We need the government to be straight about what a Hard Brexit really means

Business Green

Published: 25th April 2017

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The warnings about the impacts of a hard Brexit on businesses continue apace. A recent Local Business Survey revealed of 419 SMEs surveyed in Bristol, Bath, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire, 57 per cent of exporters believe the impact of leaving the single market will be ‘negative’ or ‘very negative’, compared with just 10 per cent who think the impact will be ‘positive’ or ‘very positive’. It is clear businesses are rapidly losing confidence in this government to deliver a Brexit that works in their interests.

SMEs realise that leaving the single market will have a devastating impact on their businesses. This is particularly the case for Bristol and other cities in the South West that sell a high proportion of their exports to the EU. The top three cities exporting to the EU are Exeter, Plymouth and Bristol, with 70, 68 and 66 per cent respectively being exported to the EU.

There have been further warnings of a post-Brexit exodus of those employed in finance and related sectors. And this will not just affect London and the City; about one and a half million finance jobs are based outside the British capital. For instance, the South West has many finance-related jobs, including around 37,000 based in Bristol. Other cities across Europe are queuing up to lure firms and their employees away from the UK as they face the instability and uncertainties of leaving the EU.

As if all that isn’t worrying enough, it has also been revealed that the government plans to ‘scale down its concern over climate change and the trade in illegal wildlife’ after leaving the EU. Tackling climate change goes hand-in-hand with a transition to renewable energy, so weakening action on tackling our climate crisis will also undermine the huge potential for growth and jobs in the renewables sector.

The public sector also looks set to take a hammering. A leaked Department of Health study revealed that ending freedom of movement and clamping down on immigration would leave the NHS short of 40,000 nurses by 2026.

The secrecy surrounding these revelations is the reason I have written to Brexit secretary, David Davis, demanding the government urgently disclose the results of secret studies into the potential impacts of a hard Brexit. In particular, we need to know their scenario planning on the economic impacts of leaving the single market; of ending freedom of movement; and of reducing environmental regulations and the impacts on farmers and rural communities.

We need full transparency and decisions made by our elected representatives, not hidden documents and legislation by a secret cabal. Now more than ever, communities, businesses and public services need confidence in our long-term planning and this can only be achieved through open, transparent decision-making.

A failure to disclose the potential impacts of the hard Brexit the Tories are planning shows either a government running scared of its own extreme form of Brexit, or one keeping a lid on the dire consequences of leaving the EU.

I want people armed with the knowledge of what leaving the EU will mean for them, their families, their communities, employers and public services. That way people can genuinely take back control of the Brexit process.