In a year’s time, we are due to leave the EU, yet the chasm to be bridged over the coming 12 months is still vast.
The government is no closer to providing the certainty that businesses need, and lacks the skill and cohesion to make progress in the most complex negotiations this country has ever faced.
At the heart of Brexit must be a commitment to protect jobs, our economy and our rights, which is why I welcome Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement that he wants to see a Brexit which keeps the UK in a customs union.
By consolidating political support to try to curtail Brexit’s disastrous trajectory, it is also the only way to protect our environmental standards and safeguard our economy.
We hear repeated ‘green promises’ from Michael Gove and other cabinet members to preserve our farming, countryside and wildlife, yet these are empty words if we cannot maintain adequate regulation and would be laughable if the implications were not so serious.
How can we keep the environmental standards which we have developed over years, when we have no choice but to accept the ‘deals’ offered by the US, which place price and profit – and nothing else – at their core?
We will have little option but to accept chlorinated chicken or genetically modified crops, and our own producers and manufacturers will be forced to drive standards down in their own bid to compete.
Theresa May is being held over the ‘hard Brexit barrel’ by her own party but she is equally paralysed by her alliance with the DUP. Unable to square the circle, the government is resorting to meaninglessness such as “ambitious managed divergence” in a vain attempt at distraction.
Yet businesses can’t be run with empty words.
They need some certainty and sense of direction, which is elusive. As time drags on with a government unable to lead, the room for manoeuvre shrinks.
This is a government that is working to its own self-imposed deadline, which means as the months pass by our position weakens, and the terms of any ‘deal’ are likely to get worse. The EU can play for time.
But the consequences for our larger firms and employers are already starting to bite, and we need to see some positive action now.
I recently visited Albania, a rapidly growing economy and a candidate for EU membership and has the potential to be a new trading partner, and a friend for Britain. We must not turn away from Europe, but work towards a close future relationship with the EU based on our shared values, and the mutual benefits of our neighbouring economies.
I respect the referendum result and will fight for a Brexit deal that protects jobs, the economy and rights.