Nissan’s announcement that they were putting investment in the UK on hold is yet another example of the effect that uncertainty caused by the Government’s botched handling of Brexit is having on jobs and livelihoods in our community.
Ultimately, there is no Brexit deal that does not leave the North East worse off. The Government’s own analysis finds that the economy of the North East could shrink by up to 11% even with a comprehensive trade deal being struck.
The catastrophe of a no deal scenario would lead to a 16% hit to our region. Almost half of the goods we export go into the EU market. This amount of trade cannot easily be replaced, and even if the Government negotiated trade deals to be in place at the point of leaving with every country outside of the EU, it still won’t make up the deficit.
Theresa May has tried to pretend that an imaginary ‘Brexit dividend’ will pay for funding the NHS. The simple fact is that resourcing the NHS both financially and in terms of skilled staff will be harder and not easier outside the EU.
The truth is becoming clear: there is no Brexit dividend, only a Brexit deficit and it’s going to mean paying a lot more for things like fuel and groceries.
I respect the fact that the referendum gave the government a mandate to try and negotiate a Brexit deal. It was not, however, given a blank cheque to force a bad Brexit deal on the British people, and to make our community worse off.
Britain has been too unequal a country for too long. Local people are right to be angry about the lack of investment in our region, about the fact that we have too few police officers on our streets, that our young people are denied opportunities to get on in life, and that our social care system is in crisis. I’m angry about that too, and it’s what I came into politics to change.
But Brexit uncertainty is already hitting the British economy. It will be more difficult to take action on these major challenges if our country is poorer. Whether you voted leave or remain, just one in ten people now think the Brexit process is going well.
Government ministers must not play fast and loose with the jobs and living standards of working people. They must stop putting narrow-minded ideology ahead of the livelihoods of people in our region.
This isn’t about re-running the 2016 referendum. Whatever you think of Brexit, it’s becoming clear that Sunderland, the North East and Britain as a whole is heading for a bad deal. The Government simply must change course.
Read this article in the Sunderland Echo here