Bill Wiggin is MP for North Herefordshire.
It is absolutely imperative that the two-year implementation period which begins on 30th March 2019 must not continue a day later than 29th March 2021. The ‘implementation period’ must not become a semi-permanent solution by which we remain half-in and half-out of the EU, following the rules and regulations, but with absolutely no say on their creation. It would be bad for this country and bad for our businesses, who need certainty more than anything else.
The implementation period has two main benefits. The first, as was so clearly set out by the Prime Minister in Florence and in the House of Commons, and by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union as recently as last week, is to put in place the institutions, structures and mechanisms which will control our new relationship with the EU.
The second, and perhaps more important, is that the two-year period allows us to prepare and draft trade agreements with our friends in the Commonwealth and around the world, which can enter into force on 30th March 2021. Businesses depend on certainty, and the security of a date when agreements will come into force is a great benefit of the implementation period.
Of course, such an implementation period also carries a great risk. It must never become a tool through which those who seek to derail Brexit, or push for a Brexit which looks exactly like membership of the European Union, can achieve their ends.
To counter this risk, I believe there are two conditions on which such an implementation period must rest. The first is that it must be strictly time-limited. Not only does this ensure certainty for business, it calms the fears of those who could see the ‘implementation period’ becoming a semi-permanent state where we continue to live under EU rules and regulations, but with no say in their creation or enforcement.
The second condition is that trade negotiations with the EU must be completed before the beginning of the implementation period. There is no value in an implementation period if there is nothing to implement. Likewise, if the European Union have not offered a deal which is good enough for our Parliament to accept on 29th March 2019, we must leave immediately, and not be beholden to EU laws and restrictions whilst we form our trading relationships with other countries.
I would further add that it would be irresponsible to allow such an implementation period to carry on until the next General Election. Even the smallest risk that negotiations could fall into the hands of Jeremy Corbyn and his Brexit team, who have different opinions every day about their own position on leaving, would be extremely dangerous for this country.
As such, I believe that we must now continue to work together to ensure that Brexit, voted for by the people, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, takes shape as it must – not Brexit-lite where we remain part of the EU institutions we voted to leave and under the jurisdiction of the Court we showed our displeasure about in the ballot box; but Brexit as leaving the European Union.
This is not a ‘hard Brexit’ position. This is stated Government policy, as set out by the Prime Minister in Florence, in the Conservative Manifesto, and in the House of Commons. The Conservative MPs I know are soundly behind the policy of the Government, and the Government can feel confident about this.
Brexit will provide opportunities and risks, and the greatest risk of all is the betrayal of the British people by not carrying out the result of the referendum. An implementation period is acceptable, and perhaps even desirable, under strict conditions, but ones which must be met to satisfy all those who believe in respecting the will of the people.