The latest round of Brexit negotiations has brought forward the idea of an extended transition period once the UK leaves the EU.
Even if this seems like a prudent step, the Brexit negotiations are far from over. The notion of a blind Brexit – leaving the EU without a deal – should have been ruled out long ago.
Instead, over the past two and a half years, we have seen that a free trade agreement with the EU is far from “the easiest in human history”, as International Trade Secretary Liam Fox claimed.
Liam Fox was completely misguided. Extricating ourselves from the EU – undoing over forty years of EU legislation – has proved hugely complicated.
And the uncertainty stemming from the drawn-out negotiations has critically weakened our position on the world stage and paralysed the UK’s businesses.
This country’s business reputation is rooted in long-term trade relationships and a trustworthy standing of economic stability and excellence. The uncertainty resulting from our squandered negotiating process is putting both our political and economic future at risk.
The reality is that we will need a customs union and a frictionless border with the EU after Brexit, or trade in goods will come to a standstill.
Northern Ireland is a prime example – it is the Achilles Heel of Brexit. There is no solution to the problem caused by the hard land border that a Hard Brexit is set to create.
Take, for example, Bailey’s Irish Cream. This is made in Dublin, then travels to Northern Ireland, where there are 270 crossing points and no border at all; it is then packaged there and heads south again for distribution around the world. A hard Irish border is unthinkable.
The Good Friday agreement has enabled a long-standing peace process, but for the sake of something called Brexit, we are threatening the very union and peace of the United Kingdom.
We voted to leave and then Theresa May drew her three red lines: no customs union, no single market and an end to the free movement of people, as well no longer being subject to the ECJ. But, aside from Northern Ireland, there could be permanent tailbacks on the roads from our sea ports, for example, stretching from Dover as far as London, without a deal in place.
Brexiteers were adamant to take back control. Now we face the prospect of visibly losing our footing all together and becoming a laughing stock, and British business faces the harshest consequences of all.
Instead of taking back control, our Government is giving up control every step of the way, embarking on a blind Brexit – facing a long road ahead with no sense of what to expect with each step we take.
New laws, new regulatory principles, new market rules – all of these require time to adapt to – and instead our Government is prepared to leave without a deal. This would be the equivalent of looking into an economic abyss and preparing to jump without a parachute.
By losing our free trade deal with the EU, we are dropping free trade with partners covering approaching 70% of our international trade, in order to go after the 30 per cent not covered by free trade deals we have with and through the EU.
A blind Brexit would hurt our businesses, our economy and our consumers.
The irony is that the Government says that it is implementing the will of the people. However, the referendum was two years ago.
The facts have changed and the world around us has changed, and the people’s outlook on our future has changed drastically too. UK citizens in every region are starting to turn their back on Brexit, for good reason.
The latest polls show that 80 per cent of the readers of an Irish newspaper reject sacrificing Northern Ireland peace for Brexit.
The majority of Welsh voters voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, but now the balance has shifted, with 51 per cent supporting remaining according to YouGov. More people support a People’s Vote than do not.
Most importantly, it is our youth’s future at stake – there are almost 1.5 million young people who were not old enough to vote in June 2016, whose future was decided for without their say. They must be given the chance to have their voice heard.
The Brexit vote is out of date and people are now so much more informed and can see clearer by the day that the Brexit Emperor has no clothes.
That is why people travelled from all across the country to count themselves among the 700,000 who marched on London last weekend calling for a People’s Vote on the government’s deal, if there is one, no deal, or the option to continue to remain in the EU.
The reality is that the EU and the whole world want us to continue to remain.
A botched political process two and half years ago is now leading the country down a stray path, one that will ultimately hurt us all – politically, socially and economically.
The UK has too great a standing in the world for it to all be thrown away by a blind Brexit. Instead, let’s make sure we set a clear path – our future depends on it – and if the best option for our consumers, our businesses and our economy is to remain, then we must make that decision.
Lord Bilimoria is the Founder and Chairman of Cobra Beer, and the Founding Chairman of the UK-India Business Council.