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On Wednesday last week, the Prime Minster wrote to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, giving formal notification, under the terms of Article 50, of the intention of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Since the referendum held on 23rd June last year, the government, with the support of parliament, has worked to deliver on the expressed will of the people of this country that we should leave the European Union, and develop a new relationship with our neighbours, based on our shared interests in promoting trade and developing our mutual security.

 

Now that the formal process of leaving the EU has begun, there will be two years of intense negotiations before we finally leave at the end of March 2019. However, the purpose of these discussions is not to determine whether we leave, that has already been decided. Instead, we want to try and agree up front our future relationship with the EU, before we become a non member.

 

We want an agreement that promotes free trade across Europe, and that is clearly in the interests of all of the countries of Europe. We want continued close co-operation on defence, security and intelligence; the services we rely on to keep all of our people safe. I would also hope that our new relationship with the EU will allow us to continue to support schemes that offer a clear benefit to British people, like those which facilitate university students studying in other European countries. However, as a nation that will no longer be a member of either the EU or the European Single Market, we will have the freedom to negotiate our own trade deals with other countries, and to create our own system for managing migrations into the UK. This should mean that people who are coming here to work, particularly those bringing skills and expertise that we require, will still be able to do so easily. However, people will not be able to come to the UK from other European countries in the expectation of claiming benefits whilst they look for work, or take up low paying, and low skilled jobs.

 

It is important that we adopt a system of managing the free flow of goods to and from the continent, when we leave the EU. We do not want to go back to the bad old days, before the creation of the Single Market, when lorries would be routinely held up by randomised customs checks. The level of road freight now is such that it would cause long and unnecessary delays if this were to happen. The Port of Dover and Eurotunnel need to be able to keep the lorries moving, and there is no reason why this should not remain the case. We can have checks in-country on imported goods if necessary, and there will be clear sanctions for people who are found to be in breach of the rules. It does mean though, that the creation of new lorry parking areas, like the Operation Stack relief lorry park, will give us important new infrastructure to handle delays, should they occur.

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