Summer recess must not slow Brexit momentum
If Boris Johnson and this Government really want to Get Britain Out of the EU on time and with a good trade deal, then they must grab the bull by the horns and push on with the momentum they currently have. Summer recess must not be allowed to hold us back
Last week marked the end of the first week of the Parliamentary Summer Recess. As so often in the past, this long break brings with it a slump in Government productivity as ministers and staff slip away on their holidays.
That must not be the case this year. Outside the obvious priority given to the COVID-19 crisis, this summer marks our last attached to the European Union during the Transition Period. In recent weeks, there has been a growing momentum towards progress in trade discussions with the EU, as well as some clear breakthroughs in negotiations with other trading partners around the world. This is a momentum which must not be relinquished over the next few months.
This week has seen a good start for the Department for International Trade, with the Secretary of State, Liz Truss, travelling to the United States of America for accelerated trade discussions. This is a topic which should be top of the agenda given the huge potential benefits for both countries if a trade deal is struck quickly.
In parallel, this week sees the latest round of talks between the UK and Japan, with both countries stating they believe a full trade deal should be ready by the end of the month and potentially, the end of the week.
This feat would be incredibly impressive as most comprehensive trade deals take years to negotiate instead of months. A particular highlight which was touted by the government this week is the accelerated removal of Japanese tariffs on pork, as well as wiping out the current 30% tariffs on leather goods.
The EU tried to achieve these in their own trade deal with Japan (agreed last year), but had limited success, with pork tariffs being only partially removed over 12 years and 30% tariffs on leather still in place. This kind of success shows the advantage of negotiating with your own priorities instead of sharing between 27 other Member States.
However, Liz Truss has also recently said trade deals with the USA and others do not have a firm time limit. Statements like this are the reason many inside the Department for International Trade will ‘switch off’ in the coming months, assuming their work is not the top priority. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as now, more than ever, it is vital the UK uses this Recess to springboard ourselves onto the global stage before we Leave the Transition Period at the end of this year.
It is not just in negotiations with the rest of the world where momentum needs to be maintained. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had wanted a deal with the EU by the end of July, but while this date has passed, there has been a great deal of progress during the last month. However, this is progress which could be undone by a relaxed Civil Service, both here and in Brussels, who seem to be unable to concentrate unless our Chief Brexit Negotiator, David Frost, is keeping a watchful eye.(It has been reported he is taking a small holiday at the same time as the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator, Michel Barnier.)
No doubt they both deserve a short break, but I hope they are, as promised, keeping a strong ear out for their phones ringing, as the last time Frost was not directly overseeing matters, it was reported Civil Servants had all but agreed to an extension of the Transition Period! Such an attempt cannot be allowed to happen again.
Before this break in talks, the EU had clearly climbed down from their high horse over the role of the European Court of Justice, as well as any agreement on foreign policy and defence cooperation. However, instead of being able to push forward, taking advantage of this softening of position, we are left in limbo with the next round of talks not scheduled until August 17th.
Until then, we can expect some EU member states to be contacting Barnier demanding he abandons these concessions and does not deviate from the (non-legally binding) Political Declaration.
In the next month, the Government has 2 clear options ahead of them. They can use the Summer Recess - and the lack of Parliamentary business on the agenda - to drive forward negotiations with the EU and the rest of the world, helping us get ready for our full exit from the EU at the end of the year.
Or they can sit on their hands and allow this opportunity to drift by, preferring to take days off.
This year is one of the most important ones in modern British political history. There can be no time for breaks or weeks off. If Boris Johnson and this Government really want to Get Britain Out of the EU on time and with a good trade deal, then they must grab the bull by the horns and push on with the momentum they currently have.
Jayne Adye is the Director of the leading cross-Party grassroots Eurosceptic campaign Get Britain Out
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