The extension of our departure from the EU does not remove the urgent need to resolve the issue of how we leave. In 2017, all Conservative and Labour MPs were elected with manifesto commitments to leave the EU, in an orderly way into a new, close relationship. Not a WTO Brexit. Not to duck our collective responsibility with a second referendum.
How we leave lays the foundations for our future relationships with European countries for many years to come. Its more than just getting enough MPs to vote for a Withdrawal Agreement and a process that will enable us to disentangle ourselves from years of being in the EU. We need to develop mutually respectful, beneficial and enduring relationships with our neighbours and allies as our future national security and prosperity depend on it.
Now is the time for those MPs who are “trash talking” potential Brexit options and the PM to stop. Now is the time to put the national interest ahead of personal Brexit preferences. Now is the time to back not sack the PM in trying to break the impasse in the House of Commons and leave the EU in the best possible way and before the EU Parliament elections in May.
The Future Political Declaration is the right starting point for discussions between the Government and MPs from across the whole political spectrum. It sets out a negotiating position for our future relationship that offers the potential of bespoke arrangements, a tailor made British Brexit. Other countries such as Norway and Switzerland have bespoke arrangements with the EU that work for them.
Essentially, for jobs and important parts of the economy, it contains potential arrangements so we can continue to trade freely with EU countries, while simultaneously, over time, develop new opportunities to make our own trade agreements. To stay competitive, significant industries need some sort of free trade agreement with the EU which in turn will require some sort of customs arrangements and the agreement of some mutually beneficial terms of trade.
Without a negotiated agreement, including customs arrangements enabling us to trade freely with the EU, we are left outside the EU, with a WTO Brexit.
Pascal Lamy, former Director-General of the WTO, has said he thought that there would be no difficulty in the UK becoming an independent member of the WTO outside of the EU. There may be technical negotiations, around tariff rate quotas and governance, but Mr Lamy saw no legal impediment. The UK would rely upon its commitments regarding tariffs on goods and the commitments made on services in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
WTO terms would mean significant extra costs to business that would jeopardise parts of our economy and jobs. Pascal Lamy described the WTO regime as league three in world trade.
We are a creative, innovative, enterprising, first league trading nation and I don’t want to see us relegated to league three of world trade, with a WTO Brexit. After Easter, we should all support the conclusions of the PMs work to break the House of Commons impasse and deliver a British Brexit.
First published in the Times 15/04/19: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/mps-need-to-stop-trashing-the-prime-minister-and-find-a-way-forward-wqn86c9xr