I had some time to reflect over the festive period on how we have dug ourselves into this Brexit mess and more importantly how we start to dig ourselves out of it.
Whilst our national debate has been about backstops, trading rules and other technicalities, I came to the conclusion that a much bigger concern is the responsibility crisis that has led to a breakdown in trust throughout our society.
Thinking back to the referendum campaign: are there any core claims left that have credibility? The money, the easy trade and separation deal with the EU, the global trade deals piling up on our doorstep. Were those making these promises convinced that these could be met? Or were they being irresponsible and misleading our nation? Of course, I know that the same can be said for the arguments from the other side too, but that doesn’t make it better. A debate fought on false promises and media hype has created a significant breakdown in trust. The result? People no longer know who to believe, mistrust experts with evidence and have lost confidence in our institutions.
I reflect on the behaviour of our elected representatives during the negotiations. When watching the House of Commons debate on the long awaited PM’s Brexit deal it was like watching an embarrassing chaotic circus. The jeering, the insults, the inappropriate jokes. And it went on, the ill-timed vote of no-confidence, the obstructions, and no better suggestions. It all adds up to an outrageous level of disrespect against those who are trying to make some progress, having spent years negotiating a deal in near impossible circumstances.
What we forget is that our European partners watch these events. They have invested massively in these negotiations too, and they view the lack of maturity and seriousness in this debate as wholly irresponsible. I have had many colleagues’ watching in from the EU ask me why our Parliament is not taking this seriously. Especially as it is about their prosperity and future, as well as ours.
And right now, we have promises of a managed no-deal, which doesn’t just sound stupid, it really is! And landing a new better deal at this late hour is an equally irresponsible claim.
And here is the real problem with all of this. Those politicians behaving in such irresponsible ways at a time of national crisis are the ones setting the rules for business and society to be more responsible. This simply will not work when those writing the rules are not being role models for responsible behaviour. It does the opposite and indeed this responsibility deficit has eroded trust across society and thrown us into crisis .
But, I haven’t yet given up hope, because, like all of us, our Parliament will also have been reflecting over the festive period.
Every single MP must now think very carefully about what, at this point of crisis, is the most responsible action to take. And with that comes one very important principle for responsible deal making: not to vote a deal down unless you can genuinely come up with a better, realistic alternative, one you are 100% confident you can deliver.
I believe there are only two realistic and responsible options left. The PM’s deal or a ‘People’s Vote’. It is now over to Parliament to do whatever they think is right and responsible for our country and not for them personally, not for their ideological principles, or for the short term political gain of their party.
As it stands right now the only deal on the table that I believe can work for business – in time for March 29 – is the PM’s. It provides us with some much needed certainty and allows us to invest in our businesses responsibly and for the long term. This is my personal view based on what I believe is best for business, the economy and prosperity for all here in the UK and I make a very definite promise: that I have arrived at my view responsibly and after much deliberation.
So, as we commence 2019, I just have one wish, and that is for us all to reflect on our own actions and take our responsibility for society, for the environment and for the future of our next generation more seriously. If we do that, inject some calm reason into our national discourse, we will start to repair the damage that Brexit has caused, here and with our European partners. We can then focus on much more important long-term business issues, such as building a smarter, well-connected North, a stronger position in this fourth industrial revolution and a truly green economy. That is where our future prosperity really lies and whatever the outcome, the EU will not stand in our way!