Jack Simpson’s column in the Journal
It is incredible that three years later, and with three months until Brexit deadline, we don’t even know who the Prime Minister will be, let alone what Brexit means. In their infinite wisdom as we approach the Brexit iceberg, the crew have decided to select a new captain of the seemingly cursed ship.
Last week, the two leadership hopefuls, Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, visited the North East, the most region vulnerable to any form of Brexit. Mr Johnson has said leaving on October 31st is “do or die” for the Conservatives, while Mr Hunt has said that if a new deal is out of sight by September 30th, he will pursue No Deal.
I take it they have not been reading my regular Journal columns, but just to reiterate: The North East is the most reliant region on EU trade (worth 63%), is a net beneficiary of EU funding and innovator in European projects. The majority of members have been clear that No Deal is not an acceptable Brexit outcome.
It seems insane to remind the two leading candidates that the Conservative Party is, or at least was, usually seen to be based on economic responsibility, yet business is being thrown on the Brexit bonfire for political gains.
Over the last two years, business have wandered in the abyss trying to prepare for Brexit, meanwhile Mr. Johnson is quoted as saying “F*** business” and Mr. Hunt said he would sacrifice jobs “with a heavy heart”, to deliver Brexit (not his job, of course).
But that’s the point. Business are being tasked with preparing for every unknown, will bear the brunt of any Brexit damage and will have to have those tough conversations. I am yet to hear how the new leader will support business preparations or seize new global opportunities. Instead their concerns come second to party politics.
Both have hopefuls want to narrow the gap between London and the rest of the UK; however, this is slightly hollow as their party has been in Government for nearly a decade. It isn’t new that the North East is in serious need of new investment, infrastructure and skill development.
However, Brexit threatens to unevenly affect the country, so if the new PM is serious, the top priority for the North East must be securing a Brexit outcome that does not affect our special relationship with European Partners, or further widens the North-South division.