TWO years ago, Yorkshire voted to leave the European Union. Like in many parts of the country, that vote was decisive but also close.
Fundamentally, the people of Yorkshire voted with a spirit of optimism and self-confidence. They chose to grasp the opportunities created by Brexit – opportunities to take back control over our borders, our laws and our money and the chance to forge a new way for ourselves in the world.
As they took that decision, people also understood that leaving the EU didn’t mean leaving Europe. We still want to trade and cooperate on security and other areas, where the mutual interest is strong. As a Conservative Government that believes in job creation and backing business, we will deliver Brexit in a way that protects and promotes our economic interests.
That is why, at Chequers earlier this month, the Cabinet set out its blueprint for Brexit – a bold and ambitious plan which allows the UK to become an independent, sovereign nation once more, while preserving and building on our close, historic ties with Europe.
Our plan ensures we protect our close, and interconnected, trading relationship between UK and European businesses, workers and consumers. At the same time, we will expand and deepen our trade with countries around the world.
At the heart of our approach is a proposal for a free trade area for goods between the UK and the EU, which will ensure that companies, like those I will visit in Yorkshire today, can continue to trade freely with the European Union.
A common rule-book on goods and agricultural products will provide manufacturers and producers with certainty about the regulatory regimes they face. It will also avoid friction at the border, safeguard our complex integrated supply chains and protect jobs not just here, but across the UK and the EU.
We remain committed to protecting the high environmental standards and workers’ rights that we championed both before and while we were a member of the EU.
Equally, in leaving the EU, we will acquire new freedoms, including the all important ability to set our own tariffs on goods from around the world.
With new flexibilities in the fast-growing service sector, the UK will be able to step out into the world and capitalise on new opportunities, signing comprehensive trade deals.
After March 29, 2019, those new flexibilities will be in place and the UK will be able to negotiate and sign its own free trade deals across the world – opening new doors for Yorkshire’s entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Since 2010, 87,000 small businesses have set up in Yorkshire and the Chequers plan will ensure that we can provide the right conditions for Yorkshire’s manufacturers, innovators and entrepreneurs of the future to sell their goods and services around the world.
Brexit shouldn’t be seen in isolation. Combined with our Industrial Strategy and our Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy, we will make sure that future generations in Yorkshire get the training they need to succeed in a dynamic and fast-changing world.
And as we take back control of our borders and control immigration, we will still want to attract the brightest and best who want to come here and contribute to our society through work and study.
Free movement will end. But, businesses will still need to transfer staff to offices in other countries for short periods of time. We also want families to be able to travel to the EU for their summer holidays without a visa, and for students to still have the opportunity to study at universities across the continent. We will agree a common sense approach that works for business while controlling immigration and asserting stronger security checks at the border.
The Government’s plan for Brexit was designed with the same spirit and confidence that saw the people of Yorkshire vote to leave the EU. It is a practical and pragmatic plan that seeks to maximise our trade with Europe, and grasp the new global opportunities that leaving the EU presents.
Last week, I travelled to Brussels to present our proposals to my counterpart Michel Barnier. My message was clear. We propose an ambitious, innovative and detailed plan to build a new relationship together for the future.
It is time to intensify and and speed up the negotiations, so I will be holding regular meetings with Michel Barnier during the summer. Of course, negotiation involves two sides. Now, is the time for the EU to extend the same ambition and spirit of pragmatism to the UK. With that, I am confident we will forge a good deal - one that delivers for both the UK and the EU.
Dominic Raab MP is Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.