MP Chalk makes Brexit meeting despite bike mishap
Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk got up after a fall from his bike, dusted himself down and carried on to a meeting of business people to discuss Brexit.
And he was well enough to joke about it despite having a nasty looking contusion under his right eye and on his upper lip, saying: “If I say anything you don’t like, it’s because I’m concussed.”
But he and his Gloucester counterpart Richard Graham were in the main optimistic about the opportunities Brexit offered to businesses in Gloucester, with Mr Graham saying Britain might have an advantage over the EU, after Brexit, in drawing up new trade agreements with emerging markets.
The meeting came at an apposite time, just a day after the High Court struck a blow to Prime Minister Theresa may’s plans to invoke Article 50 by government fiat, saying MPs should have a vote on starting the process.
One of the themes of questions the many business people in the audience was the damaging effects of uncertainty – uncertainty with trading partners and of possible investors.
Mr Graham said that there were 36 countries with whom the EU had negotiated trade deals.
He said: “I’m sure we’ll be pencilling in transitional arrangements with all of those countries.
“But the big issue is the countries that don’t have trade agreements with the EU, like Indonesia and the Philippines. The Free Trade agreement between Canada and the EU was very nearly scuppered by the parliament in Wallonia [in Belgium].
“I think it’s likely that in negotiating agreements with these countries that the UK could be swifter and fleeter of foot than the EU.”
Alex Chalk, like Mr Graham, voted to remain in the EU, but said there were opportunities to be gained now that we would be leaving.
And both MPs said that the high Court decision yesterday made things trickier and slower but they were both confident that Britain would exit the union in due course.
He said: “The worst case scenario is that nothing gets sorted after we leave and that we have to trade under World Trade Organisation rules, the tariffs are generally four or five per cent. That’s much less than the one-off discount the 18 per cent in the pound has given exporters.”
“The fundamentals of the British economy are sound, we have record levels of employment and a super competitive tax system” and said attempts by the French to ‘poach’ the UK’s banking sector were doomed to fail.
As the meeting hosted by Ian Mean and also featuring Chris Southworth from the International Chamber of Commerce wound up Mr Chalk set off to his next appointment. Still on his bicycle.