When Parliament returns next week, Brexit will continue to dominate British politics and all our futures. It’s not hard to see why. The stakes are high, much is still to be decided and time is running out. And that’s why there is now more talk about the possibility of leaving the EU with No Deal.
Last week Ministers published the first set of guidance notes on what people and businesses should do if this were to happen. They have left their No Deal planning very late in the day, a lot of questions remain to be answered and a failure to reach agreement with the EU would mean no transition period so all this uncertainty would be just seven months away; in other words, we would feel the effects very soon indeed.
Some people argue that leaving without an agreement wouldn’t be a problem, but I ask them to look at the guidance notes. For example, they tell us that businesses, including those from Leeds and Yorkshire, that currently export to the EU would suddenly face the additional cost and bureaucracy of customs and rules of origin declarations, and in certain sectors, tariffs. These would make our exports more expensive as well as pushing up the price of certain products we import from the EU. British beef and dairy farmers, for instance, would be very hard hit. They also highlight that there would be no guarantee for British citizens living in other EU countries about the future of their pension payments. And they have nothing to say about how the return of a hard border in Northern Ireland would be avoided. Ministers simply told British businesses to seek advice from the Irish Government which to my mind is an extraordinary abdication of responsibility.
The evidence is clear both from these documents and from the Government’s own economic studies. No Deal – far from being better than a bad deal – would in fact be very damaging for the UK economy, and those who deny this are simply not listening to what our export businesses are saying. After all, they know better than anyone else what is at stake, and simply repeating the charge that it is all ‘project fear’ ignores this basic fact.
Having wasted two years on reaching a negotiating position, this guidance from the Government shows exactly why No Deal is unacceptable. It would put us in the worst position, damage our economy and leave uncertainty affecting everyone. And by the way I don’t believe that there is majority of MPs in the House of Commons who would allow us to leave with No Deal.
So what should we be doing? We need a deal that will enable friction-free trade with our largest, nearest and most important market – the other countries of the EU – to continue. A deal that protects our services industries that make up 80% of our economy. And a a deal that maintains a close relationship on security, foreign policy and the fight against terrorism to keep our country safe.
So instead of planning for the worst outcome, the Government should be trying to get the best for our country, but that won’t happen as long as it continues to put the interests of the Conservative Party before the interests of the nation.