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Five years ago, 70% of Dudley South voters chose to leave the EU. In 2017 and 2019, when Opposition party candidates asked them to reverse that decision, they reaffirmed their choice with large majorities.
For years, Brexit deniers said that the Prime Minister could not get a withdrawal agreement and that once we had left there was no way we would get a trade deal by the end of 2020. Like the cynics in Edgar Albert Guest’s poem, they scoffed:
“Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least, no one has ever done it;”
but like that poem’s protagonist, the Prime Minister “took off his coat” and went to it. I do not know if he
“started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done,”
but he did it. It was and is a good deal, which they told us “couldn’t be done”.
It is inevitable that there would be some extremely difficult transitional issues, as we switch from a system that we had been increasingly embroiled in for decades to a new arrangement. It is vital that Lord Frost and his team work with our European partners to get them resolved. For example, one firm contacted me to say that it sells leather goods made in Spain and Portugal. It found that the sale to Poland of one pair of shoes, worth £125, attracted £75 in customs fees. An engineering firm is charged 8% by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to reimport bearings made in Nottinghamshire from the French sole distributor—British bearings. This is not what we understood the agreement to mean. I do not think it is what the negotiating teams understood it to mean either, so we have to continue to work with our European partners to sort out implementation.
Brexit does offer big opportunities. Businesses in Dudley South trade with countries in every corner of the world, and the new trade agreements being negotiated and agreed will open up that trade further. The comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership in particular offers incredible potential to increase trade both with some of our closest trading partners and with some of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
However, Brexit is not only about international affairs. It is not only about theoretical government. It is about how we can do things differently here at home. It offers us the chance to look at things such as how we can better structure taxes and have a lower rate of duty, for example, on draught beer or on-sales. That was impossible while we were in the EU, but it is now possible post Brexit. It would allow taxes to better reflect the economic and social contribution that pubs make in all our communities. Taking back control does not mean that all our problems are magically solved, but it does mean that we have the power to take responsibility for those decisions here, in the interests of those we represent.