North Devon Liberal Democrats on North Devon Council successfully led a motion which will ensure that businesses and services in North Devon will have a chance to prepare for Brexit by ensuring that they are aware of any new regulations that might impact on them, post Brexit.
Cllr David Worden, Leader of the ND Lib Dems says;
“Brexit is the biggest challenge to North Devon in my lifetime. The future prosperity of North Devon depends very much on being prepared. I had hoped that, as my Independent colleagues did, the Conservatives would also see the sense in setting up a Cross Party symposium to achieve this. However, with a couple of exceptions, they sat on their hands and either opposed this pragmatic and crucial vote or abstained. I cannot think of a more cynical act of dereliction of political responsibility”.
Dr Kirsten Johnson, Liberal Democrat PPC for North Devon adds,
“This was never about voting to Remain or Leave the EU, it was about making sure our North Devon community has the best possible chance of making the most of Brexit – not waiting to see what happens when it is too late. Like Cllr Worden, I am simply appalled that North Devon Conservatives, refused to see the benefits of this collaboration. Like the Conservatives in Westminster, including the current Conservative MP for North Devon, they have, once again, put Party before prosperity. I am hugely relieved that the Liberal Democrats won the day”.
Speaking on the motion, Cllr Worden said:
Whenever we turn on the news or read the newspapers it appears that the headlines are all about Brexit. I don't want to go into the pros and cons of whether we should or should not leave the EU but I am extremely concerned about the impact of Brexit on the economy of North Devon. We live in one of the most deprived areas of the South West. There are hardly any services which have not been hit by austerity cuts. We simply cannot sit back and let the disastrous No Deal scenario, which seems ever likely, to be upon us, unprepared.
This proposal is pragmatic and in the best interests of everybody in our North Devon community. The GDP of the South West was already set to fall by 2%, and that was before a possible No Deal Brexit. Defra's own figures show that up to 25% of farms are set to go out of business – North Devon's agricultural industry is under unprecedented threat. The backbone of our rural economy could be decimated as subsidies are withdrawn.
Our growth agenda is in grave danger of not getting off the ground. Businesses may have to face real problems with exporting to Europe. They face having to deal with customs declarations from the EU. Businesses may well need to employ customs brokers, freight forwarders and supply software and authorisations. I hear that each business may have to apply for a UK Economic Operator Registration and ID number.
That's just scratching the surface of what may happen. How many of our small North Devon businesses understand all the implications of possible changes that they face? It is less than six months before we are due to leave the EU and we have a duty as a council to try and help the transition because it appears from the press that the preparations are currently a total shambles.
With talk of stockpiling food and medicines our economy is in for a radical shake up and shock. Business, farming, tourism, education, health and social services are all likely to be radically affected. The implications of Brexit has not dawned on many people yet and as a council we have a responsibility to endeavour to mitigate some of the possible worse case scenarios. In my opinion this is the biggest challenge North Devon has faced in my lifetime but on the other hand there may be new opportunities opening up.
Businesses need to understand the implications and forward plan as much as they can. I know we don't have the answers to all the potential problems and pitfalls but at least we can explore the possibilities and the consequences. To achieve this I would propose that we work together – cross party, to organize and co-ordinate a public conference/symposium as soon as practical bringing together experts and leaders in our community who might help charter a way forward.
The future prosperity of North Devon depends very much on being prepared as much as possible so I would move the motion as printed on the agenda."