In excess of 120 people overflowed into the corridor of the Wessex Room at the Corn Exchange to listen to two speakers at our first public event about Brexit. We were impressed by the size of the turnout but not entirely surprised. This event has come at a critical time when MPs are deeply divided and people’s profound concerns for their livelihoods and family life are in urgent need of being addressed.
The rejection of the Chequers deal did not surprise SW MEP Julie Girling
“The EU has been clear all the way. It is an impasse. The UK has a reputation for pragmatism and common sense. How did we get to this negotiating stance? We must have a People’s Vote.” Julie Girling urged members of the audience to write to their MP with that message.
The MEP firmly dispelled the view that the EU was undemocratic or didactic:
“The EU sets challenging targets for cities and agriculture within a certain timescale. In my field of environment and agriculture we offer ideas and financial help to reach those targets, but the EU does not prescribe how to achieve those targets. By contrast Brexiters make bland promises. No one says environmental action is cheap or easy. But Brexiters are always pressing to water down standards. What will happen to those standards post Brexit?” Ms Girling wondered.
Rex Sandbach exports around 88% of his products to EU countries
Rex Sandbach was worried about the impact Brexit would have on his business as an exporter of glues. They are kept at -400 C in dry ice and have to be used within 48 hours in high tech equipment such as pacemakers, endoscopes and planes.
Mr Sandbach compared the onerous and bureaucratic process required by customs controls for each non-EU country with current EU practices.
“If you get it wrong you are fined. For an EU destination I produce a single certificate for all 27 EU countries, label the parcel with a to and from for the DHL courier and that’s it. The single market is unique. For 28 countries with an agreed free trade area, free movement of people and goods and agreed standards is one of the greatest achievements of humankind.”
Mr Sandbach calculated that a no deal would increase his costs by 6.5% straightaway in a competitive field.
Q & A
One questioner was surprised that this state of affairs should have come about under a Tory government.
“I thought Conservatives were a friend of business,” she observed.
Mr Sandbach was scathing about the lack of leadership.
“Politicians need to snap out of an imperial vision.”