After months of the EU dragging its heels and refusing to discuss trade, I am delighted that we are finally moving on to phase II of the Brexit negotiations.
Back in January, the Prime Minister explicitly stated the Government’s objectives of guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living in this country, preventing a hard border in Northern Ireland and settling commitments made in the past, through her Lancaster House speech.
These objectives, which were the points of contention considered during phase I, should have been discussed alongside a future trading relationship. However, the EU’s eventual determination to move on to phase II and their reaction when a phase I deal was delayed, by organising non-stop meetings and midnight conferences, shows how much they need a future trading relationship, and I look forward to seeing how the trade negotiations progress.
Moving forward with the trade negotiations, I believe it is important to remember that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. The House of Commons will vote on the final deal that we negotiate with the EU, and if the deal is not satisfactory, we will have the opportunity to leave the Union on WTO terms. In order for the deal to be successful, in my eyes, it needs to encapsulate Britain’s outward-looking nature, and our potential for growth beyond the immediate continent of Europe. We must be outside the Single Market and Customs Union, free to form our own future trading relationships with old friends and allies. We must be free to capitalise on the fantastic opportunities presented to us by Canada, New Zealand, the United States and Japan among many more, who wish to form closer trading relationships with our economically powerful nation.
Our region of Yorkshire and the Humber exported £13.9bn of goods in 2016 and of this total, £7.7bn was to the EU, equal to 55 per cent. In the same year, our region imported £13.7bn from the EU. While these stats show that the EU relies on our region, much like the rest of the UK, to export its goods to and therefore, a good trade deal would be in its interest, it also shows that we have incredible potential to build on the exports we send beyond the European continent. With the Customs Union hampering our ability to form trade deals, we still manage to export 45 per cent of our goods to countries outside of the European Union. With the ability to form free trade deals, the amount we will be able to export will sky rocket. Considering the scale of diversity in our regional economy, and having experienced first-hand the strength of businesses in our area, both in terms of goods and services, I am confident we will be able to sell our unique products overseas, to new markets and new populations who will equally benefit from our cooperation and outlook.
As I sit on the Exiting the European Union Select committee, I am in a uniquely privileged position to scrutinise the Government’s approach to Brexit. In this position, I look forward to analysing how the Government advances its negotiating objectives and I will continue presenting my own view, that any future deal must comply with the key themes of the Brexit vote; control of our laws, borders, money and trade.
As this is my last column before Parliament breaks up over the holiday period, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a very happy new year.