Dear John

UK Trade and Business Commission keeping track of the effects of Brexit.

From a fact-finding trip to Dover to prompt responses to the Government’s antics on the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Commission has been scoping out the key threats and challenges to UK trade, and to British consumers. 

British people are facing a cost of living crisis that could be made worse by the Government starting a trade war with our closest neighbours. People in Northern Ireland face an uncertain future as the Government postures about breaking international law and destabilising the Good Friday Agreement.

As secretariat to the Commission, Best for Britain is responsible for ensuring that the Commission’s activities run smoothly and have impact - and part of our role also involves making sure that we’re singing loudly and proudly about the excellent work the Commission does. 



Protocol panel

Commission Co-convenor Hilary Benn MP, TD for Dublin Rathdown Neale Richmond and former Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary David Gauke joined Best for Britain’s CEO Naomi Smith to discuss the Government’s intentions for NI Protocol. 

The discussion took place just hours before Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced her plans to pass a new law that allows her to break international law and take the UK out of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Panellists all agreed there are problematic aspects of the Protocol that need to be ironed out. However, as Hilary Benn noted, the problems with the UK threatening unilateral action where international law is concerned are far graver. How will any other country (or the EU in future) trust us to keep to treaties?

Neale Richmond made the point that the EU’s stringent attitude towards trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland was understandable because of the new trade deals the UK is currently forging, which could lead to an influx of goods of a lower standard making their way into the single market if the flow is not checked. 

David Gauke also highlighted that problems were compounded by the UK’s reputation in Europe - and that the EU might have reservations because it was not always easy to trust in the honesty of the UK Government. 

So as the panellists made clear, issues cannot be solved by one side alone - and consensus is absolutely crucial. It is vital that the UK works to find a negotiated solution rather than threatening to break international law. 

Watch the full session

Responses from the Commission

The Commission, of course, did not just end its work there. During Truss’s statement to the Commons on the protocol, Commission members responded to her words in the Commons chamber. 

Hilary Benn MP, Co-convenor of the Commission, asked the Foreign Secretary why she believed that making unilateral changes to an internationally agreed treaty would be a productive step forward. He cautioned that such a move could undermine trust further and even result in trade retaliation. Hilary also wrote an insightful thread for Twitter about the issue which captures the nuance of the issues at stake. You can read that

Caroline Lucas MP, who is also a member of the UK Trade and Business Commission, weighed in on Truss’s speech in Parliament, pressing her on why she was setting the stage for a trade war with Europe at a time of exponential price rises for consumers. She also urged Truss to meet with the Commission, something Truss indicated she was open to doing. 

You can watch Caroline’s speech in Parliament

Dover and out

On Monday, the UK Trade and Business Commission embarked upon a fact-finding visit to Dover, where they visited a farm and the port to establish the impacts of Brexit. 

We’ll have an in-depth look at the trip for you next week, but safe to say Commissioners came away with a deeper understanding of the complexities of cross-border trade and the impacts businesses face.

That’s all from us this week, but stay tuned next week for more detail on the Commission’s trip to Dover.

Best wishes,

Naomi Smith

CEO, Best for Britain

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