Section: Region

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The memories that make me me

Peter Lathan

I’m standing below High Force on the River Tees, looking up at the most impressive waterfall in the North of England. It’s in full spate, crashing down both sides. I’ve followed the river down from Cow Green Reservoir, alongside the water as it races down Cauldron Snout, and I’m on my way to Middleton-in-Teesdale. A great riverside walk.

The Brexit deal is bad news for North East England, but does it also offer a ray of hope?

Will Sadler

“Their biggest concern is that we end up in some kind of position where we’re not aligned to the European Medical Agency, we’re not aligned to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the US, in which case, there are significant barriers to selling their products in (both) those markets. And that that’s a scenario which is absolutely awful for business.”

The fact that countries tend to trade most with those geographically closest to them suggests to me that despite the UK’s new-found freedoms, in reality we will remain closely aligned to EU rules.

“Every breath you take”

Carol Westall

“Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every time you ache
Every sound you make
We watch over you….
Oh don’t you fear, ICU is here
When your poor heart aches
And your life’s at stake…. “

Now is not the time to undermine the government’s Prevent strategy

Stephen Lambert

Of course, strengthening surveillance is crucial. But the government need to take steps to better engage groups in anti-radicalisation measures delivered through a multi-agency approach. Central government is conducting a review into Prevent to help shed its ”toxic image” amongst some sections of the community. One important way to tackle potential radicalisation is through education and training.

Urgent essential actions to alleviate family poverty on Tyneside and in the North East

Sally Young

Over four million children nationally are now affected by child poverty. This is unacceptable. Moreover, help to give every child the best start in life is diminishing. It is true that funding has been provided for free childcare for children aged three and four and also for some two-year olds although not all can access it as there is insufficient provision for what is needed

“Look after our star” says North East for Europe

Jane Neville

While we are pleased we are not leaving the EU without a deal, the one that has been struck is not a good one. For example, businesses will still be hit hard with costs and delays from customs checks. We were told that leaving the EU would cut red tape, however, this appears not to be the case. We will continue to exist as an organisation to hold the government to account for their promises over Brexit. The EU gave the North East twice as much money per head than the rest of the country – we cannot believe this will be replicated by the government despite Johnson’s claims of levelling up the North East.

Lindy Delapenha: Boro’s Jamaican legend

Julia Mazza

Delapenha turned down a transfer offer from Manchester City to stay with his wife-to-be, local schoolteacher Joan Crawford. The decision endeared him to the fans. He was always popular, but there was a racist undercurrent, and with any minor mistake the racial epithets would fly. Remarkably it didn’t put Lindy off his game.

Durham Police Force puts us at risk claim local naturists

Jane Neville

“Our events are a usually a liberating and joyful experience, but during one walk last summer, one of the ramblers was assaulted by having water thrown over them, whilst the assailant told the group that they shouldn’t be walking naked In public. It is discriminatory for Durham Police to post misleading reports that suggest that public nudity is illegal, and it puts us at greater risk of assault or harassment in future”.

Anti-Semitism may be seen as a feature of the far left but it has manifested itself in Britain’s far right

Stephen Lambert

Since 2009, Newcastle has witnessed a number of far-right protests, led by organisations such as the EDL, Pegida, National Action and North East Infidel, which at their peak attracted 1,500 demonstrators. In Gateshead anti-Semitic hate crime is at a high according to a report by the Community Security Trust. In 2017 hate crime in the Newcastle increased by 68 per cent compared to the previous year, with racial and faith-based offences making up 82 per cent of all hate crimes according to the 2017 Safe Newcastle report.

Spanish grapes and Big Ben bongs

Dr Jayne Hamilton

The North East is a melting pot and no amount of British nationalism can erase that. The Big Ben Bongs at 11 pm on December 31 to herald Britain’s freedom from the EU signify nothing other than blatant English nationalism. This will be a date in which I lose part of me, detached without will; it’s not a new year heralding something new, it’s a death. The death of the future I had planned for myself, right up to retirement. It’s out of my control, a sort of prison without visible bars.

A plan to power up the north

Jane Neville

“For too long power has been held in the hands of the few and our current mayor has failed to address this; instead of asking for more powers, or challenging the government on the big issues; he has been too happy to take what’s been given, accepting a poor deal on Covid-19 support, failing to get new powers around tackling mental health, or around housing and early learning.”

