It has been a busy week, especially the last few days. Having to arrange a flight at short notice for my wife to visit he father in hospital in Gouda made me realise how much easier this kind of travel is these days than not so many years ago and appearing in a “Question Time” event for the 6th Form at The Dukeries Academy in Ollerton with the local MP, Mark Spencer, & County Councillor, Mike Pringle, made me realise that there is no reason for young people of this age not to be able to vote note just in the upcoming Referendum but in elections in general.
This week’s developments on the proposed “Devolution” plans for the North Midlands has been interesting to say the least. A number of Derbyshire local councils have rejected the plans and High Peaks (the bit of Derbyshire that sticks up towards Cheshire & Manchester) is looking at closer links to the new Greater Manchester Authority. Also Chesterfield has voted to link to the Sheffield City Region Authority rather than North Midlands. Meanwhile Bassetlaw Council is dithering about what to do and John Mann is campaigning to join Chesterfield in linking to Sheffield & South Yorkshire.
The problem for Bassetlaw with linking as full “Constituent” member to Sheffield City Region (even if that is allowed) is that so many of our services are provided by Nottinghamshire County Council and no one has any idea how these would be affected. Public Transport, Roads, Training and may other budgets are all County Council areas and will be affected (at least in part) by the establishment of the North Midlands Authority. If this does happen, it would lead to a very complicated effort to switch the funding for those areas that we get from Nottinghamshire to get it through the Sheffield City Region with no guaranteed that the new Mayor in Sheffield won’t spend any extra cash at his disposal in Barnsley, Rotherham or Doncaster rather than in Bassetlaw. As usual, Mr Mann has taken a position that looks to get the maximum publicity for himself, looks popular on the surface but, when you check the underlying facts, simply doesn’t hold water.
I am no fan of the proposals for North Midland Authority and I hope that after the inconclusive meeting of the leaders of 19 different Councils involved last Friday, the whole idea gets shelved. I would prefer to see proper devolution of power to local councils, not a rushed plan that doesn’t move power at all. We need to take time to get it right and make sure that we involve the residents in the plans and that any new arrangement is answerable to them.
A couple of weeks ago I promised to go into more detail about each of the five areas that we need to think about. First up is Prosperity, will remaining in the EU make the UK a richer nation than leaving?
In Bassetlaw over 6100 jobs are dependent on the EU[i]. That is a lot of jobs to put at risk. Even if only ½ those jobs are lost if we leave the EU that is 3000 people looking for work in Bassetlaw, 3000 families losing a large part of their income. And it isn’t just those 3000 families who would be affected, they will have left to spend in local shops, visits to restaurants & pubs will go down, there will be less money in the Bassetlaw (and also the British) economy.
At the same time, unless the UK can conclude a trade deal with the reduced EU, our imports will go up in price simply because of the Tariff Regime[ii] that will come into effect. So as a country, the British people will have less money to spend on more expensive goods.
I mentioned Trade Deals above, these are very complicate agreements to conclude and often take years to conclude. If we vote the leave the EU & the Government give notice of our intention to leave the EU, according Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, we have 2 years to negotiate an agreement with the remaining 27 countries “setting out the arrangements for its (our, in this case) withdrawal”.
Because we are an English speaking country with a highly developed economy inside the EU’s Single Market, the UK attracts 40% of all inward investment in to the EU. Companies like Toyota, Bombardier & Honda are willing to put money in to their factories here as they know that the cars & trains can be sold to other EU countries with no added customs & tariff costs. Outside of the Single Market, the UK would be a far less attractive place to invest. Already we are seeing some of these companies[iii], as well as banks & other institutions, say they will have to reconsider any investments if we leave the EU. This is one of the reasons that leaving would cause the loss of jobs I mentioned earlier.
So if we leave, we will have an economy getting smaller, with less money in people’s pockets while the cost on imports will be going up. At the same time, we will be trying to negotiate trade agreements from a position of weakness. Many nations (the US included[iv]) have already said they would not be looking at talking with us for a trade deal. This does not strike me as a recipe for making sure we have a prosperous nation.
You may feel I am being overly pessimistic, but these are the facts. We have a choice between remaining in an imperfect EU, working with our partners in Europe to make it better, attracting investment in from around the world to boost our economy or leaving to face a very uncertain future with few allies on our side. I know which I will be choosing.