Chris Grayling is MP for Epsom and Ewell, and Secretary of State for Transport.
Whose side are the Labour Party on? As I’ve listened to them set out their position on Brexit over the past few weeks, the only conclusion that one can possibly draw is that they are definitely not on the side of the United Kingdom.
Listening to Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer, you’d never believe that they voted to trigger Article 50, and in fact that they voted for the referendum in the first place. Nor that it was the Labour heartlands that made the difference in the referendum campaign.
As I campaigned for Leave, the warmest receptions I received by far were in places like Caerphilly in the Welsh Valleys, from people fed up with the level of control being exercised over this country from Brussels.
Yet Labour now seem determined to betray those supporters, and do everything they can to frustrate Brexit.
Just think of the absurdity of the arguments they are now putting forward. In her Lancaster House speech in January, Theresa May made the obvious statement that no deal is better than a bad deal.
Of course we want to be good friends and neighbours after we leave the EU. Of course we think that continued free trade is good for all of us, inside and outside the EU. We are after all, once outside, the EU’s biggest export market. Millions of EU workers depend for their jobs on UK consumers and businesses.
But we cannot possibly as a nation sign up to any deal that is put to us. Or can we? Well that’s what Labour want us to do. They have been very clear that they will not countenance leaving the EU without a deal.
Well let’s be clear. We don’t want to either. I am a believer in free trade. So I don’t want a trade relationship with tariffs and other barriers in future. We should and will do everything we can to avoid such an outcome.
But Labour say that we should sign up to any deal that we can, regardless. So what does that mean? Are they seriously suggesting that we should sign up to any financial demand the EU negotiating team makes of us? £100 billion euros? £150 billion euros?
Name the price. It seems Labour would accept regardless. Are they seriously suggesting that we should sign up to a deal that is one sided?
Well, actually, yes they are. Because if you enter any negotiation suggesting that you will do a deal come what may, then the other side of that negotiation will clearly ask for as much as they possibly can. And how is that in our national interest?
It’s not just their argument on the deal with makes no sense at all. They are also claiming that we should stay in the single market, but that we would still be able to control migration into the UK. That’s a deal that they say they would be able to do for Britain.
Never mind the fact that David Cameron tried and failed to achieve the same. Somehow Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer claim they would be able to do what no one else can, and what our European partners say cannot be countenanced.
Of course, the job of opposition is to oppose. But it is also to demonstrate that you offer a credible alternative, and Labour’s position on Brexit is a million miles away from credible. It is confused, opportunistic, and absolutely not on the side of the UK national interest.
It is in the UK’s national interest to form a deep and special partnership with the European Union. To continue to trade. To work together in key areas like security. To fight for our shared values in the world.
But it takes two to make a partnership, so we have to be ready for all outcomes. That’s why we are working on the best possible deal for the UK, as well as contingency plans if we cannot reach an agreement. That’s the responsible position for any Government to take. It’s a shame Labour don’t understand that.
Either way, Britain has a strong and successful future ahead of it. We are a dynamic, entrepreneurial nation with a global focus. Brexit won’t change that.