The View from Westminster with East Devon MP Hugo Swire: 'Still much work to do on Brexit'

PUBLISHED: 13:00 09 January 2018

Hugo Swire

Hugo Swire


When EU officials tweeted a picture of a plume of white smoke rising from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, the message became clear; the first phase of Brexit negotiations had come to an end.

After a string of concessions from both sides and a last-minute plaster on the wound that is the Irish issue, the EU effectively gave the go-ahead for trade talks to begin.

Of course we recognise that we can’t leave the EU and have everything stay the same – the single market is built on a balance of rights and obligations.

The British people’s decision means we cannot accept all of these obligations, so, yes, things will be different when we leave. Our task is to find a new way to work together in partnership, recognising that our rights and obligations have changed.

And as we build this new relationship, there is no point starting from scratch. Unlike a country like Canada, we start from having the same rules and regulations as the EU. And a Norway-style agreement would mean the UK having to adopt at home – automatically and in their entirety – new EU rules, over which in future we will have little influence and no vote. So that is not a model for us.

Instead, what we propose is a unique and ambitious economic partnership based on our rules and regulation being the same at the start.

This maintains our commitment to free trade and high standards – while allowing for us both to make changes where we want to, in a stable and orderly way. There will be areas of policy and regulation which are outside the scope of our trade and economic relations where this should be straightforward.

Then there will be areas, which affect our economic relations where we, and our European friends may have different goals – or where we share the same goals but want to achieve them through different means.

There will be areas where we want to achieve the same goals in the same ways, because it makes sense for our economies.

And because rights and obligations must be held in balance, the decisions we both take will have consequences for the UK’s access to European markets and vice-versa. There is still much work to do and the Government will not win all votes, but things are at least moving, which they certainly weren’t before.

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