Mike Gapes MP discusses the ongoing Brexit negotiations with CNN's Richard Quest.
QUEST: So, every round. This was round two of the negotiations. Thank you. The two sides have agreed to meet every month before March 2019, which marks the two-year Article 50 deadline from UK's notification to quit. So, on round two, seconds away, let's look at the issue that they dealt with so far. And so far, the U.K. isn't managing to dodge too many blows as the negotiations are under way.
First of all, the Brexit costs, the amount the U.K. must pay. The EU has got it somewhere at $115 billion. But Barnier says he needs vital details from Britain. Of course, your aware, some in Britain believe that there shouldn't be a Brexit bill. But the general acceptance is there will be a bill to pay. What they're arguing about is just how much.
And then you have the very serious question of citizens' rights. The acquired rights of EU nationals in the U.K. and U.K. nationals elsewhere. Citizens' rights, Barnier says, it's a fundamental divergence of the opinion. Then finally, the EU says progress must be made on these issues, before they start talking about a new trade deal. At the same time business remains worried. The British Chamber of Commerce is calling for a more sustained and some structured discussion on Brexit and Citigroup confirms it may move business operations two Frankfurt. And on last night's program you had the Small Business Federation saying that they want greater clarity as well.
This is a negotiation that could go right down to the line. Mike Gapes is the Labour MP, he joins me from London. We're watching these negotiations, there's a very tight timeline, but as the minister, as David Davis says, there won't be progress or incremental improvement in every round, will there?
MIKE GAPES, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, LABOUR PARTY: Well, actually the timeline is probably such that they won't be a comprehensive agreement in time for March of 2019. And they're going to have to work out transitional arrangements, which could last several years what the government calls interim arrangements.
[16:10:00] But the fact is that the intricate details of 43 years of integration of the U.K. economy, and regulations through the environment and there's other things, are so complicated, it can't all be sorted out in the short time.
QUEST: What do you think the Brexit bill should be? How long is a piece of string? I realize you know, what's the number, what do you think the number is.
GAPES: I can't give you an answer to that. But the U.K. has entered into obligations for example, the costs of pensions for former employees of the European Union, the cost of infrastructure projects, which are partly completed or planned. There's a whole range of things which would require a legal commitment and a requirement that we do meet our obligations.
QUEST: The hope is to settle the acquired rights, the Brexit bill and potentially the Northern Ireland issue by October, when there will be the potential to discuss the wider issues. Do you think that is realistic?
GAPES: I think that's very optimistic. I also think that we as members of Parliament, we are in the dark. The government is not telling us what its position is. It's not just Michel Barnier who saying the government needs to give more detail. Members of the House of Commons -- where of course, Theresa May no longer has an overall majority -- are in the dark as well. We are waiting to begin the legislative process in September for a repeal bill to withdraw. But we don't yet know what the British government's plan is. What it actually wants. And I'm not sure they know.
QUEST: You would expect that the British government can't sort of negotiate and at the same time, have an entire Parliament watching over its back at every stage of the way. Parliament is going to have its vote once the process is over.
GAPES: Well the danger is that Theresa May still believes that somehow no deal is better than a bad deal. That position was killed in our general election in June. There is now going to be a position where Parliament is going to assert itself. Whether it does so this year or whether it does so next year. But there will be the necessity of having a broad consensus within the House of Commons and also the House of Lords. In order to ensure that we are satisfied with the terms of these negotiations.
QUEST: Do you still believe that Brexit will happen? Or as I believe you are of the opinion, that some shape or form will be found to keep the U.K. within.
GAPES: I'm of the view that we need to mitigate the damage that any leaving of the EU will put us into a dangerous position if we also leave the single market and the customs union. It will be disastrous for our economy. There are many of us -- it's not just in my party -- there are many people across the House of Commons and in the House of Lords, that want to have the closest possible ongoing relationship with the European Union even if we have voted to leave. And that means, as far as we can, staying in the European economic area, the single market and that is necessary for inward investment and prosperity of our people. People didn't vote to become poorer in the referendum.
QUEST: But would you say membership of EEA, in other words that the, you have to eat Europe's rules, without having a seat at the table. The Norway option, you're familiar with it. Would you say that is preferable to being outside the single market.
GAPES: No, no, no. It's actually, the choice staying in the single market is fundamental, is preferable. The best option, is to actually be involved in the decision-making. The best solution would be not to leave the European Union. If the British people have voted for that. Then we've got to try to get the next best. Which is the mitigate the damage.
QUEST: Good to see you, sir, thank you. Appreciate it.
GAPES: Thank you.