SPECIAL REPORT: ‘No-deal’ Brexit warning for North-East

ANGRY opposition MPs have said the Prime Minister has failed to deliver the ‘oven ready’ Brexit deal he promised ahead of the General Election 12 months ago.

It is almost a year, believe it or not, since Boris Johnson and his Tory team trounced Labour in a national poll, with the catchy pledge to Get Brexit Done.

Voters weary of ongoing debate, amid accusations ‘remainers’ were trying to reverse the 2016 referendum result, overwhelmingly backed the Conservative Party, defying traditional electoral patterns and removing the once solid ‘red wall’ across the north.

But earlier this month the Government suffered a heavy defeat in the House of Lords over its controversial changes to the Brexit agreement with the EU secured with mandate it won in December.

Peers voted overwhelmingly to remove a section of the Internal Market Bill that would allow ministers to break international law – by 433 votes to 165.

It is understood the Government plan to reinstate the clauses when the bill returns to the House of Commons next month.

Talks are continuing between EU and UK negotiators as they try to reach an agreement over a future economic relationship.

Labour MP Kevan Jones, for North Durham, said: “With over 50 per cent of North-East exports going to Europe, a no-deal Brexit would be devastating for our region’s economy.

“Any deal negotiated by the Government, has got to ensure that regional business continue to have tariff-free access to the European market.

“Without this, jobs are at risk in businesses large and small, across the region.

“A no-deal Brexit on top the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, would be a hammerblow to our region, which is already the nation’s poorest region.”

Easington MP Grahame Morris, Labour, said businesses need confidence and certainty, and that working families did not have the same financial safety net as the premier.

He said: “Boris Johnson’s act is wearing thin, as we wait for his promised oven-ready deal to get Brexit done.

“The public put their trust and faith in the Prime Minister, and he has repaid this vote of confidence through Covid mismanagement and risking the economy on a no-deal Brexit cliff edge.”

The Northern Echo:

Grahame Morris

Mr Morris said: “No amount of joking or quick-witted comment will compensate companies closing or people losing their jobs waiting for the Prime Minister to deliver his oven-ready deal.

“The Prime Minister is fortunate to have the financial independence to protect his family from the consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

“Across the North East, people working in manufacturing and the export sector do not share this luxury and face an uncertain future this Christmas.

“The Prime Minister has made numerous promises to the British people, but they are worthless if he cannot deliver them.”

The Northern Echo:

Mary Foy

Durham City MP Mary Foy said the fact ‘no-deal’ is still on the table raises serious questions about Prime Minster’s competence.

She said the failure to deliver a trade deal with the EU would be ‘an utter abdication of leadership’ and proving once again he has little care for the region outside of an election campaign.

She said: “Businesses in the region have continually warned us that ‘no-deal’ tariff barriers will erode competitiveness and cost jobs, at a time when the pandemic has already resulted in the North-East having the largest rises in unemployment of any UK region.

“For a Tory Government to even be considering throwing good, exporting jobs on the scrap heap shows complete disregard for the North-East.

“No-deal risks undoing the hard work of local businesses and the last Labour Government, which put our region back on its feet after the dark days of closures and economic retreat under Thatcher.

“The Government has for months pushed the message that businesses should “Get ready for Brexit”, but how do they expect small firms to prepare when the Government still haven’t agreed the terms on which we will be trading with our largest market? Businesses across the region are crying out for some clarity.”

‘Brexit must be delivered’

The region’s Tory MPs said the Government is working hard to find solutions that deliver on ‘the will of the British People’.

The Northern Echo:

Peter Gibson

Darlington MP Peter Gibson said: “The people of Darlington voted for Brexit in 2016 and it has taken four years and a General Election to get this far.

“I want to see us have a deal which delivers free trade.

“If a deal is not reached, I have every faith and confidence in the resilience of the people of the North-East to continue to grow.

“The signs from the deals already struck with Japan and Canada, our port and airport, our world class engineering, petrochemical, and growing green sector expertise give me every confidence that with or without a deal we have a bright future here in the Tees Valley.”

The Northern Echo:

Richard Holden

Richard Holden, who represents North-East Durham, said he wanted a ‘good comprehensive deal’ when the transition period ends.

He said the decision now lies with the EU with state aid and fishing rights being where the sticking points are.

He said: “All the UK wants is the same deal as they’ve given Canada and after decades of paying in and still being close friends I think that’s the least they can do.

“But fundamentally the EU need to recognise we are now an independent sovereign nation and that for the UK the alternative of an Australia style sector by sector agreement is a better option than a comprehensive but bad deal.”

The Northern Echo:

Paul Howell

Sedgefield MP Paul Howell said he was confident the negotiating teams would deliver a fair deal with the EU for the UK.

He said: “We have seen good progress with many other countries around the globe and recent soundings seem to be edging towards one being delivered with the EU.

“I am pleased it appears our robust discussions are heading towards a resolution.

“There is clear intent to deliver on both sides and I think the best outcome is an agreed deal, but I think a bad deal would be worse than leaving on WTO terms.

“It is imperative that we finally get through this process, remove uncertainty and give our businesses the clarity to move on.”

The Northern Echo | Durham