It is almost a year since Article 50 was triggered and Brexit negotiations began, yet significant questions remain unanswered over what our relationship with the EU will look like come March 2019.

Recent weeks have only heightened concerns that Theresa May is being pressured to pursue a destructive Brexit by the hardliners on the right of her party, which would be disastrous for British workers and living standards.

It’s hardly reassuring when all David Davis can promise is that the UK won’t turn into a Mad Max-style dystopia. This isn’t exactly setting the bar high – and does nothing to address the justifiable worries people have about the growing threat to their jobs and livelihoods.

While ministers put their heads in the sand, the government’s own economic assessments offer a sobering account of what a reckless Brexit would mean for our region, with the north east predicted to be the worst affected in the whole country.

Recent comments made by Japan’s ambassador to the UK only reinforce these fears, having told the Prime Minister in no uncertain terms that if Britain loses its competitive edge and exports to Europe become more difficult, international companies will look to move elsewhere.

For a region such as ours, where tens of thousands of local people are employed in manufacturing and the associated supply chain, these warnings bring home the real risks associated with an extreme Tory Brexit.

I welcome Labour’s recent policy announcement on the customs union because I have consistently argued that this will protect jobs in the north east, many of which depend upon our trade with the EU. All indications are that leaving both the Single Market and Customs Union would lead to higher living costs, while the resulting hit to our economy would also leave us ill-equipped to tackle the real issues facing our country.

Our region is crying out for investment in infrastructure, while people are rightly demanding action on the crises we face in a host of areas, from policing to housing; from schools to our health and social care system.

Yet all the Tories care about is Brexit – and even on this they are in disarray. As a result, the bread and butter issues go ignored, while we edge closer to leaving the EU on terms that would leave our region and country poorer.

People deserve more than reckless Tory ministers playing fast and loose with their jobs and livelihoods. Instead we need a government that is determined to secure an outcome in the interests of working people and their families, while focusing on the everyday issues that matter to us all.

To read this article in the Sunderland Echo, click here

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