“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.”
“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”
It’s been a year since the seven Blue Bricks took their seats in the House of Commons. How have they fared?
For millions, owning your own home is still an aspiration. 29% of people, known as ‘generation rent’’, are trapped in costly, insecure and often grotty private rented accommodation up from 11% a decade ago. One in four adults, aged 20 to 34, are still living with their parents. In the meantime houses have soared by 75% since 1995, overtaking both inflation and salary increases. The average house price is now eight times the average wage. For the hosing pressure group a growing number of people could be ”locked out of homeownership potentially for ever”. According to the English Housing Survey in 2007, 72% of those aged 35 to 44 owned their homes. By 2014, this had fallen to 52%.
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:
Poles, especially young ones are now saying enough is enough! That also includes those who have made the UK their home. Still recovering from the fallout of Brexit, we see similar* forces to those that took Britain to the edge destroying the country of our birth. We have had enough of misogyny, patriarchy, hypocrisy, intolerance and hatred our (second) government is cultivating in Poland. Many of us now refer to Poland as an authoritarian state. Is Poland authoritarian?
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
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?
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.
Discovery School, the first Free School in Newcastle, closed its doors in 2018, following a damning Ofsted report which revealed plummeting standards, weak leadership and dangerous ‘riotous’ behaviour amongst a significant minority of its pupils.
There are moments profound,
tissues all round, talk of hope, coping strategies.
In February 2018 I received news that 34 year old Teodora del Carmen Vásquez’ was to be freed after serving 11 years of a 30 year sentence for aggravated murder following the birth of a stillborn baby. Teodora was one of 17 El Salvadoran women whose cases were at the centre of a campaign initiated […]
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.
Rose Island is delightful. It is funny. It is sad. It is intriguing and compelling. And it is ultimately inspiring. I wish I could see it in the cinema.
As always at a retirement event, the people whom you have upset don’t come and you are offered an inflated sense of your own worth but basking in this illusion is pleasant. The more formal atmosphere enabled a much larger number of people to remind me in brief unscripted speeches of some episodes I had forgotten. I missed the opportunity for conversations with individuals. Asking people about their parent’s dementia, their child’s troubles, their bereavement, cancer, depression or divorce in front of an audience starved of entertainment by Covid-19 would probably be inappropriate, although I did not test this hypothesis.
After centuries of conflict
weapons are finally downed.
The cruellest disease has silenced guns,
until a vaccine can be found.
All party parliamentary group and March for Change launch interim report on the coronavirus pandemic
Dr Whitford spoke about the more effective use of local public health teams by all the devolved nations. She expressed disappointment that after a lot of progress in Scotland over the summer with no deaths for six weeks of people who had tested positive for the virus, too much of a relaxation being signalled from Westminster had effectively undone the work. She expressed concern about the planned relaxation this Christmas potentially coming at a very high cost.
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.
The current position of religion is far more complex. Spiritual beliefs are alive and well and are still the motivating factors in some people’s lives, even if they’re not expressed through organised churches or denominations. This has become pronounced during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although the number of rough sleepers in Newcastle is much lower than Manchester and other core cities, with up to 20 individuals sleeping out in the city centre on any given night, many thousands more make up the ‘hidden homeless’. Some sofa-surf in friends’ flats. Others sleep in cars or stay in charity-run hostels, grotty B&B hotels and other costly forms of temporary accommodation. According to the housing campaign group Shelter, a staggering 320,000 people are homeless in modern Britain.
Although it’s been illegal in the UK to pay women less than men for fifty years, a 15.5% gender pay gap still exists. This year the Equal Pay Day in the UK was 20 November, the day women effectively start to work for free because, on average, they are paid less than men. Sadly there will be many redundancies after furlough and the perilous state of childcare means a disproportionate number of these are likely to fall on women.
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.
In 1984 I found myself running an arts and disability agency for the north of England, and encountered the tail-end of the mass segregation programme that had resulted in millions of people with mild to severe physical and mental disabilities being locked away in large institutions, forced to do menial work for pocket money and with little say about any aspect of their lives. The arts activities that my organisation ran often opened up deep emotional scars from years of abandonment, disregard and abuse. Paintings, poems and performances were littered with powerful symbols of imprisonment and freedom.
Women on low pay, are not just having to choose between the basics of eating and heating, as many families living in poverty prior to Covid-19 had to do. They must now choose between food, warmth and all the required expensive sanitizers and masks needed to keep their families safe. In ensuring their family’s survival, many women are going without essentials. This includes safe, hygienic sanitary products which they can no longer afford and aren’t freely available because of the closure of centres and schools that distribute them.
Throughout the report the joint venture partner is referred to as ‘the preferred operator’, and in one table TVCA Chief Executive Julie Gilhespie is charged with identifying one by March 2019. However, on page fifty-one of the document there is an apparent lapse in their editing, and in a table Stobart is named where presumably ‘preferred operator’ should be.
I don’t know what marks someone out as a victim or what makes someone a bully, but bullying seems to be widespread. My older daughter Helen was bullied all through high school. She was just different, and that’s not allowed, apparently. She was difficult, wayward and demanding but she was also bright, funny, creative and loving. She was certainly not a girly girl, and that was a no-no back in the 90s when she was at school. I’m hoping things have improved since.
So what does the public get for its money from Stobart’s? We don’t know. What we do know is that the airport management team has been ‘bulked up’ in recent months with the appointment of a ‘head of airport development’ which leaves us wondering, “isn’t that what Stobart’s is supposed to do?”
70,000 youngsters are now educated in private boarding schools. Till recently in decline, they’re going through a revival partly due to the popularity of Harry Potter films. As the author Alex Renton points out in ‘Stiff Upper Lip’, wealthy families from the Far East, Russia, Germany and Saudi are sending their boys and girls in huge numbers to these establishments to boost family status and to enable them to make the right connections and ”meet the right people”.
Tony is so proud he hates asking for help and always says there are so many others who are worse off than him. He volunteers at a charity in London; manning the library, sorting new books received, and handing them out. He loves it as he is on a rota and has a few buddies. There he is valued. He would never reveal just how badly-off he actually is as he doesn’t want people to know.