By Ian Lucas MP
Airbus, North East Wales’ biggest employer, made a statement overnight saying that, in the event of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, it would have to reconsider its business model and consider moving work away from our region to other parts of its European operation.
This statement is extremely serious but it is not a surprise.
In a Commons debate well over a year ago, I told the Government that it was essential we put in place a system for working with other European Union countries that was as close as possible to the one we have now.
Wrexham and North East Wales is an exporting and importing area, and our business model for almost half a century has been built on interchangeable business relationships and employment relationships within the EU.
I suggested to the prime minister in the debate on Article 50, which gave notice that we would be leaving the EU, that she should reach out and make clear that she wanted to pursue this particular model in our future relationship with the EU after Brexit.
Rather than reaching out to the opposition, the prime minister called what was a disastrous General Election from her point of view, which alienated further other parties in Parliament and created the failure of developing policies which has led to this announcement from Airbus overnight.
Not only was the prime minister incapable of reaching out to other parties on this issue, she also cannot secure agreement from her cabinet about what Britain’s future relationship with the EU is going to be.
Some of her cabinet, the chancellor among them, want a model not dissimilar to what I proposed -; that we need the closest possible relationship with the EU after Brexit and that we should not have a big change of the business model that we apply as a country in the years ahead.
On the other hand, other cabinet members, such as the foreign secretary, believe that we should rip up the model which has been successful for businesses such as Airbus and instead place our future in the hands of a new trade relationship with the rest of the world.
I worry that this relationship has echoes of UK’s imperial past when, in a completely different era, we had an Empire. We required countries like India to buy goods from us which helped make the UK the first industrialised nation.
This world has passed, and countries like India and China are now hi-tech competitors for the UK, not simply markets.
I believe that the UK is an extraordinary country. It was the first industrial nation, it is one of the richest countries in the world and it has a huge wealth of talent within it, but we are operating in a more developed world and there are many other talented people who are competing against us.
In order to ensure that we provide good jobs for our young people, I think we need to build on the model that has created many jobs over the last 50 years.
We do need to deal with the issues which led to a vote to leave the EU, but we need to take the best parts of our relationship with the EU and preserve it as consistently as we possibly can. This means achieving policies on immigration and movement of labour which protect jobs while addressing people’s concerns about migration.
This is difficult but it is not impossible.
This is the basis upon which I was re-elected as Wrexham’s MP a year ago. The year since that election has been wasted by the Conservative Party fundamentally disagreeing over the future that it sees for the UK.
It is now urgent that this disagreement is set aside because Airbus will not be the last business to announce that it is reconsidering its business relationship. If we do not act now, we will hear of many other UK-based businesses who will be thinking it would be much easier for them to operate from a different country, meaning jobs, livelihoods and futures in the UK would be lost.