During the 2019 General Election campaign, Boris Johnson was driving a tractor into a wall, hiding in fridges, and avoiding public and media scrutiny. He kept repeating: “Get Brexit Done, Get Brexit Done”.
However, Boris has absolutely no plan to Make Brexit Work. This government spent years negotiating a treaty and now it is complaining that the deal they signed isn’t working. Did Boris Johnson even know what he was signing – this is the same Prime Minister who compared crossing the Irish border to moving between Islington and Camden.
I was extremely disappointed that during negotiations, Tory MPs completely skimmed over the impact of Brexit for the fashion industry. As Chair of the APPG on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion, I have spoken to many businesses in this industry who have felt ignored and belittled by the government, and completely unsupported with the new Brexit bureaucracy. There is still a lot that the government needs to do to support British Business.
In November 2021, Labour Leader Keir Starmer spoke at the CBI’s annual conference where he outlined Labour’s strong plan to help business and kickstart a radical business strategy. This was much needed and is in stark contrast to Johnson’s inability to provide businesses with the reliability, strength and support they need.
Throughout the pandemic, I have heard from local business owners on how difficult the last two years have been. Not just the COVID lockdowns, but the impact of Brexit regulations that have seen their costs soar and paperwork increase. One business in Wood Green told me they’d closed their doors as a result. For so many owners, their businesses are their livelihoods and we need to be helping them get back on their feet after the pandemic – not making life harder.
So, what would a Labour government do?
This week, Keir spoke in Huddersfield where he explained how Labour would take advantage of opportunities from Brexit and reimagine its relationship with the private sector.
- We would negotiate a new veterinary agreement for trade in agri-products. This would have two benefits – it would help to get through the impasse over the Northern Ireland protocol and it would cut red tape and barriers for exporters across the UK
- We would also look to find an agreement on mutual recognition of conformity assessments across all sectors. That would mean our producers would no longer have to complete two sets of tests and there would be no need for two certification processes to sell goods in both the UK and the EU
- We would seek regulatory equivalence for financial services and mutual recognition of professional qualifications because we absolutely recognise the importance of looking after our world-class financial and professional service businesses.
- We would also seek to maintain Britain’s data adequacy status. That would mean that our data protection rules would continue to be deemed equivalent to those in the EU. Which would, in turn, make UK digital services companies more competitive.
- And, finally, we would seek a better long-term deal for UK hauliers to ease the supply chain problems we are seeing. We want a closer trade arrangement with the EU; this would till defend our interests but grow our economy.
More widely, my colleague Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, recently set out a five-point plan for a strong economy during a trip to Bury. She announced a “new contract between government and the British people” which would include:
- Ensuring the jobs and industries are based in the UK through a £28bn climate investment pledge
- Supporting entrepreneurs by setting a target to create 100,000 new businesses over the next five years
- Restoring visa-free touring for musicians, secure veterinary agreements to relieve the challenges facing the food and drink industry, and negotiate a deal to ensure mutual recognition of professional qualifications
You can read Rachel’s speech here.
I believe Labour is the only party that can achieve this. Under the Tories, we have become a low growth and high tax country and we urgently need an innovative reboot to our economy and business.