View from Westminster 8th December 2017

The latest round of EU negotiations demonstrates just how incredibly tricky the process of exiting the EU can be. Actually, the really tricky bit is the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Whilst we are pretty much there on the divorce bill and the movement of people, trying to work out how we can have an open border between the two, whilst achieving the objectives of the Brexit vote is quite a task. From a personal point of view, I have always wondered why, on this issue, we don’t look at it after we have had a trade deal with the EU, because then we have a concrete agreement that needs addressing for the island of Ireland conundrum: at the moment, we are trying to formulate a direction based on an unknown. Still, it is not the wrong thing to do it this way and objectives are what we are looking for now, not necessarily hard solutions.

 

This complexity, however, highlights that Brexit is hideously complex and no-one envisaged it being so. Even as a Remainer, I never foresaw just how tricky this was going to be. A couple came to see me last week with an interesting analogy. They gave the example of a family on holiday choosing to go to the beach over visiting the zoo, only to find when they were due to go on the family outing that there would be a force 10 gale. With the new knowledge, would they still go to the beach or would they opt for the safer zoo trip. It was a very good analogy and the point was not lost on me at all. Given what we now know about how difficult Brexit actually is, should we still go ahead with it?

 

What this analogy doesn’t recognise is that people like me predicted some sort of problem with Brexit. On the Treasury Select Committee, we wrote a report highlighting economic problems, if not political ones. We knew it would be tough and said so. So, in that respect, the family chose to go to the beach knowing full well there may be awful weather. That is why it is the job of people like me, fully aware of the risk, to manage those risks and to make sure that as we face them, we are prepared for them and take action to mitigate them. Having chosen to go into the face of the gale, now is not the time to shirk our responsibilities.