Conservatives and Labour ‘should agree common position on Brexit’

Rob Johnston

The two main parties should agree a common negotiating position on Brexit, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce has said.

Chamber chief executive Rob Johnston is arguing that Conservatives and Labour must put aside their differences on Europe if the Brexit negotiations are to succeed.

Reacting to the General Election result, which saw the Conservatives lose their majority but remain the largest party, he said: “It looks as if Theresa May will be able to form a Government with the support of the Democratic Unionists.

“But it is difficult to see how a government with such a slender majority will be able to enter the Brexit negotiations with any credibility or authority.

“It is absolutely vital for Britain’s future prosperity that these negotiations are a success.

“The answer is for the two main parties to agree a common position on Brexit, even if they can’t agree on anything else.

“Only then will Europe take us seriously.”

He added: “The indecisive election result reflects the national psyche – people are in two minds.

“Certainly, business doesn’t want to see a hard Brexit with export tariffs and barriers to recruiting migrant Labour.

“Theresa May, or whoever succeeds her if she steps down, has to recognise that and start listening to business.

“One of our concerns before the election was that neither of the main parties is listening to business. That has to change.”

Johnston  believes that the uncertainty caused by a hung Parliament – and the potential for another General Election within a year –will be damaging for business and the economy.

He said: “Businesses don’t like uncertainty. They are less likely to invest and that is bad for jobs and growth. It may mean the next move in interest rates will be down rather than up.

“But there are positives. A potentially damaging second Scottish independence referendum is now very unlikely.”