This morning Interel hosted Labour MP and former Shadow Europe Minister Pat McFadden at our latest Brexit Breakfast with business leaders and industry colleagues. Mr McFadden’s pensive and calm approach was refreshing and insightful, particularly following a busy fortnight of Brexit related debates in Parliament.
Opening the discussion, Mr McFadden pointed out that the Parliamentary ‘drama’ of the last week which has been littering the headlines is a sideshow. ‘D-Day’ was 23rd June last year. He argued that Brexit will happen, and the challenge for moderates is to shape and influence it, rather than attempt to shunt it off course.
McFadden remarked that the Brexit vote was a sign of wider problems. Whilst London has been a winner from globalisation, in places like his constituency of Wolverhampton South East, globalisation means a loss of identity, pride, purpose and a stake in the nation for many people; “to them London seems like another country”.
McFadden sought to challenge the mindset of treating the Brexit negotiations as one homogenous deal. He stressed that there would be multiple negotiations, one on the technical detail of leaving the EU through Article 50, and another series of discussions to decide the UK’s future trading relationship with the bloc. Although the former is complicated enough, in his opinion the latter could be a troublesome issue, occupying much longer than the two years being touted.
The challenge of negotiating two momentous deals at the same time is magnified by the fact that the negotiating starting points of the two parties are different to any EU deal ever negotiated. Typically rational economic sense drives deals, with the goal of engineering an outcome which mutually benefits both parties as much as possible, being the overriding goal. However, in this instance, the EU’s priority is the unity of the 27 member states, and the UK’s is cutting immigration.
The disparity of the two parties could likely lead to no deal being reached after two years. At which point a proverbial gun will be put to Parliament’s head, as it’s told to accept a bad deal or no deal at all. He felt on this point the Westminster Parliament should be given the same right as the European Parliament, and be able to tell its Executive to go back to the table and try again.
Leavers may view Mr McFadden’s apprehension as the same cynicism which overestimated the immediate economic impact of Brexit and persistently ignores the other 168 states Britain has to trade with, and instead focuses exclusively on the EU27. The Treasury’s hope, shared by many Leavers, is that eventually economic reason will cut through the bluff, leading to a more rational, less emotional negotiation.
For McFadden though, the possibility of European instability, with three major elections taking place this year, and rumbling concerns about economic crises in Greece and Italy, may undermine the prospect of a rational negotiation.
Nonetheless, Mr McFadden is sure Brexit will happen. The House of Lords will not derail the process. He suggested however, that if the murmurs coming from Michel Barnier of a €40-60bn settlement bill being put to the UK are legitimate, this situation may alter, particularly if certain promises – such as an extra £350 million a week for the NHS, or a substantial reduction in immigration – are not be delivered through Brexit. At this point his Wolverhampton constituents may reconsider whether Brexit is a price worth paying to ‘take back control’.
Our next Brexit Breakfast will take place on 22.03.17, and will be a Panel Debate with Stephen Kinnock MP and Douglas Carswell MP.
To RSVP to this event please contact Jackson Wild
0207 592 3819