So the Government has at last conceded that it must produce a plan for Brexit. But that plan must not be a mere timetable accompanied by platitudes about securing the best, “red white and blue” deal for Britain.
It must spell out what kind of deal that we want to aim for.
Britain has to make some fundamental choices as to what it wants to try to secure:
• full participation in the single market, inside the customs union, and following its rules OR outside, facing barriers to our main export market and a lengthy disruption to our trade with the rest of the world
• retaining our participation in useful European agencies such as the Medicines Agency, the Civil Aviation agency, the Food Safety agency and others OR setting up our own separate agencies at significant cost and with great duplication.
• moving rapidly to the exit door in 2019 OR seeking a transitional period to have time to make new arrangements with Europe and other countries
• challenging the principle of free movement OR seeking safeguards within it
• keeping our involvement in EU research programmes OR leaving them and finding new resources for our universities
• stepping outside of cross border police cooperation and Europol OR keeping access to it
These and other key choices should be made, after full debate, by the House of Commons. The Government has no blank cheque to make all these decisions without reference to our elected representatives.
Furthermore, they should be costed. Some of these alternatives have potentially huge economic consequences. We should be aware of what they are before, not after, making what will often be unpalatable choices.
And if it turns out that Brexit, far from bringing the benefits that were promised by the Leave Campaign, is in fact a high cost, damaging exercise, however we do it, then the Commons might consider acknowledging that the British people have a right to reconsider.
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