Besides collectively asking for a Brexit transition period, industries are also looking at what comes after it. After all, a transition is not much use if it simply postpones disaster by a couple of years. In looking beyond this period, each industry is looking at its own interests and are not yet acting together, despite their interests being rather similar. Essentially, they all want the status quo for their sector.
The chemical industry is arguing for a “bespoke deal” for their sector after Brexit, given that they are highly integrated across Europe, they have cross-border supply chains, their expert workforce is highly mobile and they don’t want to diverge from the common rules and standards applied across Europe.
The automobile industry – car makers – also want a bespoke deal, for similar reasons.
Aviation wants a bespoke deal.
So do universities, pharmaceuticals, and many farmers.
So does engineering, film-making and the financial sector.
All of these sectors of the UK economy – and more – recognise that they face a serious financial risk if we don’t keep the status quo in their field. That in turn means fewer jobs and also a loss of tax revenue to fund our public services.
Industry is often reluctant to raise its head above the parapet when it comes to challenging Conservative governments, often preferring a quiet word in the ear of sympathetic ministers. In this case, that is simply insufficient. The fragmentation of the government and of politics over Brexit, the vital importance of a successful outcome for the country as a whole, and the long-term consequences of the decisions that will be taken, all these require vigorous action by the sectors concerned, by employers and trade unions, by producers and customers, and by experts and the public.
If individual sectors keep on lobbying the government separately, hoping to be spared individually, they will sink together. Their interests lie in a general deal that keeps the status quo at least in terms of the customs union and the single market, and in opposing any bad Brexit deal. They need to work together and they need to speak out, loudly and clearly.