Brexit emphasis ‘now has to be on growth’ says Lord Hague

Economic growth should be given priority over the number of people coming to work in Britain when Brexit negotiations start, Lord Hague has claimed.

Lord Hague
Lord Hague

Lord Hague, who lives at Cyfronydd Hall, between Welshpool and Llanfair Caereinion, has also suggested that the leaders of all parties, prominent MPs, and leaders of the UK's devolved governments are invited to help develop the approach to Brexit.

Writing in the Telegraph, Lord Hague, who was leader of the Conservative party from 1997 to 2001 and foreign secretary from 2010 to 2014, said "on the face of it, Theresa May and her slightly reshuffled Cabinet face nearly insurmountable constraints and dangers".

Using his column Lord Hague argues that the country cannot remain in the single market, and that work permits should be introduced for EU workers, although with no benefits if they lose their job.

He said: "What could be the way through the Brexit conundrum? First, start the negotiations on time next week. There’s plenty to discuss, including the Northern Ireland border, the sequencing of the talks, the financial liabilities of the UK, and so on.

"Second, change the emphasis given to the UK’s objectives, with a clear indication that economic growth will have priority over controlling the number of people entering the country for work. This would show a readiness to accommodate the views of Scottish Conservatives, business organisations and, to some degree, opposition parties, within certain parameters.

"Those parameters would be something like the following. This is about delivering Brexit, not wriggling out of the democratic decision of last year’s referendum. The Government believes it is essential in the light of that to become a sovereign nation, not subject to European court judgements and with control of our own borders. That is what millions of voters, and the bulk of the Conservative Party – still the largest party in the nation – would insist upon.

"That means we can’t just stay in the single market, and have the EU make all our decisions for us while we have no say over them. We can’t therefore be in the European Economic Area like Norway, although we could possibly join that for two years if that could be agreed as a sensible staging post for our withdrawal from the EU. But we can negotiate the “bold and ambitious free trade agreement” that the British people would like to see if we take a pragmatic approach to how we use the control we will have won back.

"There are various ways of doing this. One of them is to bring in work permits for workers from the EU but agree to grant them to anyone who gets a job in Britain, unless they have a criminal record, or extremist connections. They would not receive any support if out of work, and the same rights would have to apply to British citizens throughout the EU. This approach, just one significant step short of free movement, would set the stage for a promising trade negotiation, and avoid damaging our own industries relying on European workers, from banking to fruit picking."

Lord Hague also said that while unlikely the Government should try to reach out to other parties.

He said: "Call in the CBI, the Institute of Directors, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses, the TUC, the first ministers of the devolved governments, and the leaders of all the opposition parties – yes, even Corbyn – leading MPs of all parties, and say: “If you are willing to discuss how to make this work within these parameters, come in and we will be open to your views. There isn’t a perfect solution, but on how to conduct a transitional period and how to help the economy through Brexit as a priority we will work with you. Otherwise, we will just have to try to do this without you.

"Could such a process work? It is unlikely all parties would genuinely enter into it, and utterly improbable that there would be agreement all round. Yet there might well be some common ground on how to balance trade and migration, and even if there wasn’t, the Government would have changed both the style and substance of how it approaches this most complex of issues. It would have to be done in the next few weeks to have any hope of being in time for key stages of the exit talks."

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