"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."
(Martyn Sloman 2018)
Both the Bank of England and The Treasury have issued stark warnings on the impact of both Theresa May’s deal and a no deal Brexit on the UK economy. One scenario could mean a worse recession than that caused by the banking crisis of 2008. Is this really what the country voted for?
For the people of North Norfolk there is little, if anything that is good about either May’s deal or a no deal Brexit. The economic and social impact of any form of Brexit will be bad for our unique region with its high proportion of over 65’s and a low wage economy dependent on tourism, agriculture, small and micro businesses and the care sector. We will be especially badly hit by Brexit in all its forms.
According to local economic analyst, Martyn Sloman, any version of Brexit will adversely impact North Norfolk through:
- A reduction in the current EU workforce, both low and highly skilled, who are key to the future success of some of Norfolk and Suffolk’s most important sectors, such as health, social care, tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, construction and life sciences. This could critically affect our ability to run core rural services e.g. care services for the elderly demographic concentrated in North Norfolk.
- Potential loss of agricultural exports – over 70% of agricultural products currently go to Europe.
- The need for companies, often small and with limited resources to adjust to new trade arrangements and potential tariffs and other barriers.
- Loss of funding for research and development and innovation, as well as alternative sources of funding for agriculture and farming businesses that often rely on EU subsidies. By February 2017 the value of European Union grant funding in showed has been received since 2007 across Norfolk and
Suffolk was over £365 million plus £1.54 billion from the European Investment Bank. Will a future UK government be as generous?
A study by Metro-Dynamics for New Anglia reaches similar conclusions and raises other issues such as retention of skilled EU staff on e.g. wind farm projects, problems caused by probable regulatory differences in agricultural standards and the impact of the loss of CAP funding for farming. EU funding has also been important for investing in large scale infrastructure projects, indirectly supporting businesses and job growth in the construction and offshore wind sectors.
Further studies by Norfolk County Council are similar in tone, while also noting the impact on the construction sector which is heavily dependent on skilled and unskilled EU labour. Who is going to build the essential social housing that we desperately need? The hospitality and care sectors are also heavily dependent on workers from the wider EU - and are critical elements of the local economy. As Martyn Sloman reminds us:
"The conclusions for North Norfolk could not be clearer. If Brexit, whether hard or soft, goes ahead there will be a desperate need for short-term intervention to ameliorate the problems and for long-term investment to
create the opportunities. The latter will be resource intensive and, even then, it is hard to see how this could be accomplished." (Martyn Sloman 2018)
Liberal Democrats make no apologies for being in favour of the UK remaining a member of the European Union, a position from which we have never wavered. But we are democrats and as such recognise that in 2016 a majority of those voting (but not of the electorate as a whole) voted to leave. North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb thinks the best way to move forward is to hold a second referendum with the choice to stay in the EU on the ballot paper. “I think this now has to go back to the British people,” he said. “This is a fatally divided government and I do not think the British people can be expected to trust it.
The democratic approach now should be a People's Vote with the electorate offered a range of options, including to remain in the European Union.
A single transferable vote approach with voters ranking their choices 1, 2, 3 etc rather than the traditional single vote would provide for a truly democratic outcome.
What do YOU think? You can leave feedback here.
To find out more check out these links:
The Impact of Brexit on North Norfolk (summary)
The Impact of Brexit on North Norfolk (full paper)
How Brexit could impact on Norfolk (Norfolk County Council)
Getting Norfolk Ready for Brexit (Norfolk County Council)
The potential implications of Brexit for Norfolk and Suffolk (New Anglia/Metro Dynamics)