A year after the vote and three months after invoking Article 50, David Davis has finally made his way to Brussels to start the negotiations that will determine our country’s future in leaving the European Union.
I hope that the Government has learned its lesson both from this month’s election and its own previous missteps (most notably, as it is part of my constituency, Gibraltar). Theresa May has lost her mandate for a Brexit at any cost and lost her mandate to push our country over the cliff and walk away from these critical negotiations without securing either a transition or a deal that protects jobs and the economy.
Like Labour’s shadow secretary of state for Brexit, Sir Keir Starmer, I want to see a total reset from Government on how it approaches both these negotiations and our future relationship with the European Union. Above all else, the EU27 are our closest neighbours and friends; it is time Theresa May and David Davis started acting like this is the case.
What concerns me greatly is the image being projected around the globe of our nation. Male, pale and stale negotiators sat across the table from our European counterparts. A government and a Prime Minister looking ever isolated, propped up by sexist, homophobic politicians in the shape of the DUP.
The economy and jobs must be put first in these negotiations. The EU is still going to be our largest trading partner after we leave, but this is not the only thing on the table. The Governor of the Bank of England made it clear this week that he foresees job losses, price rises and slower income growth from Brexit – in other words a worsening of austerity. Boris Johnson and David Davis want to have their cake and eat it; at this rate the flour, eggs and sugar as well as heating the oven will all cost more.
I firmly believe that the Brexit that is best for Britain is one that sees us in staying in the Single Market and the Customs Union, and certainly for the transitional period until a final agreement is signed. Significantly, this is also the view of the leading voices of business including the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses, and the UK automotive sector, as well as many others. These bodies are not talking Britain down or ignoring the will of the people, rather they want the Government to secure a deal that maintains our manufacturing base, ensures we still have access to the skilled labour we require, and the parts needed for our supply chain can still make it to our shores with as little fuss as possible.
It’s time to reset Britain’s approach to Brexit to match the reality of the situation. We are negotiating with friends who want the best outcome for us and for the EU, even in the short time we have left in the Article 50 process. We need a deal that protects EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU, and a transitional deal that does as little as possible to disrupt our current trading arrangements with the EU27. It will be our economy and industries that suffer if May and Davis fall short, and our public services that will pay an even heavier price.
Clare Moody is Labour MEP for South West England and Gibraltar