Government ‘scrabbling around in the dark’ over Brexit, says town MP

Prime Minister Theresa May at the Conservative party conference at the ICC in Birmingham.

Prime Minister Theresa May at the Conservative party conference at the ICC in Birmingham.

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The Government is “scrabbling around in the dark” as it tries to prepare for Brexit, says Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.

Prime Minister Theresa May laid out a timetable for the UK to leave the EU in her speech to the Tory Party conference at the weekend.

Businesses don’t like uncertainty and this is the biggest bit of uncertainty we’ve seen in my lifetime.

Iain Wright MP

It was light on the details of what any final deal might look like – but suggested the Government would prioritise control over immigration rather than continued access to the European Single Market.

Shadow Industry Minister Iain Wright said: “The Government is scrabbling around in the dark. They don’t know what the negotiations are going to look like and that is a huge concern when you are trying to bring investment to the North East.

“Businesses don’t like uncertainty and this is the biggest bit of uncertainty we’ve seen in my lifetime.”

The PM’s speech did confirm that the Government would trigger Article 50 – the formal announcement of notice to leave the EU – in the New Year.

“On the one hand, it provides a timetable – Article 50 in spring 2017 and we come out in spring 2019 – that gives us greater clarity than has happened in the past,” said Mr Wright.

“But it has never been more true that the devil is really in the detail and we are no further forward on that.”

The public had voted from Brexit and the Government was right to push ahead – but the terms of any exit deal would be critical for the UK economy, said Mr Wright.

“Of course we have to respect what people voted for – people voted to move away from Europe, but that will have consequences in terms of things such as access to the Single Market and that is the big rationale for people like Nissan being here.”

Uncertainty over what form the Brexit deal will take hit the headlines last week, when Nissan global boss Carlos Ghosn announced the firm was holding off on further investment in its Sunderland plant and would need guarantees of compensation if it lost out as a result.

North East England Chamber of Commerce head of policy Jonathan Walker said the decision was understandable: “There are a great number of reasons for Nissan to continue to invest in the Sunderland plant including the local management team, the workforce and excellent supply chain.

“However, anyone making a long-term investment decision will want certainty over trading conditions and the tax framework.

“For the good of the North East economy, we need the Government to listen to businesses as it develops its negotiating position.”