Thursday, 7 July 2022 – 11:36

Brexit continues to dominate Conference Season

After the Labour party conference last week, which saw the party edge ever-closer toward a so-called People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal, Brexit also appears to be dominating the Conservative party conference. 

The party appears to be taking a tougher line in regards to Brexit as compared to Labour.

The Minister responsible for Brexit, Dominic Raab, has told the EU to “get real” an reach a deal with the UK.  

He raised the stakes for a Hard Brexit by declaring that the UK would rather leave the EU without a deal rather than be “bullies” into signing a “one sided” arrangement. 

Speaking on Monday at the Conservative party conference, Mr Raab argued that whilst the government’s proposed deal was not “perfect”, Tory Eurosceptics must get behind it but admitted that if the EU tried to “lock us in” via backdoor membership of either the Customs Union or Single Market, the UK would have “no choice” but leave without a deal. 

Brexit is looking to dominate this years Conservative party conference in two key ways. 

  • Firstly, and most obviously Ministers will call for members and MPs to rally around the Theresa May’s Brexit proposals. This is already occurred to certain extent. 
  • The Chancellor, Philip Hammond also weighed in, arguing that the EU would be proved wrong for mocking the Prime Minister’s Chequers plan. EU leaders have repeated rejected this plan because they believe it would undermine the principles of the Single Market allowing the UK to “cherry pick” from EU law.
  • For the EU, the free movement of goods also means people, but the PM has continually argued that the UK will taken back control of immigration laws. Brexiteers also feel that it keeps the UK too close to Brussels, not fulfilling key promises of the Leave campaign.
  • Priti Patel, former Secretary of State for International Development, added to this confusion, arguing that the PMs Chequers Deal is “a deal that stands in defiance to our democracy”, reflection the sentiment of Brexiteers. 

However, on a secondary level, party members, MPs and indeed Ministers are expected to keep calm and carry on, to grin and bear Brexit until conference, and indeed the process itself is over. 

  • Whilst the division are evident, the Conservatives are also expected to discuss their identity, their USP, their offer to the electorate more generally post Brexit. Whilst not explicitly referencing process in which the UK leaves the EU, this concern with the Party’s domestic policies reflects their concern that Brexit is distracting the Government from making process on the domestic front, allowing Labour to capitalise on issues such as housing, social care and the NHS.
  • This was also highlighted by the Chancellor who called on the party to “regenerate capitalism” and to show themselves as “worth of the privilege” of governing post-Brexit. Whilst this is partly a response to Labour, it also represents an attempt to prevent the party being totally consumed by Brexit, and to reinvent the party that up to now has been concerned with the successful implementation of the Chequers Plan. 

Whatever the outcome of this more broad thinking, it is clear that Brexit is still the topic of the day, and with former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arriving in Birmingham tomorrow, it can be safe to assume that Brexit will continue to dominate the Party’s thinking

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