Brexit – A bird’s-eye view from the Humber as Chamber visits European Parliament
THE Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce led a delegation of business leaders to the European Parliament last week to hear first-hand from MEPs how the Brexit negotiations were progressing and also took part in a Channel 4 documentary which was being filmed on the subject.
The Chamber has maintained a neutral stance since the referendum but last week we looked more closely into the detailed issues on a trip to Brussels.
The delegation of Chamber members led by Chamber President Phil Ascough, Vice President Sally Booker, Chief Executive Ian Kelly and Board member Mike Whitehead was given a tour of the Parliament in a city which employs over 30,000 people to look after its 732 MEPs, 73 of which come from the UK.
It was in the detailed discussions with several of those MEPs that business leaders got the best close-up on how Brexit is developing and how it is perceived, both in the UK and Europe.
Jane Collins the Selby based UKIP MEP for Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire for example, not surprisingly believed the UK’s future will be brightest once we’ve left Europe, but agreed that the movement of foreign workers and goods through our Humber ports had to be as frictionless as possible with any extra red tape kept to a minimum.
Another session with Wim Van de Camp, an MEP from the Netherlands, provided a refreshingly different and honest view of Brexit from the European perspective. He didn’t believe that the current negotiations would lead to Britain leaving the EU by March 2019, suggesting a long transition period would be required with a chance for another British general election to overturn the current verdict. He also admitted that the EU would have to be more realistic if Brexit did happen and that many remaining members may have to fill the gap in contributions currently received from the UK, which is the biggest contributor to the EU after Germany.
Chamber Chief Executive Dr Ian Kelly was struck by how much hinged on one simple issue – the money! “Our European colleagues want a €60-billion (circa £53-billion) divorce. Our current contributions are around £13-billion a year, of which about £3-billion comes back to Britain annually, leaving a net UK contribution to Europe of £10-billion annually.”
Dr Kelly felt much would depend on the UK publics’ reaction to having to pay four more years subscriptions – the £53-billion, versus the promise of then saving £10-billion net contribution for ever after that.
As the Chamber left Brussels, a new fast ball was bowled at local MP and Brexit lead negotiator David Davis MP. Not from the All Party Parliamentary Committee on the EU chaired by Hilary Benn with Stephen Kinnock who were sat at the table opposite whilst Chamber leaders had breakfast at their hotel, but by the Irish Government pushing the EU to challenge the sovereign boundaries of the Northern Irish border – Politics!
Thankfully, it was bck to business for us.
Phil Ascough and Sally Booker with MEP Wim Van de Camp from the Netherlands.