We have been told that Brexit means Brexit. We now also know that several of the promises that were made during the Referendum campaign are not likely to be fulfilled – most notably the £350m to the NHS and having an Australian style Points Based immigration system.
Thankfully, beyond a considerable fall in the value of the pound, we have not seen a sustained problem with our economy since June 24th. The Bank of England took speedy action after the vote, which reassured the markets, and the delay in triggering Article 50 means that there is time for everyone to consider what are the best options for the UK.
These considerations must include protecting our manufacturing jobs, such as the jobs in Honda in Swindon. The letter from the Japanese government has made clear the risks to our country of doing a quick deal with the EU that doesn’t involve keeping full access to the Single Market, investment and the availability of labour. The letter touches on every pillar of the upcoming negotiations concluding, “it is desirable that the current business environment in Europe be maintained as much as possible.”1 This was very similar to the position taken by President Obama.
The current government must do everything in its power to quash uncertainty and alleviate the worries of our trading partners around the globe. There are over 10,000 Japanese companies operating with in the UK, employing around 140,000 people. One of the biggest employers in the region are Honda, through their manufacturing plant near Swindon. More generally the South West has a significant manufacturing sector. If a hard-Brexit results in Japanese and other countries’ companies moving their operations onto the continent, the resulting job losses would have not only a devastating effect on Swindon and the surrounding area but across the entire United Kingdom.
When the commitment was made by David Cameron to hold a referendum on our membership of the EU it was outlined in the Conservative manifesto as; “We are clear about what we want from Europe. We say: yes to the Single Market. Yes to turbocharging free trade. Yes to working together where we are stronger together than alone.”2 It is imperative that this Conservative government sticks to that pledge. Access to the single market is integral to our ongoing economic growth, a view that the Japanese Government evidently share and hold true as well.
Theresa May’s government must now be beginning to realise fully the contradictions there are between getting the best deal for the UK and the multiple pledges that the Leave campaign gave to the British people.
Protecting jobs and prosperity must be at the heart of the resolution of those contradictions and that will mean keeping full access to the single market.
1 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, www.mofa.go.jp/files/000185466.pdf p5
2 Conservative Party Manifesto 2015, p71