Brexit Views 13 February 2018

It was announced over the weekend that UK Ministers will deliver a series of speeches on Brexit over the coming weeks that will outline the UK’s vision for its relationship with the EU and the world after Brexit. Six speeches are expected in total with the first to be delivered by Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, tomorrow. The speeches come after the leak of a Government Report which has shown that UK will economically be worse off in any Brexit scenario.
Mr Johnson’s speech, titled “Road to Brexit – a united Kingdom”, is reported to be an attempt to present an optimistic vision of Brexit that hopes to unite both the leave and remain camps. Further speeches are expected from Brexit Secretary, David Davis; International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox; and David Lidington, Minister for the Cabinet Office. Prime Minister May is expected to deliver two speeches, one focusing on EU-UK security cooperation post-Brexit at a security conference in Munich on Saturday and the other is due to happen at the end of the month after a discussion between senior ministers on Britain’s negotiating position for phase two of the Brexit process. While many hope the UK might finally define what it wants from Brexit in the speeches, there is not much optimism that these expectations will be met. The exclusion of Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who are known to favour a close UK-EU relationship after Brexit, has also raised concern among those with similar views.
Statements, like those made again yesterday by Prime Minister May and Taoiseach Varadkar, towards finding a solution to Brexit that uphold the commitments made in December’s Joint Report regarding the Irish border should still be welcomed. However, further details now need to be given about how such an outcome can be achieved if the UK insists on leaving the Customs Union and Single Market in order to pursue its own trade deals – a stance that in the Chamber’s view just doesn’t hold up in economic terms. With the EU Summit of March 22nd-23rd fast approaching, a clear (and realistic) outline of what the UK hopes to negotiate in the future relationship talks is essential if we are to move beyond the uncertainty that currently prevails. It is also vital that the UK puts to bed once and for all any doubts surrounding the agreement of the terms of the transition period. Business needs clarity and soon.