The most to lose and the least to gain
The last few weeks have reshaped the Brexit debate. First we had Jeremy Corbyn’s belated acceptance of the customs union in his Coventry speech of 26th February; subsequently, in her Mansion House speech delivered on 2nd March, Theresa May finally owned up to the weakness of her position. She implicitly accepted that that it would be impossible to negotiate a trade deal with Europe that will create better opportunities than the one that is currently in place. The best question at the Mansion House event came from a German reporter who asked “Is Brexit really worth it?” It could have been addressed to both of the party leaders.
Unfortunately the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition seem to be determined to soldier on and deliver something, however nonsensical, that will allow them to say that they have respected the will of the people. Such a decision will have consequences. Any weakening of our trading links with the EU will be disproportionally harmful for some areas of the country than for others. An analysis of the potential impact on North Norfolk, where I am now live in comfortable retirement, has occupied much of my time over the last month. The project is now complete and the conclusion is stark:
Few, if any, Parliamentary Constituencies in Britain are more vulnerable to a hard Brexit than North Norfolk. It is arguably the area with the most to lose and the least to gain.
North Norfolk will face big problems of adjustment and it is incumbent on us to anticipate and minimise any damaging effects. There is evident risk of severe labour shortages in key sectors of the local economy – particularly in residential care: North Norfolk has the third largest population of 65+ year olds in the UK. Generally if jobs become available they will be low-skilled and low-paid jobs, previously filled by migrant labour. There seems little short-term prospect of creating new jobs in high-value companies that can compete in any growing markets accessed under new trade agreements. Only a small number of such companies are present in North Norfolk and they are often overseas owned; none have evinced public support for withdrawal.
My full research paper, which draws on primary source data and is comprehensively researched, is available as a free download from my website www.martynsloman.co.uk or by email request to firstname.lastname@example.org. A link to a pdf two-page summary is included immediately below.
An urgent consideration of the consequences of Brexit is required from all local decision-making bodies. Over the next few weeks I will be circulating the paper to our MP, a LibDem, and elected Councillors at both County and District levels. I will report any feedback I receive in future blogs. What is at stake is too important to allow apathy to take hold.
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