Christine Jardine MP: Last week’s Commons debate confirms natural majority for the customs union


From the back of an agricultural vehicle used to transport shooters, Christine Jardine MP addresses the gathered throng in a barn in South Fawley, North Berkshire

Well, it was certainly a venue to remember. Yesterday, deep in the North Berkshire countryside, in a barn on a farm in South Fawley, local people gathered to hear Christine Jardine MP, who had driven all the way from Edinburgh for the occasion. In order to project her voice over the seated audience, Christine mounted the back of handy large agricultural vehicle. She said she felt a bit like President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who famously addressed campaign crowds from the back of a train. (And yes, we know – “Jumping on the bandwagon…” – we got there before you).

Judith Bunting hosted the event, which was entitled “The Power of Creativity and Brexit“.

Christine Jardine is the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. She gave an excellent speech on the damage which a hard Brexit will do to the Creative Industries in the UK. She reminded us that creative industries in the UK are worth £92 billion a year or 9% of the country’s gross domestic product. Every time we watch or listen to something, or attend the theatre, look a sculpture, photograph or painting, we are witnessing the work of the creative industries, she said.

Christine emphasised how tourism is very closely tied to the creative industries. Events such as Glastonbury, the Proms, the Edinburgh Festival and the Isle of Wight Festival are part of the creative industries, but also draw in many visitors to the UK. Together the two industries bring in more money to the country than any other export category, including gas and oil.

She then went on to outline the likely impact of a hard Brexit on the creative industries. All halls and venues will be impacted. There is not a single performance which doesn’t need musicians from outside of the UK. There is a possibility that UK musicians touring the EU will need to obtain 27 visas, as well as licences for equipment, tools etc.

Christine said that it is not just our enjoyment of the creative industries which may be effected, but the economy and jobs, and the narrowing of opportunity for youngsters.

In a rallying call, Christine said that as a party, the Lib Dems need to be sure that we find a way to help out the creative industries. We have to be the voice of “remaining” but also remind people of our basic liberal principles in areas, such as the welfare state.

Above all, Christine said that staying in the customs union is “critical”. She said that it is debatable whether people voted for coming out of the customs union.

She mentioned that two recent opinion polls showed that people want a final vote on the Brexit deal.

She also said that it was very interesting looking at which Tories showed up for last week’s non-binding debate on the customs union in the Commons. Most Tories stayed away. There were a few Brexiteers, but a significant number of Tory remainers there. This confirms, said Christine, that there is a natural majority for staying in the customs union.

I was very impressed by Christine’s speech. In particular, she very carefully measured her words. For example, she chose her words very carefully on the subject of the possible impact of Brexit on the Good Friday Agreement in Ireland. I think Christine’s background as a journalist means that she is naturally careful and fair with her speech. I also liked the fact that Christine acknowledged that there might be some “leave” voters in the audience.

Berkshire-based and world famous sculptor, Johannes Von Stumm, preceded Christine with a passionate speech as a long-standing resident of the UK, originally from Germany. Afterwards, the gathering move to his adjacent studio for a sumptuous tea surrounded by his very impressive sculptures and equipment.

Johannes Von Stumm - Mother and Son, Father and Daughter

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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4 Comments

  • Ethicsgradient 1st May '18 - 4:14pm

    Hi,
    I’ve kept away from commenting on brexit as it seems discussions are just rehashes of previous positions with nothing actually changing.

    I fee the need to comment on this article.

    I was, am and will be in support of leaving the EU and I mean the whole of the EU, single market, customs union and political structures.

    I do not detect or feel any change in the wider public for some for of modified leave/not leave of remaining in the customs union.

    At the heart of all of this is the notion of the right to self-determination for a area. region or people. This itself feels a very liberal ideal.

    My vote to leave and one with I find is reflective of everyone who I speak to who also voted leave (yes I except the problems of opinion echo chambers that can happen) is we voted to leave to have the right to determine and control our boarders (Immigration was not an issue for me) our trading relationships with the whole world and our political relationships with the world without inhibition from other factors. Effectively sovereignty of an independent country.

    Remaining in a customs union that prevents the UK for being able to negotiate and enact trade deals independently would not be acceptable to myself.

    I would be happy and have always been happy to replace the customs union+single market access with a separate comprehensive UK-EU trade agreement. I don not accept that this is difficult to achieve. It is only made difficult if politicians/vested interests decide to make it difficult.

    I would say, out in the country the support for a customs union which restricts the UK from striking independent trade agreements would not have majority support.

  • Ethicsgradient 2nd May '18 - 1:31am

    @Paul Walter.

    Yes a bilateral new UK-EU customs union would be very acceptable provided it allows freedom to create other trade agreements with 3rd parties which does not require some sort of redress back to the EU. That is what people who voted to leave want. Effectively a bespoke free-trade UK-EU agreement.

    With regards the various quotes, many of which are taken out of context; well that is no constructive discussion at all.

    I really think that politicians are the problem here. I’d say the people of the UK and the people of various EU counties want a friendly free-trade arrangement. It seems only those who are paid to be professional talkers seem to want to make it difficult.

    People what decision makers to be doers not professional wafflers. One of my interests at the moment is SpaceX, blue origin and the commercial space developments. Nothing would happen if Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos sat there just talking and saying “ohh its all so hard and difficult, I just don’t know?”. No Those who change the world go and say ” this is what were are going to do” , then get on and do it.

    I’ve been around for a while now. Nearly all politicians do not effect any actual change, they just get paid to talk a lot around issues. People who affect change just get on and do it. Brexit is such a thing. It is a disruption, a shake up, those who are bold enough can take the chances created. Politicians move aside.

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