My position on the chequers plan
My position remains as I set out in my election address: that the referendum result was narrow but decisive and must be respected. This is why, despite having campaigned strongly for remain, I voted to trigger Article 50 which began a timetabled process of withdrawal. The UK will leave the EU on 29 March next year.
The current debate is about what kind of Brexit is best for the UK. It would be foolish to ignore companies like Jaguar Land Rover who are genuinely concerned about maintaining frictionless trade with the EU. These manufacturing businesses have complex, just-in-time supply chains where goods currently move freely across borders within the Single Market. They cannot afford for there to be new barriers or delays to this trade, and nor can we. It matters a great deal for jobs and our prosperity to retain business confidence and the best possible access to our largest market.
But we also have other key objectives. We want to protect the City of London from damaging regulation. We want to control our borders, which rules out membership of the European Economic Area. We want to strike our own trade deals, which rules out membership of the Customs Union. And we want to ensure that there is neither a border between Ireland and Northern Ireland nor one within the UK, which rules out a simple “Canada-style” UK-EU free trade agreement.
The Chequers plan (and subsequent policy paper) is a pragmatic attempt to reconcile these aims. A UK-EU free trade area for goods, with a ‘common rule book’, will ensure that we can continue to buy and sell without barriers, addressing the concerns of employers. Crucially, this will not be the same as being subject to the direct jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, and Parliament will control future regulation. A Facilitated Customs Arrangement will use modern technology to remove the need for customs checks without us having to remain a member of the Customs Union.
The bulk of our economy, including fast-growing services, will be completely outside the EU's regulatory orbit. We will leave EU institutions such as the Common Fisheries and Foreign policies, and we will be able to control our borders. We will solve the Irish border problem, and we will be able to strike our own trade deals.
This plan is not giving in to Brussels - it is not what the EU has proposed, and will be difficult for them to accept. It is not a betrayal of the referendum result, and the UK will not become a colony. I believe that such language goes too far.
In my judgement the plan is balanced and sensible. No other proposal has been made which enables us to implement the referendum decision while reconciling our key objectives on jobs, UK borders or the freedom to strike trade deals. I therefore believe we should back it - and give full support to the Prime Minister in the tough negotiations ahead.
The Arundel & South Downs constituency split 50:50 in the referendum, and I appreciate that opinion remains divided on this issue. I will continue to listen carefully and respectfully to all viewpoints. However, I was clear in my election address:
“The task is to achieve the optimal new arrangements for Britain, guided not by ideology but by what is in our national interest. We will now control our borders, but we also need the maximum access to Europe's market to protect jobs and investment.”
Nick's articles on Europe
HELPFUL External sources
- 'Dear Colleague' letter that Nick received from the Prime Minister and Brexit Secretary on 'The Future Relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union' White Paper
- 'Dear Colleague' letter that Nick received from the Attorney General regarding the White Paper proposal for a "common rule book" relating to trade in goods between the EU and the UK.
- The Government has created a website 'Status of EU citizens in the UK: what you need to know' to provide information for EU citizens and their families about their future status in the UK.
- Department for Exiting the European Union's compendium on the progress of the Article 50 negotiations.
- Department for Exiting the European Union website
- Article for the Guardian by Open Europe Director Henry Newman on the Chequers Plan