Our mam’s recipes

Julia Mazza

It was a huge steaming rectangle, not the small buns of the Godless South, that she’d cut into wedges and we’d smother in thick gravy. Only after we’d polished off the pud would come the roast.

Parental grief: coping with bereavement at Christmas

Carol Westall

Henry Dancer Days is a charity supporting children with cancer and helping their families with life changing essentials. This includes providing support with physiotherapy equipment to help with winter heating bills, and even buying tablets and mobile phones enabling the young people to have a crucial connection with loved ones during their long spells in hospital getting treatment.

Virus at the centre of Britain

Kim Sanderson

“I’ve really got a bee in my little Northern bonnet today. The ‘Breaking News’ that London is moving into Tier 3 has really highlighted how embarrassingly biased and London-centric this country’s media is. When the focus was on infection rates in the North, we were branded ‘rule breakers’ and the restrictions deemed ‘too complex for people to understand’. Now that infections are rising in the South East, the focus is entirely on a new strain of the virus and how this MUST be affecting the rise in infection rate. Hours and hours on @bbcradio4 explaining how Tier 3 affects what you can and can’t do. Where was this programming for those in Newcastle who have lived under the harshest restrictions for months? Both the government and media in this country treat the North as if it’s a grey, distant land of simpletons and quite frankly, I’m f****** bored of it. #NorthernNotStupid”

Part 1 Teesside Airport: “The People’s Airport is safe in our hands”

A S Hunter

During the years of economic decline in the North East, there was less inward migration here than elsewhere in the country. Figures from The Migration Observatory show that immigration into the North East was considerably less than any other region of the UK, and, in particular, migration of people from EU members states . It states that total migration to the region from EU member states was just 60,000. Of the English regions, the next lowest was Yorkshire and the Humber with 236,000. This, in turn, impacts on the amount of travel in and out of the region:

