Yesterday, Catherine had this joint article published by The Independent alongside her North East colleagues, Phil Wilson MP, Bridget Phillipson MP, Dr Paul Williams MP and Anna Turley MP.
The North East will be hit hardest if we stop trading with the EU – that’s why we’re demanding a new Brexit vote
No part of the UK has more at stake in the decision to leave the European Union than the North East of England.
Our region is an export powerhouse. Sixty per cent of our trade is with the EU. We make and sell goods that are in demand throughout the continent for their quality and value for money. All of that could be at risk if we quit the EU customs union and the single market and are lumbered with new customs barriers, charges and unnecessary red tape.
But the North East has been hit hard and neglected by the Tories for too long. We understand why so many people voted to leave the EU in 2016’s referendum: it was a great way of reminding a cosy London establishment that our region has been receiving a raw deal.
We now have another important decision to make. The government has begun negotiations about our future relationship with the EU. Later this year they will return with a final deal. How do we decide if the deal we are offered on Brexit is the right one for the North East? Will it be good enough for the exporters who provide so many of the jobs on which our regional economy depends? Companies such as Nissan in Sunderland, Hitachi in County Durham and those in the chemical processing industry on Teesside provide thousands of jobs and see their future as part of the EU customs union and single market. We would hate to see the growth and employment opportunities they offer be undermined by a bad deal.
There is so much at stake here. Even the Government’s own research says the North East’s economy will lose growth once we leave the EU, regardless of the deal. This will hit living standards of families throughout the region. A smaller economy will mean less money to invest in our hard pressed public services. Already the British economy has fallen from the top to the bottom of the European growth league.
And then there are other questions. Can we get the staff our NHS needs if we cut ourselves off from Europe? Will we still be able to compete in the key export markets or will businesses throughout the North East and those they employ lose out because new trade barriers have got in the way?
The Prime Minister acknowledges that we will have less trade with Europe if we leave but hopes we can make up for that by signing new trade deals with the United States, India and China. But no trade deal can make up for disrupted supply chains in Europe. Manufacturing will become less efficient when parts have to cross the Atlantic or be shipped to and from Asia. There are never likely to be significant numbers of businesses operating in that way.
The US, India and China will drive incredibly hard bargains with us if we look weakened from leaving the EU. India has already told us that they will demand higher levels of immigration to the UK in return for a free trade deal. Donald Trump knows how to force what he wants out of any agreement and the UK has almost no experience in negotiating any trade deals. Being forced to accept chlorinated chicken from the United States might only be the start. Will greater access to the NHS for private American companies be part of any deal with Trump?
The Government and Parliament are divided. The Brexit deal is big – too big to ignore – and will affect our country for generations to come.
The British people were asked to make the original decision in June 2016 without knowing in reality what the final Brexit deal would look like. Nobody was sure what the options were. They did not appear on the ballot paper. As each day goes by new facts emerge that weren’t placed before the voters at the time of the referendum.
The outcome of the negotiations will affect the North East of England and the United Kingdom for decades to come. Because this is so important, we believe the British people should have their say on the final Brexit deal. Just as the people had their say in the referendum in 2016, we believe the final decision on this country’s destiny should lie with the British people in a people’s vote.