National policy responses

Brexit Policy Position

Date: 05.12.18 | in: European Union

Over the weeks to come Parliament will have its most intense debates and votes on Brexit yet. We will vote on the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by the Government. It is important to be clear that I won’t be voting for May’s deal and I would support any formula which keeps us within the European Single Market and protect jobs and standards including another public vote that will be presented to Parliament. I will outline the scenarios that remain most of which require a vote by MPs. I believe we have five broad options:

Theresa May’s ‘Deal’.

It is becoming abundantly clear that it is only marginally better than no deal at all. It merely pushes back decisions into the transition and provides no answers as to what Britain will look like in the years to come. After describing the final outcome as a ‘spectrum’, I asked the Prime Minister directly what her spectrum was. Her response: “there is a balance between checks and controls and the acceptance of rules and regulations.” Any clearer? Me neither!

Under this deal we would extend the uncertainty and give the government a blank cheque to negotiate whatever type of Brexit they like.

No Deal

No deal would mean crashing out in March with no international trade deals the next biggest country with no trade deals is Sudan. The chaos around customs checks puts all goods coming into the country at risk – food, medicines, fuel, manufacturing parts, electricity arrangements and countless others. It would be devastating to industries depending on barrier-free trade and ‘just in time’ logistics and would mean production grinds to a halt. The Government’s own technical notices make grim reading.

I have consistently said that I cannot support any option which doesn’t protects jobs, employment and consumer rights and environmental standards. We must see no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and Spain.

Let’s remember the Single Market accounts for 25% of global GDP and represents Britain’s biggest trading partner. 45% of UK exports are to the EU while 50% imports come from the EU.

Renegotiation

Earlier this year, Labour said it would strike a new “Single Market deal” if we entered a Government. This deal would give the same economic benefits we have now. However, we have just 4 months. The 29th March 2019 date would need to be postponed. If May’s deal is voted down, then whoever is Prime Minister as we approach March 29th will need to request an extension of article 50 to avoid No Deal Brexit.

Membership of EFTA (Norway Model) and/or Customs Union

For us to enjoy the same access rights and benefits of the Single Market without having to negotiate a whole new treaty, we could apply for membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and be part of the European Economic Area. This could be completed quickly. However, there is no customs union for EFTA members. If we wanted seamless trade and no tariffs for goods, we would need a new customs union which could be identical to the one the EU already has. This honours the referendum result, but we would have to accept loss of political representation in the EU and have no say over the rules and regulations merely having observer status.

Remaining in the EU

Consider all that we have learnt since June 24th 2016; that negotiating a deal that is better than we have now is effectively impossible; that the queue of countries to ask for trade deals has been oddly missing; that Vote Leave broke electoral law overspending by hundreds of thousands of pounds and the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Given all this, it is surely right that people be given the chance to think again?

However, this still brings challenges. When the EU Rules were written, no-one considered that a leaving nation might change its mind after triggering Article 50. Re-joining as a new nation would cause big barriers to winning as a loss of the rebate, and conditions of entry having to join the Euro and Schengen would make people think twice about the benefits as they have known them.

I have recently written a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk asking whether “if the UK chose to do so it could stay in the EU on the exact same terms it currently enjoys.” I hope he will make clear that it can.

To conclude, if the opportunity to vote to renegotiate, to join EFTA or for another public vote on EU Membership arises in Parliament, I will vote for any and all of these. I will not vote for the Prime Minister’s blank cheque and I will oppose a no deal Brexit with every fibre of my being.

*The above is a version of an article printed in the Yorkshire Post on 27th November 2018- Available Here*

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