Early in the morning of a day which saw tumultuous events set in train, DRD Partnership hosted a breakfast panel on Brexit at the Cinnamon Club in London. The event was organised in conjunction with Progress, the centre-left pressure group behind the ‘Labour Say’ campaign that has helped shift the Opposition’s Brexit policy, keeping open the possibility of a second referendum.
Guest speakers included Rt Hon. Lord Adonis and two prominent Labour MPs with differing perspectives Stephen Kinnock and Catherine McKinnell. They examined what may happen next in the process both at EU and UK level and whether the voice of business can still exert any political influence. The discussion also touched upon the likely scenarios around the Government’s promised ‘meaningful vote’ in Parliament, including the possibility of another referendum.
Pete Bowyer, Partner at DRD Partnership welcomed the guests: “We are delighted to hear from prominent and outspoken voices on the Labour side of the debate this morning. It is critical that we understand where the Labour opposition sits, given the delicate balance we have in the House of Commons as we enter this critical juncture.”
Stephen Kinnock MP (Aberavon), a leading member of both the Exiting the EU Select Committee and the European Scrutiny Committee, advocated for an EEA Brexit arrangement along the so-called ‘Norway model’ as he argued that Theresa May’s deal is a ‘fool’s gold’: “My position is that an EEA based Brexit is the only viable option. It respects the results of the referendum, because it means leaving the European Union but keeping a very very close, productive and constructive economic relationship with the EU, frictionless trade through full participation in the single market. The cross-party amendment that we are drafting is also talking about derogation from EFTA regulation which will enable us to have a form of customs union with the EU. It also solves the Irish border and perhaps most important of all – it is off the shelf model that is well understood by all and that will give us certainty and security that business and our entire country so desperately needs at this time.”
Lord Adonis, an outspoken critic of Brexit and a prominent advocate of a ‘People’s Vote’ expressed his view that out of all the options on the table by far the best deal for the UK is the one we have at the moment: “It is in a whole category better than EEA. It is vital that Britain is around the table in determining the destiny of Europe. It will be a massive catastrophic error for us not to be a part to that, it could be a genuine tragedy. We don’t know what is going to happen in Europe in the next couple of years. We do know that the Far Right is on the rampage, we do know that we got Putin there. So, my view is that because of our huge vested interest as one of the two military powers in Europe, whenever we left the continent – we have always been sucked in back again. So, if there is one lesson in history it would be a really serious, possible tragic mistake for us to leave.”
Catherine McKinnell MP (Newcastle-upon-Tyne North), a member of the Treasury Select Committee who has led on the impact of Brexit on business and industry in the north east, a region that voted heavily in favour of Leave in the 2016 referendum, was in agreement with Lord Adonis in supporting the ‘People’s Vote’: “The only democratic resolution to this situation is to put it back to the People’s Vote as simply and quickly as possible and decision needs to be implemented as quickly as possible in order to give certainty to the business.”
Despite the diverging views on the needed solution, keynote guests agreed that leaving without a deal – a Hard Brexit – is not an option as there is simply not the necessary votes for it in the House of Commons. This was once again re-affirmed when the audience was given an opportunity to ask questions and seek answers. When a member of the audience – owner of a UK business abroad sought business advice on his industry situation which is at risk in case of no deal situation, Stephen Kinnock MP stated that there is absolutely no way that the UK will exit without a deal.
He later went on to suggest that “Brexit should not only be a reset moment for the UK, but also for the European Union. There is opportunity there to re-engineer the European project and create an outer tear of countries and Britain would be leading that outer tier, allowing to finally settle the vexed relationship we have with the EU.”
The event was part of a series of events hosted by DRD Partnership with members of each political party, giving our clients and friends the opportunity to listen and discuss currents issues as they unfold in real time.