Today the Prime Minister will trigger Article 50, and embark on her negotiations for a hard Brexit – out of the Single Market and out of the Customs Union.
Triggering Article 50, will impact on York, a city that voted clearly to ‘remain’ in the EU. The fall in the value of the pound clearly makes York attractive to visitors to come to the city from overseas since the weakness in the exchange rate means that British goods are cheaper. This should boost spending by visitors.
However at the same time, it also means that the cost of imports for manufacturing and the cost of living in the UK is far more expensive, and whether with the weekly shop, when refuelling the car or paying energy bills, life is becoming more expensive. The recent rise in inflation and the further public sector pay restraint announced yesterday will mean that local residents will certainly feeling the pinch of Brexit. No one voted to become poorer and yet the last 9 months has seen changes to the cost of living. Businesses that trade with the EU have also expressed their serious concerns with me about their future, particularly with the Prime Minister’s hard Brexit plans.
The universities have already faced a fall in students applying to study in York from the EU and challenges over research projects and partnerships. The universities provide a springboard to economic growth in the city, whether through digital media or growth in the bio and agri-tech industries for example. The slowdown of investment in the UK is concerning if we are to see a much needed boost for good jobs in the city.
As Article 50 is triggered, EU citizens living in York remain totally uncertain about their future. Many work in our NHS and wider public services. As we thank them for all they do, clearly there will be greater anxiety once the Prime Minister actually triggers Article 50. In the same way that the Government is ill-prepared for these talks, as scrutiny of the Government has shown, worryingly the Tory-LibDem coalition Council has yet to show signs of its strategy for addressing York’s future outside of the UK either.
Labour has published its six point plan to assess the success of the negotiations. We have made it clear that jobs and workers’ rights, consumer and environmental protections, as well as tariff-free trade with the EU must continue. The co-operation with EU countries in securing peace, addressing global challenges like conflict and climate change and maximising our national security must also be part of any future deal.
We will all judge the talks and their outcome, and I will do all I can to ensure that we get the best deal for York.