For all the heat of the Brexit debate, and the many uncertainties of where we are headed, the panel and the hall virtually all agreed on one thingby Prospect Team / September 27, 2018 / Leave a comment
It was standing room only at a packed Prospect/Port of Dover fringe at this year’s Labour conference—a fringe that turned out to make waves.
The issue was trade, and how practically Britain can keep its crucial commerce afloat in the years ahead. Tom Clark opened up the meeting by highlighting how Brexit, and looming horror stories about miles of stuck lorries and portaloos lining the M2, had turned once-obscure details of trade policy and the mechanics of shipping into front page news.
In such circumstances, it was wonderful to have the chance to hear from England’s busiest port—who were perfectly placed to help us separate hyped-up horrors from real, practical dangers.
Tim Reardon from Port of Dover highlighted its huge importance for UK commerce. Seeing as this one port handles as much as 17 per cent of the UK’s trade in goods, any disruption to the 2.6 million lorries that use the port annually is a disruption to UK PLC.
A smooth transition with a good deal should be able to protect the great bulk of this: geography should see to that. No responsible government would want to jeopardise the trade that passes through Dover since it is so important to the nation’s trade as a whole.
The situation could potentially be different and much more difficult in the event of a No Deal Brexit, which was the chief focus of concern for Labour’s shadow trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, in remarks which were later picked up by the BBC, the Independent, the Huffington Post and the Guardian.
Despite Labour’s official line being to demand a general election, Gardiner warned that it was unrealistic—“well into loony tunes territory”—to imagine the prime minister would easily grant one, even in the event of her Brexit deal getting voted down.
Having spoken to the Clerk of the House of Commons and staff, Gardiner believed that a rejection of the prime minister’s plan in the Commons would leave her with considerable latitude—she’d have to come back with the Commons with an update a few weeks down the line, but wouldn’t necessarily have to change course. She could do so, of course, but she could equally well decide that her best hope of survival would be to condemn Europe as intransigent, and simply allow the clock…