View from Westminster 20th January 2017

After 6 months of studies, scrutiny and analysis of the interests of those concerned, the Government has now laid out its proposals for Brexit. I have started to receive a number of letters from people – some happy; some very unhappy – but my view is this is a fair and reasonable response to the referendum last June.

I was a very firm “remainer”. Although I agreed the EU is not perfect, and that I was very cautious about the future, I did agree that the opportunity to do quick trade deals with other countries could make the longer-term future brighter for the UK. But I felt that the short-term risks were not acceptable. I made that point time and again in public meetings and through this column, but the collective view of residents was that they disagreed with my summary. And that is democracy and that is why I am working hard to deliver what Wyre Forest voted for by 63%.

Since I have been very involved in the future part of our relationship with the rest of the world as a trade minister, I have become much more optimistic. It seems that the short-term risks may have been resolved, and the view from other countries is an enthusiasm to do a deal with the UK.

That is why I was worried that we may try to use an existing model as our future basis for EU trade. But the UK is not Norway, or Switzerland, or Turkey. It would be ridiculous to try to shape our world beating economy into the same shape as those. Our negotiating position needed to reflect our special status as the world’s fifth biggest economy; the world’s biggest banking centre; and the world’s leading technological and innovative centre. Whilst we want to trade tariff free with the EU, we do not want to be beholden to their trade resolution process, the ECJ. We may want to pay into research programmes, but we want to choose to do that. We want to control our immigration levels and we want to do deals with other countries. But we also want our products to sell into the EU unencumbered by customs checks. Any one of the existing models can only deliver one or other of the menu of wants, not all. So that is why we are going for a tailor made, British deal with the EU. And I am proud to be part of the team that will deliver Wyre Forest’s wishes.