Message from Cllr Phil Knowles - East Midlands Regional Coordinator for LDEG

April 24, 2018 7:43 PM
By Philip Knowles

Dear All, Phil Knowles

A year is a long time in politics but every day certainly counts.David Chalmers, a fellow member of the Member of the LDEG executive, has written the below letter to his MP about the vote in the Commons on Thursday about remaining in the Customs Union. Perhaps you might want to email something similar to your MP reflecting the adverse consequences of Brexit within your area.

You can find your MP here:

Dear MP,

On Thursday you will have a chance to vote on a motion for the UK to stay in the EU customs union after Brexit. I am emailing you now to ask you to vote in favour of this motion on my behalf.

The first and most important reason why we need to be in the customs union is to protect our industry. As I'm sure you are aware, the CBI has made a strong case for our continued membership, with Carolyn Fairbairn making the case that such a relationship is a 'practical, real-world answer' that is best for jobs, wages and living standards after the transition period ends. The purpose of a customs union is to remove tariffs between countries and so cut administrative burdens as goods move across borders, which is why the CBI is so supportive.

Tariffs can be sizeable enough to wipe out a company's profit margin and destroy jobs. Fore example, Honda, whose EU assembly plant is in Swindon, is one of the largest employers in our region. They have made clear that membership of the customs union is essential to their business. For it, and many similar assembly plants, time-consuming checks and paperwork, as components were forced to pass across currently open borders, would cut its margins and potentially make them unviable. If we leave the customs union they are likely over time to shift their operations inside the customs union. The money already invested in its hi-tech Swindon plant would be an incentive for the company to stay put in the medium term, but when it comes to new investment, the lure of their existing assembly plant in Gebze, Turkey would become irresistible.

The customs union is also vital for the many food and farming businesses that our economy in the South West depends on. Outside the customs union our farmers would be faced with paying the external tariffs on the huge proportion of the exports that go to other European countries. When margins are so tight and competition so fierce this is likely to mean the end of many farm livelihoods. I am entirely unconvinced that this trade can be replaced by trade with Australia or Argentina, both because of the additional costs associated with transport to distant markets and because many of the countries that the government proposed trade deals with are already major food exporters.

Finally, we have the question of the Irish peace process. I am sure you agree that the achievement of peace in the island of Ireland should not be put at risk by the process of Brexit. Staying in the customs union would make the issue of the Irish border less problematic in the Brexit negotiations. Brussels has made clear that it is entirely unconvinced by the so-called technical solution proposed by the government and that this will mean the need for a hard border unless the UK stays in the customs union.

Please do not be distracted by the argument over whether it should be the existing customs union or a new but similar arrangement. It is clear that for Brussels to agree such an arrangement the UK would be required to meet the conditions of the customs union as it currently exists: a bespoke deal is simply not on the table.

I am emailing you now to ask you to have the courage to vote for a strong future for your constituency and our national economy. Please vote for the UK to stay part of the customs union on Thursday.


Full Postal Address

Telephone Number

Cllr Phil Knowles

07710 026392