The existing Pro-European campaigning organisations are the available components of what should be a national, bipartisan civil society movement for UK re-entry to the EU. A collegiate and diverse movement with vigour and public presence may be more effective than a monolithic entity with homogenised messages and narrative.
The Union would not, in my view, insist in its criteria for UK re-entry on setting the bar of virtue impossibly high. It would make a pragmatic judgement weighing the benefits and risks of UK membership in a range of domains from military and scientific capacity to cultural creativity, governance and accountability.
In today’s state of the nation report, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation warns that ministers must make tackling poverty an economic priority in 2021 or they risk being defined by a record of worsening hardship.
“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.
We are not in a culture war. What we are in is an unsought political struggle with a power-nexus which uses culture-war behaviours and tropes as weapons – and in that process weaponises people.
Finally on a beautifully hot July afternoon I finished the novel. The next few hours I wandered around Kreuzberg, hearing the explosive cheers, then jeers and woe, from the locals packing out the bars as their team crashed out of the World Cup, while my initial elation slumped into a fatigue that saw me beered up, sprawled on a sofa in an all-night bar near Tempelhof, muttering ‘I just finished a novel. A f****** novel.
The electorate owns its own Brexit. And the nationalism on which it depends is alive and well, and so wholly irrational that Labour cannot embrace it. And while it remains in the ascendancy, no progressive agenda can succeed.
Emerging as a sound system concern and then band, Asian Dub Foundation have fused a wide variety of music styles (including, dub reggae, drum ‘n’ bass, punk, ragga, electronic and traditional South Asian genres), in a highly original, dynamic and incendiary manner, that has won them plaudits for over two decades. Seen as one of the most exciting of all live acts during this time, ADF, though not one dimensional or simply a ‘political band’, were never ones to shirk from tackling contemporary issues head on (capitalism, exploitation, racism, domestic violence, climate change…). One of their members even refused to accept an MBE some years back.
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.
The 2016 referendum on our EU membership was intended as an exercise in democracy, but it failed in many respects. The reality of our EU membership was compared with a nebulous Brexit project: many UK voters thought they were voting to retain a close relationship with the EU as Norway has. After a 51.9% majority in the referendum vote, an ideological minority has taken control of the Conservative Party and is imposing a hard Brexit.
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.
With the end of free movement, immediately; many people will lose their jobs. But far worse than that, is the fact young people in the future will not have the same chances opportunities I had to experience things which will open your mind to the rest of the world.
Yet let me spare a thought for the UK government’s ‘choice’ to cease to participate in the Erasmus programme. This is a gratuitous, nasty, vindictive intergenerational middle finger to the British young, whom overwhelmingly voted Remain in 2016. Of all issues, Erasmus was by far the easiest to resolve.
Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a mouse
That wasn’t the case
Father Boris was waiting
A mask on his face.
Today there may be a possible breakthrough in the trade talks between the UK and the EU. Downing Street appears to have reduced its demands for a 60% reduction in catch by value to a much smaller amount of 35%. The European Union has already said that it will accept up to a 25% reduction […]
Now it would be unwarranted to deduce from the opinion of a single bigot, the mindset of English Brexiters as a whole, but we have all seen comments like this before; in recent years applied in equal measure to the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland. So, while the Libertarian ideology of Cummings and his associates does not exclude Scotland per se, parts of England’s electorate do.
We have seen images and videos of trucks at a standstill, unable to cross the border. BBC News 21/12/2020 reported: ‘The government and trade groups have warned of “serious disruption” after France blocked arrivals of UK passengers for 48 hours over concerns about the new coronavirus variant. Freight lorries cannot cross by sea or through […]
Why would they come? Even if they could cope with the added discomfort of waiting for days either side of the Channel, by dint of turning Kent into a massive Portaloo park, it doesn’t work. With the opportunity cost of missed work elsewhere thanks to delays, that hauliers are paid by the kilometre, and inertia earns nought, and the risk of penalties for later deliveries and spoiled goods … they won’t come.
Which is more important – fish or the next generation? How the Erasmus programme has supported our young people
Most importantly, by ending freedom of movement, a hard Brexit deprives future generations of young Britons of the chance to broader their minds, learn a foreign language, enjoy new culture and gain a valuable European experience, not only key for their employability, but for their own personal and cultural development.
“A no deal or bad deal Brexit will seal the fate of thousands of workers in the North East. If this Government is truly committed to the Northern Powerhouse, it must do right by the British workers who rely on Nissan Sunderland for their livelihoods and agree a trade deal that secures its future.”
It’s been a year since the seven Blue Bricks took their seats in the House of Commons. How have they fared?
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:
Every region in the UK came out in favour of a EU trade deal by the end of this year. London and the North of England were the regions with the highest levels of support for a deal, at 73% and 68% respectively.
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
Nissan’s Chief Operating Officer, Ashwani Gupta, has repeatedly said that the plant in Sunderland would be unsustainable with a no deal Brexit. He also stated they need a Brexit deal with a sustainable business case for their UK commerce to be viable. Mr Gupta said that the EU was Sunderland factory’s biggest customer and warned that Nissan’s commitment could not be maintained if there was not tariff-free EU access.
Fishing is a sticking point in the Brexit negotiations. The UK has rejected an offer to reduce the EU states fishing quota by 15-18%. Fishing is of relatively little importance to the UK (0.1% of our GDP) but it has become a symbolic issue. Our government wants an exclusive right to set fishing policies as a demonstration of UK sovereignty.
On top of the Coronavirus pandemic the double whammy of Brexit will plunge many into poverty and despair. No deal will be disastrous, and a bare-bones deal won’t be much better. The government need to take a different approach and put lives and livelihoods first in these unprecedented times.
So what can we do to stem the tide of gender-based violence apart from the usual petitions and letters to MPs? We need a system change across society starting with sex and relationship education so teachers and school governors should work together to implement age appropriate lessons. We need to increase women’s visibility across all sectors at the highest level, which means empowering girls to study STEM subjects and encouraging women to stand for election at every opportunity; it is heartening that we already have women police and crime commissioners in the region with more women standing in the forthcoming elections.
The tale is that stories, or scares, about possible attempts to extend the Transition have been coming out of the ruling Vote Leave faction in the centre of government. This faction, or some of its members, have been having an internal soap opera/meltdown moment and (ostensibly) losing some key personnel to the grey area of ‘working from home/gardening leave’.
Left in the dark, left in the cold: why charities and social enterprises are worried about the replacement for EU funding.
The mainstream government funded support schemes, such as the ‘Work and Health’ and former ‘Work’ programmes are widely criticised for multiple reasons. They appear to be focusing on low hanging fruit, on clients who need little support in order to progress, while putting minimum effort into supporting those with complex needs or facing multiple issues, and at the same time channelling money into multi-nationals and corporations and Tory donors instead of supporting charities and social enterprises.