With parliament returning from recess next week, we enter a crucial period in our Brexit negotiations. The deadline for agreement on the terms of our EU withdrawal is timetabled for mid-October. After this, the UK and European parliaments will need to ratify any deal through a formal vote – likely to be a moment of high drama in the House of Commons.
Countless constituents have written to me about Brexit and passions still run high. However, most people who contact me want MPs now just to ‘get on with it’ by delivering Brexit and uniting the country around our new direction. Many also rightly see it as a matter of democratic faith that politicians fully deliver on the referendum result.
As a member of the International Trade Committee, I believe our urgent priority must now be to define our future relationship with the EU in a way that leaves room for a truly independent trade policy. The Prime Minister’s Chequers plan proposes to bind the UK by treaty to EU rules on goods and agriculture in exchange for frictionless trade. My concern is that this could have an impact on the competitiveness of UK businesses and limit the value of any new trade partnerships – a view shared by former New Zealand High Commissioner, Sir Lockwood Smith, who told our Committee, ‘If you remain bound into the EU regulatory system you will not be able to have a significant global trade strategy, and certainly not a smart one.’
I agree with colleagues who instead advocate a comprehensive EU-UK free trade agreement, alongside a package of measures to turbocharge our business environment and flesh out the ‘Global Britain’ narrative. Charting our new path beyond the EU will not be easy and we must take a clear-eyed, nostalgia-free view of what contemporary Britain can offer the world. Get our strategy right, however, and the UK can be at the forefront of the trade in and governance of the new technologies, products and services that will be changing people’s lives in the twenty-first century.