Chequers and Brexit

To lead is to decide.

And as the dust clears at the end of an explosive week, the Cabinet has settled on a Brexit approach which puts the economy first – including here in Gloucestershire. Crucially, that approach faces up to three key truths: first, the importance of safeguarding complex manufacturing supply chains; second, the complexity of the Irish border question; and third, the political reality of a hung Parliament.

On goods, Gloucestershire’s second biggest employer is manufacturing – supporting 35,000 highly productive local jobs. The common rule book proposals on trade in goods mean that businesses relying on complex ‘just-in-time’ supply chains criss-crossing Europe would continue to operate freely across borders. There would be no need for tariffs or bureaucratic and time-consuming border checks which risk investment and threaten jobs.

Meanwhile, manufacturers would still be able to look beyond Europe, designing goods with different specifications for different export markets. We would be free to control our borders and seek bold and independent free trade agreements with other countries – with complete freedom in relation to the service sector which makes up 80% of our economy. As Brexiteers like Michael Gove and Liam Fox have noted, there’s no reason why we couldn’t seek to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership for example.

And crucially the decision on whether to make changes to the rule book would be for the British Parliament. At the moment EU law is supreme and can take ‘direct effect’ automatically, regardless of what MPs say. That supremacy would come to an end. Our Parliament would decide.

I realise that there are those who argue for a more theological Brexit. But faced with the hard truths above, no one in two years has come up with a credible explanation of how it could be delivered. And if the answer is leaving with no deal at all, Parliament simply wouldn’t wear it.

The alternative is Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10 negotiating Brexit, whilst his Chancellor busies himself with his admitted plan to “overthrow capitalism”. That is no choice at all. The only credible option is pragmatism.