the people. Labour stands not just for the 52 per cent or the 48 per cent but for the 99 per cent and people can trust Labour to honour our commitments.
Johnson pretends the NHS is not on the table in toxic talks with Trump just as he pretends there won’t be a border in the Irish Sea but the truth is not even his own government believes him. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions as to whether Johnson’s statements are consistent with the new evidence I have revealed today but it’s no wonder he is avoiding scrutiny in this election campaign. On Brexit as on our NHS and public services you cannot trust the Conservatives.
It’s time for real change.