It was good news this week that the Brexit Secretary told us the UK will want a migration policy that is open to talent, skills and entrepreneurship once we have taken back control. He also reaffirmed the Prime Minister’s view that we do need to have our own policy under UK powers, not a policy we negotiate with the rest of the EU.
It was also good news that progress is being made with preparing the Repeal Bill. That will be the way we leave the EU.
More and more businesses I speak to tell me that what they want is more certainty about the direction we are undertaking. That means accelerating progress and getting the Article 50 letter in as soon as possible. It also means reducing the number of issues we need to discuss with our former partners in the EU.
There is a temptation amongst many officials, senior business people in large companies, and amongst the politicians on the losing side, to want to complicate matters more and more. They may be well intentioned in telling us of all the complex relationships we have with people and institutions on the continent and reminding us rightly that many of these need to carry on. They are not, however, helping reduce the uncertainty or supporting a strong UK negotiating position by constantly harping on about possible problems.
Some of them deliberately go further and urge the government to give ground on freedom of movement, or budget contributions. If you want to negotiate well you do not offer any concessions unless and until it is clear that doing so will buy you something you really need. I cannot think of something I so much need from the rest of the EU to want to pay for it, or to give up control of our borders.
Why do people presume to advise on how to negotiate before we have any idea what the position of the EU 27 is, and before we have worked out how few things we do actually need to discuss at all with them.
Some of the fears are silly. Some now say we could end up not being allowed to fly commercial airliners from London to Paris or Frankfurt! That would mean they could not fly their planes to London either. How likely is that?
It’s time for the government to tell us more of the opportunities from exit, and for businesses and officials of goodwill to understand Team UK has to put up a united front to negotiate in a friendly and firm way.