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Three politicians from different parties with very different beliefs are united on one thing... Britain must resist the march to a Hard Brexit fantasy land

May 15, 2018 9:57 AM
By David Miliband, Nick Clegg And Nicky Morgan in Daily Mail

Exit from BrexitWe come from different political parties with distinct histories, policies and ideological beliefs. There have been many occasions when we have disagreed with one another. There are many issues on which we still don't see eye to eye.

However, when it comes to putting our country before our political parties, in the debate about Brexit we are unequivocally united.

Less than a year before we quit the EU, and less than six months before the deadline for concluding the terms of our departure, hard Brexit demands are holding this country's negotiating position to ransom. Whether viewed from within Parliament, from outside, or from overseas, this is cause for grave concern.

There is, however, a way forward. Over the coming months, MPs will have the chance to table amendments to Bills - and vote for those amendments - which can prevent the country from suffering the long-term damage that a hard Brexit will cause. Parliamentarians who champion the hardest of Brexits will stubbornly resist any such amendments, and the pro-Brexit press will angrily protest, but what is the role of MPs if not to improve and protect the lives of their constituents? The referendum result did not hand the most ideologically fervent Brexiteers a mandate to take the UK out of the EU on any terms.

That is why the three of us are joining forces to appeal to MPs from all parties to take back control of the direction of Brexit. Tomorrow, at the Tilda rice mill in Essex, we will call on Parliament to reject completely the siren calls to sever the UK's deep economic ties with the European Union. Cheerleaders for a hard Brexit insist it is the only way to forge a buccaneering future for our country as 'Global Britain'.

The swashbuckling rhetoric may sound exciting but the reality of the choice we face is far harder. For Tilda, an iconic British firm which has been based in the UK for four decades and sells rice in more than 50 countries, the alternatives to Customs Union membership do not guarantee the same level of barrier-free access for its products in the rest of the EU and will require the firm to relocate part of its processing unit.

The swashbuckling rhetoric may sound exciting but the reality of the choice we face is far harder.

Countless businesses across the UK are similarly troubled by the Government's failure to come up with a workable way forward. Whether you voted Leave or Remain this is a deeply worrying situation, and one which poses serious economic risks. The Government knows this. Its own analysis concluded that every post-Brexit scenario will come at a cost.

Even a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU predicted the UK will see growth drop by 5 per cent over the next 15 years compared with current forecasts, as a result of additional bureaucratic border checks. The ensuing economic pain will be felt in every part of the country. This is not Project Fear; it is project reality based on the Government's own analysis.

Nor will any future bilateral deals, which the Government predicts will add just 0.2 to 0.7 per cent to GDP, be easy to secure, with other nations insisting upon their own regulatory and environmental standards, such as the American demand that UK consumers accept chlorine-treated chicken. In this volatile world, in which a protectionist US President threatens trade wars across the planet, is this really the time to go it alone?

The truth is that Britain is already proudly, and powerfully, global. Under current arrangements we can trade with European countries but also, as a leading player in an ambitious bloc, with world nations. The EU is already in the process of striking wide-ranging deals with Japan, Canada, Singapore and Mexico, and the negotiating muscle of 27 nations is far more likely to achieve expanded trade with China and India. When it comes to trade, distant nations come into focus through the lens of the EU telescope. A hard, destructive Brexit reverses the telescope: those nations closest to us appear more distant, and those further away fade from view.

They must set aside party loyalties and place their constituents at the forefront of their minds. They must put our country first

Of course, important though the debate about our customs arrangements are, 'frictionless' trade is only possible if the UK is part of the level playing field of regulatory standards and barrier-free supply chains which the Single Market (or similar with the same benefits, as the Brexiteers promised us) provides. If the UK is on the outside then the services sector, which accounts for about 80 per cent of UK economy, will suffer, our global aspirations will be hindered and UK-wide economic harm will follow.

A hard Brexit won't create Global Britain. Instead it is merely a path to a fantasy island where we will have reduced access to our largest markets and a diminished standing in the world. It is not just responsible, economically, to find a better way forward. It is profoundly in the national interest.

So when MPs finally vote, at the end of this year, on the Government's Brexit 'deal', they will be grappling with questions which strike at the heart of our representative democracy and the future of Britain. Does Brexit improve their constituents' lives? Does the final deal match the promises made in the referendum? Will severing our economic ties with Europe create, or diminish, Global Britain?

This will be a judgment which only elected representatives can take. Whatever party they belong to, and however their constituents voted in 2016, MPs must do what they believe is best for the future. They must set aside party loyalties and place their constituents at the forefront of their minds. They must put our country first.