The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. Since then, both sides have been working to secure a deal on our furture relationship. I have joined my Shadow Cabinet colleagues in consistently pressing the government to deliver the ‘oven ready’ deal it promised. This included barrier-free trade, a security partnership to keep the country safe and safeguarding workers’ rights, consumer and environmental protections.
I am disssapointed that the government waited until the final days of the transition period to agree this deal. The delay had already had a significant impact on businesses and the economy. The deal itself, whilst providing some stability and certainty for businesses, falls far short of what was promised and breaks commitments made by the Prime Minister. It neglects services which make up 80% of our economy and weakens our security measures.
As 60% of goods exported from the North East of England are to to the EU, I am also particualry concerned about the impact of this deal on our region specifically. Claims that the deal means zero non-tariff barriers or that ‘red tape’ is reduced are not true. The continuation of zero tariffs and zero quotas of goods is subject to certain conditions being met. These include provisions set out under level playing field standards which would mean this situation would only be temporary if the UK diverges from EU standards. Goods will also need to meet EU Rules of Origin, if they do not, tariffs will apply. These regulations will also mean supply chains from Great Britain into the EU will be subject checks to ensure the goods originate from the UK. Moreover, the deal does not remove the need for customs declarations and paperwork for GB–EU traders.
Despite my serious concerns about this agreement, the government left MPs with only two options: Boris Johnson’s flawed trade deal with the EU or the chaos of ending the transition period with no deal. Leaving without a deal would mean substantial tariffs and barriers to trade. Since the EU referendum I have consistently voted against this due to the significant damage it would cause to jobs and businesses in our constituency. I was therefore in Parliament on 30th December to vote against a no deal and in favour of the Bill to implement the agreement. As this has now passed all the stages necessary to become law, the agreement will now be the basis of the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
I will work with my Shadow Cabinet colleagues to press the government to increase preparedness for the practicalities of our new trading relationship by raising concerns on how many customs agents are ready to go at our borders, or what IT systems are ready for businesses to get their goods in and out of the country. I want to assure you that the Labour Party will continue to hold the government to account over this flawed deal.