No deal, no good

Keith Burge

Get Brexit Done. The three-word slogan that won a General Election, turning red seats to blue in parts of the North East that had never seen the like in decades, if ever. And yet, here we are just over 12 months on, and that victory is not so much ringing hollow as sounding a death knell for crucial elements of the region’s economy.
According to ONS there are around 3,500 exporting businesses in the North East. The North East is unusual among the regions of England in having a trade surplus in goods. Exports account for a higher proportion of regional output than in any other English region (26 per cent).
More specifically, the North East relies disproportionately on the European Union as its largest export market. In 2019, around 60 per cent of the value of all North East exports went to the EU, significantly higher than the UK average of just over 48 per cent and indeed the highest of all English regions.
But as from 1 January 2021, everything changes. The Government is imploring business to ‘Check. Change. Go.’ Which is all well and good, apart from the minor details of being unable to tell them what to check, what to change and where to go. Of course, this will hurt businesses across the UK, but given the disproportionate reliance of North East exporters on EU markets, the region looks set to suffer more pain, in relative terms, than any other part of the country.
The North East Chamber of Commerce – which has been lobbying on behalf of and providing practical support to exporters for decades – recently hosted a ‘Brexit Support Week’, a series of 13 sessions on different Brexit-related topics that will impact businesses including new customs responsibilities, data regulation etc. These events attracted around 850 attendees, representing many hundreds of businesses, all of which want to prepare, have not had the information to be able to do so and see the cliff edge looming. It seems likely that many of them will each already have spent thousands of person hours making preparations for different scenarios, at a significant cost to their businesses. For the smallest exporters, lacking capacity and unable to make that sort of investment, it seems to be more a case of shutting their eyes and hoping they survive the impact. Ordinarily, many would rely on the expertise of freight forwarders, logistics providers and customs specialists, but their capacity is limited and a massive increase in demand has seen their prices increase markedly.
And of course, some of those attending these events will have been importers, trying to work out how they can continue to work with suppliers across the EU. It has been reported anecdotally that some are so fearful of disruptions to supply chains and higher costs brought about by a combination of a deteriorating exchange rate, the application of tariffs and an abundance of bureaucracy, that they have been trying to find alternative suppliers within the UK. Import substitution: that has to be a winner, no? Well, maybe, but then if it was such a good idea, why haven’t buyers done this already? The usual answer is quality and/or cost.
As an alternative, some manufacturing businesses whose operations rely on a continual supply of goods entering the UK from Europe, have been stockpiling goods. The cost of this additional warehouse space is another unwelcome burden.
And whilst businesses employing staff from EU countries face no immediate pressures in theory, in practice there are reports of some EU nationals opting to return to their countries of origin amidst the uncertainty (and, in some instances, to escape the toxicity of Brexit). Replacing lost staff or trying to hire additional staff from outside the UK using the new points-based immigration system may well be a daunting prospect for many employers.
Still, it isn’t as if businesses have had anything else with which to contend over the past 9 months.
So how might things look under a No Deal Brexit (or even a last gasp hard as nails deal)? Firstly, there is the bureaucracy. But that’s OK, say the champions of Brexit: businesses already export around the globe and are used to this. Except, many businesses who export to (and import from) the EU have no dealings outside the EU and so have never been exposed to the bureaucracy of non-EU international trade. According to the head of HMRC, the cost of all of this new paperwork will amount to £7.5 billion a year. A year! How much this will cost North East businesses is difficult to estimate, but will certainly run into hundreds of millions of pounds. A very high cost from which they will derive no benefit whatsoever.
Secondly, there are tariffs. Farmers will see the cost of their exports rise to unaffordable levels and demand collapse. Manufacturing and processing businesses face the double whammy of having to pay tariffs on imported components and raw materials and then seeing their final product having a tariff imposed upon it, thereby eroding their competitive position. For example, under WTO rules there are tariffs of 4.5% on car parts and 10% on cars. In its evidence to the House of Commons International Trade Committee, Nissan said that tariffs will add £500m a year to costs. It then has to try to absorb those costs, rather than pass them on in the form of higher prices, given that cars exported to the EU (its key market) become 10 per cent more expensive anyway.
And that’s not all of it. Which brings us to problem number three. The Nissan plant relies wholly on operating on a Just-in-Time basis. At any one time it holds a maximum of half a day’s stock and if it runs out of parts that is very serious. Honda reckons that an hour’s lost production costs it several millions of pounds. So why not stockpile? Build some warehouses? Toyota has said that if it built such a warehouse it would be the third biggest building on the planet.
Many businesses and their representative organisations have raised concerns about the digital infrastructure required post-Brexit. The fact that these are either set to be finished or upgraded in the next few weeks means that businesses will have very little time to get to grips with them. This increases the risk of mistakes being made and the associated problems that would then arise e.g. border delays and additional costs to businesses. Of course, anything that risks border delays presents a serious risk for Just-in-Time supply chains.
Fourthly, EU Rules of Origin require producers of final goods to include a minimum proportion of that item by value to be sourced within the EU. With the UK outside of the EU that means UK manufactured components no longer count. Anecdotal evidence suggests that UK suppliers are already being excluded from supply chains in favour of EU27 suppliers who enable producers to continue to comply with EU Rules of Origin. A trade deal may or may not have been able to address this; a No Deal Brexit certainly will not.
So, all in all, pretty terrible. Oh and I nearly forgot: all of this uncertainty has meant that new investment – especially from international investors deciding whether to invest further in their North East-based plants or place investments elsewhere – has stalled. Of all English regions, the North East has the highest percentage per head of jobs created by Foreign Direct Investment, with overseas-owned firms employing tens of thousands of people across the region. If there are two things international investors hate they are uncertainty and instability.
And if you’re looking for flowers – as a mark of sympathy or to cheer yourself up – that too might be problematic. Of all flowers sold in the UK, 70 per cent come from the Netherlands and are delivered fresh every day. In the first three years after the EU Referendum 1900 florists closed, seemingly due to the 20% devaluation in Sterling caused by Brexit which made importing unaffordable. After 1 January, the deliveries won’t even get through.
Photo – Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums wikimedia

Part 6 Teesside Airport: where the buck never stops

A S Hunter

Unless evidence emerges to the contrary, we shall have to assume that it is in TOP TEAM that strategic decisions are made, but it is not at all clear to whom this group is answerable. It is also not at all clear why this group isn’t the board of TIAL itself. This is the case at Cardiff, why not at Teesside?

MPs fight back for Northern culture

Jane Neville

The North’s cultural industry has been hit hard and faces an historic challenge as the global pandemic continues to affect our everyday lives. The Northern Culture APPG will promote and champion the huge economic contribution made by the North’s cultural sector, build consensus and fight for what the government needs to do to level-up and build back the North’s cultural potential now and in the longer term.

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