Accepting the Chequers common rulebook would be disastrous for business

Accepting the Chequers common rulebook would be disastrous for business

Our company John Reid & Sons Ltd (REIDsteel) has just committed to the largest single investment in its long history. By the time we celebrate our centenary in 2019, our preparations for a multi-million-pound investment into a state-of-the-art facility should be well under way. It will allow us to improve productivity and become even more competitive on the world stage while securing the future of our company into the next 100 years.

This exciting and forward-looking development has been long in the planning, following our vote to Leave the EU in 2016.

But the recent Chequers proposal, which I believe to be an atrocious betrayal of what we voted for, will risk this investment and damage SMEs like ours which make up the backbone of the British economy. Michel Barnier is reportedly ‘strongly opposed’ to Chequers and the common rulebook for goods; perhaps this may be the only area where he and I are likely to find agreement.

The common rulebook proposal needs to be torn up. If it is adopted in any final agreement, it means we would have no control and be shackled with regulatory control and oversight by the EU for generations to come. We would be dictated to as a rule taker with little hope of becoming more competitive, innovative and able to strike our own major free trade deals.

Such an outcome would be disastrous for us and our future plans. Politicians would never be forgiven, should they pursue such a damaging policy.

Crucially, it means any hope of revitalising British Standards – seen by many as the finest in the world – would be dashed.

Reliance on British Standards outside of Europe has consistently delivered greater quality and efficiency. For example, we have designed, built and supplied more than 150 buildings in the Caribbean all to British Standards and they all survived the devastating category five hurricanes last year.

If we had used Eurocodes, then the cost would have been prohibitive and we would have not secured the work. This same argument follows for all our designs UK and worldwide.

In the next two decades, according to the Government’s own figures, around 90 per cent of global economic growth will be outside the EU. Meanwhile, we still have a trade deficit with the EU; we still buy much more from them than they do from us. Far from being the idealistic utopia of Remainers’ imagination, the EU is fraught with rampant protectionism.

It is the ultimate irony that as a firm founded in France in 1919, we cannot contract there because French companies only are able to buy the approved insurance. It is easier for us to export to Mongolia, as we have done, than to France and some countries in the EU.

Chequers is an appalling example of the way our Government is mishandling Brexit. Following the much-applauded Lancaster House speech, our Government has given humiliating concession after humiliating concession.

Theresa May says there will be no compromise on her Brexit plan. She has vowed not to ‘water’ down the Chequers proposal unless it is in the national interest. But the fact is that Chequers undiluted is not in the national interest.

I have the greatest respect for Dominic Raab but he, like other Brexit-supporting ministers who now follow the Government line, must surely realise that the time has come for them to recognise Chequers for the betrayal that it is and fight to ensure that it doesn’t form the basis of our departure from the EU.

A fair, generous and mutually beneficial deal for us and our friends in Europe may be the ideal outcome – but not at any cost; we must have control over our own destiny and be prepared to depart on WTO terms.

There may be some initial disruption, but any medium- to long-term benefits would far outweigh any short-term hiccups. We can thrive in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

There can be no compromise. It is the only way to realise the prize that is there to be won: with unequivocal control of the UK’s own destiny and the ability to strike trade deals, whilst giving SMEs such as ours every confidence in a prosperous future outside of the EU.