Brexit means what?

By Pat McFadden, Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East

After several weeks off this weekend has been the government’s “re-entry” with Brexit at its heart.

David Davis today updated the House on his progress to date. We know one thing: he had a good holiday.

While it is positive machinery of government is in place, we got zero direction of travel beyond what has already been released. The optimistic tone was surely a necessary pick-me-up after the G20, but between today’s statement and the Prime Minister’s interviews over the past 24 hours, the phrase, “Brexit means Brexit” has passed its shelf life.

He said he had the office, and the officials, but the longer he talked the more clear it became that he doesn’t have the plan. In particular there is lack of clarity about our future trading relationships with Europe and the rest of the world.

Below are some questions we hoped would have been asked and answered and which we believe must be as soon as possible.

  • Single Market membership. Japanese companies employ 140,000 people in the UK and the Japanese Government have now been very clear about what they need if their investments are to remain: maintenance of tariff-free trade, consistency of regulation between the UK and EU, passporting rights and continued access to EU workers – to name but a few. Will the Government seek a deal which meets these criteria and if not to what cost?
  • Single Market policy will drive new deals. The depth of future bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) will depend on our level of access to our largest and home market, the EU, and so to maximise the opportunities of Brexit we must have maximum access to EU markets, which means membership of the single market. Is this the Government’s intention, or not?
  • Details over new FTAs. There are opportunities on paper from having new Free Trade Agreements, but we do not know which specific sectors of our economy the Government believes have growth potential – whether services, manufacturing or agriculture – through new trade with which countries. Will the Government publish specific analysis on this to show any benefits outweigh costs of leaving the Customs Union?
  • Ruling out the WTO. Every credible study that has been conducted has shown that leaving the EU’s single market without any preferential arrangement in place would be the worst case scenario for the UK economy. Will the Secretary of State rule out falling on to the WTO with no deal in place, as Iain Duncan Smith, Nigel Lawson and others advocate, or is this something the UK Government would be prepared to see happen?
  • Ratification. Will the Government’s intended bespoke arrangement be what’s known as a ‘mixed’ agreement, which would mean each EU nation having to ratify the deal in their own Parliaments?
  • Timings. What assessment have Ministers made of the length of negotiations and whether the UK will have a transitional arrangement between formally leaving on completion of the Article 50 process and formally completing a new bespoke trade arrangement?
  • National security. Will the Government negotiate a new UK-EU security arrangement concurrently to a new trade arrangement, and will we have access to all agencies and arrangements which we benefit from as Members?

The kind of statement the House heard today won’t do in the future. Next time, there must be more meat on the bones and more clarity about the country’s future direction.