I don’t want to bore you all with more blurb about the general election, suffice to say I think you will all know that there has been an unprecedented result with labour having its worst performance since 1935. Boris Johnson gained a majority of 80 in the new parliament, the highest since Margaret Thatcher in 1987. If you are a Tory supporter then you can be all smiles, you won constituencies such as Don Valley, Wrexham and Leigh, all of which had been held by Labour since the early 1920s. If you are a Labour supporter, then all I can say is that it could have been worse. The exit poll predicted you would only win 191 seats and you gained 203. Crucially you won the key non-marginal of Putney off the Tories, there is always a silver lining. A statement however perhaps proved incorrect by the performance of the Lib Dems, if you voted for them there is not a lot I can say to make your day better. Worse than that they were left leaderless by just 149 votes in Dunbartonshire East.
Nicola Sturgeon however yet again managed to demonstrate continued success in Scotland and any SNP supporters must have mixed feeling. They saw their position strengthen in Scotland and yet weaken dramatically in influence in the UK in an overall environment where their voice has much less influence. I am not qualified to comment on the politics of Northern Ireland other than to say that outside the Brexit discussions, there appears to have been some interesting changes in balance between Nationalists and Republicans, again demonstrating the fundamental changes that have been seen in this election.
Whatever your political persuasion, there is one clear message that comes out of this election, Brexit will get done. You could argue that Scotland hasn’t voted for it, or that actually this is more a vote against Jeremy Corbyn personally than on Brexit itself, and you may be right. Crucially those arguments will now have no impact on what happens. The chaos we have seen over the last couple of years, where prime ministers have led with no mandate, lost votes in parliament without resigning and been sent with cap in hand to beg for extensions from the EU has now come firmly to an end. The arrogance of MPs in stalling any Brexit deal in opposition to the will of the people by wrenching control of parliamentary activity from the government has now been given a clear statement by the British public. We have decided and we want Brexit to be implemented and you will do this on our behalf.
Old boundaries of political class have been washed away by the anger turned on the previous parliament. The people have reclaimed democracy in an environment where democracy had been distorted by the political elite, arguing over what the people really wanted in order to fulfil their own agenda. The people have clearly stated now that they know what they want and it is Brexit – quickly!
Although I personally have been a Remainer and always will be from a historic belief in stability in Europe I am also a strong believer and advocate of democracy. I have been repeatedly disappointed over the past eighteen months as I have watched our once respected democracy demonstrate its fragility and undermine its constitutional justification over and over again. Churchill said that “democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others”. We have seen its flaws over the past few years with the politicians manipulating the system to deliver their own agendas rather than those demanded by the people. What we saw on the 12th December was a massive realigning of this power from those political elites back to the people. They ignored class boundaries, they ignored old loyalties, they even ignored their grandmas turning in their grave and voted clearly for what they believed to be right. Maybe democracy still has a chance in the UK. It is now down to Boris Johnson to help us win back our belief and respect for our democracy. He is not the advocate I would have expected or wished for, but maybe his speech acknowledging the support he gained from long-standing labour supporters hovering with pencils over their crosses in the polling booths shows that he realises that this is an opportunity for a new political environment. Not one based on old class boundaries but on new varied policies and political debates that could in the future make our democracy stronger. Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one!
So what does this mean for Brexit?
WE can be as certain as we could ever possibly be that we will see Brexit occur now on 31st January 2020. This does not mean that everything will change on that date. Rather there is intended to be a transition period which is expected to be until 31st December 2020. During this period we will effectively remain in the EU in all but name, but crucially a deal has been done which we will move to negotiate in detail during this period. This may now change slightly, given the mandate delivered to Boris Johnson, but one thing that will remain robust is that any period will not be extended beyond 31st December 2020. Due to this certainty, as a country, we can now start to properly plan dates of transition. Even though we may still be in discussions and negotiations with the EU during this period, we can be confident that everything will be done and agreed before the 31st December date in 2020 and it will be the last date where changes will occur.
This means that Hellmann can now start to plan for a Brexit situation, but crucially also HMRC will be able to provide absolute details of what the customs requirements will actually be from a set date so that we can prepare and ramp up in preparation for that date. This gives us much better opportunities for developing our customs clearance team in an organised and planned way, but also to ensure that we can meet the requirements of our customers once Brexit goes live. Until however, we get that clarification from HMRC and on whether there will be a date earlier than 31st December 2020, we will continue to prepare with the best knowledge we have.