Lancaster and Morecambe MPs’ Brexit views two years after EU vote

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It’s more than two years since the UK voted to leave the EU and the government has now released its White Paper on how it sees our future relationship with the bloc.

Here, we hear from politicians, a business representative, a farming union, an academic, and environmentalists, about how they view the proposals.

Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Cat Smith

Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Cat Smith

Lancaster and Fleetwood Labour MP Cat Smith, who voted remain said:

“More than two years on from the referendum the Government still has no credible or coherent plan for Brexit.

“We’ve seen their White Paper unravel within days. The customs plan is bureaucratic, unworkable and designed to paper over the cracks of a divided Tory Government rather than deliver a deal that works for Britain.

“There is nothing in the Paper to protect our services industry. It would give a green light to deregulate our economy and erode workplace rights and standards. And there is still no credible plan to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland and the Paper also lacks detail in several key areas, including freedom of movement, the future role of the ECJ and how the UK can remain within common EU agencies.

David Morris MP at the RAF 100 year anniversary celebrations in London

David Morris MP at the RAF 100 year anniversary celebrations in London

“It stops far short of the credible plan we need to protect jobs, living standards and rights, therefore I cannot support it.

“After the shambolic last few days – Cabinet resignations, Commons defeats and concessions - it is clearer than ever that this divided Tory Government cannot deliver a Brexit deal Britain needs. To top it off the new Brexit Secretary will miss the start of the next round of negotiations, because he has decided to attend a summer drinks event instead.

“Labour is offering a clear alternative. That includes a comprehensive customs union and a strong single market deal with shared institutions and regulations. “The sooner the Government realise that’s the best way to deliver a Brexit deal that works for Britain, the better.”

Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris, who voted remain, said: “Last week the Government published a White Paper which will form the next stage of the negotiations on our future relationship with the EU. In the last week the media have whipped up a fervour on both sides of the debate on this and in some cases without even reading the documentation.

Dr Mark Garnett

Dr Mark Garnett

“Most importantly the document solidifies that we will be leaving the European Union on the March 29 2019.

“We will be leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union and thus be in control of our own trade policy and be free to trade with the rest of the World. The European Union has held us back from being able to trade with new partners but Brexit opens up whole new markets and opportunities.

“Immigration has been a huge issue, this paper allows us to control our borders by ending free movement of people. This allows us to set our immigration policy to one which suits the needs of our country and our industry.

“It also allows us to prioritise immigration in certain areas to prioritise professions which are needed in the Country like doctors and nurses, for example. Brexit is about giving the country the freedom it needs to determine its own destiny.

Farming unions say free trade area is 'vital'

Farming unions say free trade area is 'vital'

“I think we are in a hugely exciting time in the UK and I look forward to working on the trade deals with new markets to bring even more prosperity to Morecambe and Lunesdale.”

Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “At last, businesses have a more comprehensive understanding of the Government’s aspirations for the UK’s future relationship with the European Union.

“This vision should not have taken two years to emerge, but it is nevertheless a welcome starting point for businesses. Momentum and pace are now needed to translate ambition into answers to the real-world, practical questions that businesses face.

“Even with the welcome direction of travel in the White Paper, companies still don’t know how they’ll be paying VAT, how they can move people between offices, or whether goods will get across borders with a minimum of fuss. It is incumbent on the two sides to work pragmatically and productively on the nuts-and-bolts detail of the future relationship over the coming weeks, drawing on business experience and expertise. Time is short - and for businesses, it’s results that count.”

The BCC maintained 22 ‘red-rated’ and two ‘amber-rated’ issues on its Business Brexit Risk Register, which brings together the 24 top questions being asked by businesses across the UK.

On this, Mr Marshall added: “Businesses still need clear and detailed answers on many of the practical, real-world questions they face. Many of these answers can only emerge through negotiations - so it’s time for the two sides to crack on and get to a deal.”

Dr Mark Garnett, senior lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Lancaster University, said: “Traditionally, the appearance of a White Paper signalled that the government had made up its mind, and even though debate would continue there was normally little that opponents of the proposals could do, because the government enjoyed a secure majority in the House of Commons. This White Paper is very different. It was badly smudged even before it was printed, and is quickly becoming unreadable. This is not just because the government lacks a secure majority.

“As a result, it is not so much a declaration of purpose as an attempt to persuade at least six different constituencies: the government itself, whose leading members are divided; parliament as a whole (the Lords as well as the Commons); Conservative backbenchers; Conservative Party members; the public; and, finally, the European Union’s negotiating team.

“Mrs May’s critics on both sides have essentially said: ‘You can’t please everyone on that list, so please us’. The Prime Minister is not strong (or, perhaps, foolish) enough to take that course. The trouble for her is that the usual kind of compromise – which leaves everyone just a bit grumpy, rather than angering anyone – isn’t available. Some on the Leave side claim that the White Paper is a betrayal of the referendum vote, denying Britain any of the advantages of Brexit.

“Remainers argue that the proposed deal might keep some of the advantages of EU membership, but without the previous right to help make EU laws.

“MPs on both sides have already forced the government to change some of its proposals. While this battle continues, everyone expects that the EU itself will ask the government to make further concessions.”

The presidents of the four UK farming unions issued a joint statement last week, saying that if British farmers are to continue playing their part in providing high-quality and affordable food to the British public, as well as delivering for the environment, the principle of a free trade area for goods, including agri-food, is “vital” for the sector.

They said: “Although the details are yet to be agreed, farmers will welcome this additional clarity on what the government’s plan for our future trading relationship will be.

“It is our sector’s hope that we maintain the high levels of trade in agricultural goods between the UK and the EU, our largest market for agri-food products.
While the government has committed to ending free movement of people, there must be recognition of the importance of both seasonal and permanent workers from outside of the UK that help farms to continue producing food for the nation.

“The food and farming industry continue to urge government to proceed with an immigration policy that is based on fact and business need, reflecting the importance of these workers to our food and farming sector.

“We call on the UK government and the European Commission to work urgently to achieve an agreement on trade and we look forward to working with both in the ongoing negotiations.”

The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and Merseyside said proposals to defend the environment after leaving the EU are “far too weak”.

David Dunlop, senior conservation officer, said: “Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Prime Minister Theresa May have promised a ‘world-leading’ watchdog that will deliver a ‘green Brexit’. But their current proposals are far too weak and will mean our environment is less protected in the future unless significant changes are made to the proposals.”

The Trust is urging nature lovers to write to Michael Gove to tell him the proposals need to be stronger. 

The Lancaster district voted to leave the EU following the referendum on June 23 2016.

Altogether 37,309 (51 per cent) of the 73,098 who voted chose to opt out, while 35,732 voted to remain. The official turnout was 72.69 per cent of the 100,567 total electorate. Both Lancaster MP Cat Smith and Morecambe MP David Morris voted remain.