The UK will leave the EU at the end of next week and this morning Sajid Javid , the chancellor, is attending his last Ecofin, the regular meeting for EU finance ministers, as a member. In a clip for broadcasters on his way, he was asked about the row generated by his interview with the Financial Times (paywall) at the weekend in which he insisted that that the UK would not stay aligned to EU rules after Brexit. He made two main points.
- Javid claimed that business had had ample warning about the government plan not to remain aligned to EU rules. Asked about the reaction to his FT interview, in which he said “there will not be alignment, we will not be a rule taker, we will not be in the single market and we will not be in the customs union”, he said:
We have been very clear now for many months, and of course in our recent election as well, as we leave the EU we will not be in the single market, we will not be in the customs union, and we will not be rule takers.
At the same time, of course, we want a deep, comprehensive free trade agreement, and that’s what we are working on.
This is not wholly true because there were times during the general election campaign when Boris Johnson implied the opposite. For example, a few days before polling day, on a visit to a factory near Sunderland in the north east, Johnson was repeatedly asked, by workers and journalists, about the impact of his Brexit plan on companies like Nissan. He insisted that companies reliant on EU supply chains had nothing to fear. The Newcastle Chronicle has accused Javid of going back on an election pledge made by Johnson.
- Javid dismissed suggestions the government ‘no alignment’ policy would damage business. When it was put to him that some firms thought his stance was irresponsible, he claimed that the government was working closely with business. And when asked if his comment to the FT about how some firms would not benefit from Brexit meant the government was prepared to “sacrifice some elements of manufacturing and industry”, he replied:
No, not at all. We look forward with confidence as we strike that new free trade agreement with our European friends, as we strike new free trade agreements across the world, it will be a very important time for British business. And I can see a British economy that continues to go from strength to strength.
This is slightly different from the message he gave to the FT. Speaking to the FT, he said: “There will be an impact on business one way or the other, some will benefit, some won’t.”