Interel hosted a Brexit Breakfast with Barry Gardiner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade on 18 January 2018. Barry offered his insight on Brexit negotiations and the future of international trade.
Here are the top 10 things you need to know.
- Labour will vote against the EU Withdrawal Bill until it meets 6 key tests.
Labour will respect the referendum result, but push the Government to improve Brexit legislation in a number of key areas: workplace regulations; environmental protections; and the role of devolved authorities.
- The Government know that current Brexit legislation is unfit for purpose.
For example, the current Withdrawal Bill precludes a transition period on current terms once Britain formally exits the Union, even though this is Government policy. Contradictions are well-known around the Cabinet table, though nobody has been able to offer compelling solutions to the big issues.
- Expect crunch votes this Autumn.
The Government have parked a number of issues, most crucially the Irish border. Soon, these problems must be confronted. Parliament will conduct a meaningful vote in September or October and there is no guarantee that Tory MPs will back the PM. A loss in a key vote could force Theresa May to stand down possibly triggering another General Election.
- A second referendum would be as problematic as the first.
It is unclear whether a second vote would ask people to choose between leaving on proposed terms, reopening negotiations or remaining a member of the EU. Moreover, a vote with such constitutional significance would probably require a super-majority of 60% or more to reverse the original 2016 vote.
- It’s not the economy, stupid.
Throughout the Brexit process, voters have been driven by their hearts not their heads; their gut feelings, not their wallets. Social and cultural factors like identity are trumping economic self-interest in determining public opinion.
- Only a clean break from the EU will respect the referendum result.
People voted Leave to take back control over their borders and money. Remaining in the EEA would achieve neither objective. Labour believe that the political class should honour the intentions of Leave voters.
- A customs union looks inevitable.
Some form of customs union that is not the Customs Union appears necessary. Only customs alignment can prevent a hard border in Ireland and maintain frictionless trade. No convincing alternatives have been proposed by either side.
- A Free Trade Agreement must go further than any has gone before.
A “Canada + + +” model should seek to maintain the closest possible cooperation whilst honouring the referendum result, crucially including a financial services chapter. However, the ‘Most Favoured Nation’ clause in CETA means that special deals between the EU and UK must be extended to Canada itself.
- The Government’s Trade Bill urgently requires improvement.
Current proposals dilute Parliamentary oversight and reduce consultation with community stakeholders. Using obscure Parliamentary procedure, the Government is mounting a “power” grab on exports, which Labour will oppose.
- Rights and protections must be at the heart of future trade policy.
In the future, Britain must leverage its economic strength to act as a force for good in the world. A strong, productive economy can encourage positive change in distasteful regimes across the world.