While Parliament has been in recess, civil servants have been busy working on Brexit.
For too long the debate – even in Parliament – has been dominated by rhetoric and emotion, rather than the practical implications of changes to our relationship with the European Union.
I used the summer break to visit local businesses to discuss the challenges and opportunities they face.
High Peak has one of the highest levels of manufacturing jobs of any rural constituency, with an estimated 6,000 people working in production – from huge quarries to craft producers, heavy engineering to hi-tech.
These businesses form the backbone of our local economy – with largely stable, secure and well-paid jobs to support our shops and services all year round.
Most manufacturers trade with Europe – importing and exporting parts for production or finished products.
The realities revealed in the no-deal Brexit papers are very stark. To continue trading with our neighbours – even the Republic of Ireland where many companies have long-established links – businesses may have to “renegotiate commercial terms” to reflect customs changes – ie to take tariffs out of their own profits or risk losing a contract.
To cope with the paperwork required for border controls, they will have to pay for new software or hire a “customs broker” – all additional costs that eat into their tight margins.
Local businesses have long warned that all the extra costs will make Britain a far less competitive place to do business.
Any delays of more than a few hours at ports, which would prevent continuous production, visa requirements to visit European customers, and the ending of the necessary safety regulations and manufacturing specifications, all make local businesses very worried.
Farmers too are concerned at Britain becoming a ‘third country’ to the EU. 40% of British lamb is exported to Europe, which accounts for 95% of our exports, this market would be destroyed by tariffs. At the same time, ending tariffs which we impose as EU members on New Zealand and other lamb would make imported lamb much more competitive compared to our own.
The stakes of no deal are very high. But many of the impacts will also arise from a partial deal. Without access to the Customs Union or Single Market, the Chequers proposals would have many of the same implications for business.
There will be many key votes in Parliament over the coming months that will decide the fate of our economy – nationally and locally. I want to ensure that my votes are based on practical considerations so I urge all local businesses to let me know their key issues – whether you foresee problems or opportunities.
Politics may be dominated by emotions at times, but for me it’s important to be as practical as we can.