'We must all be ready for Brexit'
Column by Coun Charmaine Morgan, leader of the Labour Group, SKDC
The recent news that British Steel is in jeopardy largely as a result of Brexit is terrible. It makes an independent report ‘Brexit Economic Impact’, commissioned by the Greater Lincolnshire Partnership (LEP) in May 2018 all the more important. The report examined Lincolnshire’s employment sectors and how differing Brexit scenarios will affect them.
Notably all of our biggest employment sectors will be affected by Brexit with those affects to be felt by employees, service users and customers. Food processing, manufacturing, ports and logistics, agriculture and construction are the biggest sectors in our county. The visitor economy, health and social care, off-shore energy and the science sector are also important employment sectors.
The research by Metro-Dynamics found the sectors most exposed by Brexit are food processing, manufacturing, and, ports and logistics with the impact on trade and regulations and workforce loss being significant factors. Food manufacturing will be affected by changes to the Common Agricultural policy too. Manufacturing is the most exposed sector with 90 per cent of manufactured goods dependent on trade. Grantham is highlighted along with Grimsby, Scunthorpe and Lincoln as important Lincolnshire manufacturing towns. Over 1,700 people have manufacturing jobs here. The loss of British Steel will wipe out the majority of manufacturing jobs in Scunthorpe and will be a bitter blow for our county. With nearly half of all goods manufactured in Lincolnshire currently exported to the EU, many other jobs are still at risk.
The movement of all goods, imported or exported, will depend on our ports and availability of HGV drivers and warehouse operatives. There is a heavy reliance on EU workers to fill these unpopular, yet hugely important, roles. Significant delays in ports are anticipated with any time sensitive goods, eg food, being more at risk. The construction industry, health and social care, and, visitor economy will be similarily affected by the anticipated EU workforce loss. Our county is already experiencing a loss of EU doctors and nurses.
Our visitor economy, is currently worth £2.24bn every year and employs nearly 30,000 people. Currently focused on the East Coast this should be an area of huge potential for economic growth for Grantham with our incredible history, excellent transport links and access to London. Food processing is expected to be the most affected by changes to EU trade. We export 60 per cent of our produce. Sleaford is a major food processing area with Moy Park being one of the named companies potentially affected.
The UK construction industry was one of the biggest recipients of EU funding receding over €8bn for infrastructure projects and small businesses in 2015.
Unsurprisingly the type of Brexit exit used will have a significant impact on risk which increases moving from a soft Brexit customs Union to hard Brexit No Deal scenario.
The report highlights the complexity of impacts. For example, food processing is not only affected by agricultural impacts, with farm closures anticipated, but also transport, warehousing, regulation changes and trade tariff impacts.
It recommends that all businesses prepare for Brexit, consider improving business process and increase use of modern technologies to increase their competiveness for a more outward looking worldwide arena. I'd suggest that all of us need to be prepared. But that is, like many things related to Brexit, easier said than done.
Wedded to its free trade, 'sink or swim' ideology, our Government gives far less support to UK businesses than France and Germany do theirs as a per centage of GDP. If the bitter experience of British Steel is anything to go by we will not be able to rely on the Government, or those other far right wing idealogs that led us into this situation, to help those affected out.