Mercury Column – March 2018

As I write this month’s column the news is dominated by the appalling events in Salisbury where a military grade nerve agent was deliberately unleashed on two targets, at the same time putting many others at potential risk. More details, and subsequent government action, will be clearer by the time you read these words yet already we’ve seen substantial support from governments across the Europe and from the European Union. This demonstrates that we can work closely together on issues where there is a mutual benefit to all our countries. I saw that when I was a minister in the Home Office dealing with how we co-operate when fighting international and organised crime that recognises no national boundaries.

Let’s hope our European partners reflect that co-operation as we move to the next stage of Brexit negotiations. Last month’s “Chequers Summit” confirmed the political approach the British Government will take during the next stage of the Brexit negotiations by agreeing an important set of demands that will be made to European Union leaders. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, then set out the details and expectations of a trade deal with the European Union. She confirmed that we could not, and would not, be remaining part of the Customs Union.  The referendum result made it clear that we can’t remain in any customs union – something that would prevent us from agreeing on beneficial new trade deals with countries outside Europe.

Like many others, I want the best possible trade agreement between the UK and EU. That means we should be free to set our own rules and regulations and not kowtow to the requirements of Brussels any longer. From the business leaders, I meet I know there is a real optimism that we can get a great deal for British businesses and workers. Of course, it seems that Jeremy Corbyn has decided to ignore the views of the residents of Great Yarmouth and is determined to shackle Britain to the old European ways that were firmly rejected in June 2016. I know Great Yarmouth residents have a very clear view of our relationship with Europe and that should not be ignored.