The Prime Minister’s speech last Friday about our future relationship with the EU was a realistic and welcome step forward. She made it clear that the UK wishes to have the closest possible relationship with the EU in future but accepts that this will mean less market access than at the moment.
The negotiations in the coming months will be difficult. Firstly, we have to agree the terms of a transition arrangement from the end of March 2019. This is essential as there is no way in which either side will be ready for new arrangements by then. Secondly, we need to come to a long-term agreement on customs and regulatory arrangements to enable goods to move smoothly between the UK and the EU.
This applies not just to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland where there must be no ‘hard’ border in any way. It also applies to all our borders with EU states.
UK – and EU – businesses depend increasingly on ‘just-in-time’ deliveries whether of food for supermarket shelves or components for aircraft or car assembly lines. Airbus, who employ 15,000 people in the UK and are one of our largest manufacturers, stated this week just how important ‘frictionless’ trade was for them. Any delays or additional regulation and paperwork caused by customs or borders add to their costs.
So what we need in this area is a pragmatic solution which maintains our competitiveness and jobs. This is particularly true in the Midlands which depends on manufacturing and food production more than many other parts of the UK.
This will take compromise on both sides, but we must reach an agreement which does not put substantial numbers of the jobs of British workers at risk.
One practical matter which I raised in the House of Commons last week was that of aviation. The current ‘Open Skies’ agreement under which we operate in the UK is based upon our membership of the EU. I asked the Transport Secretary how talks were going on transitional arrangements from March 2019 as people will begin to be booking flights for next spring shortly. He assured me that good progress was being made. I will continue to follow this closely.
Many congratulations to Rachel Shenton, born in Stoke, and her team on winning an Oscar for the film ‘The Silent Child’. This is one of the two films with Stoke and Staffordshire connections which will shortly be highlighted in Parliament in an event I am organising to raise the profile of our vibrant arts and creative industries.