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What Can Councils do to Deal with Brexit Threats?

July 15, 2018 8:38 AM
By Merilyn Canet

Merilyn at Sevenoaks HospitalGovernment has had two years from the referendum to agree what Brexit to ask for. After cabinet resignations and party splits in mid July the outcome is still not clear. How can people running real businesses and living real lives prepare while the chaos continues?

But some big challenges for people are clear, and councils can help.

Most important, health and care services are Kent's biggest employer. Our NHS and social care depend on European workers; some have already gone home and new recruits are drying up. Sevenoaks District Council has helped publicise research on the local problem. What it, and other councils, should do is actively support people coming to work here. We must make workers caring for the ill and vulnerable feel welcome.

Second, councils must ensure that they and their contractors treat people fairly. There have been stories of 'hostile environment' treatment in Sevenoaks for EU nationals when applying for jobs. This must stop.

Third, the huge risk for Kent is lorry jams if customs checks start at Dover. Kent County Council has commissioned work on Brexit impacts - which must include this. But they won't publish the results so we don't know! Businesses know more about real problems than councillors; not sharing the work is daft.

Fourth local councils should help local exporters make clear to government that, if we're outside the Customs Union, jobs will move to other European countries. Nothing to do with tariffs. Their EU customers won't deal with bureaucratic customs declarations, they will simply buy elsewhere.

And technical service businesses - where Sevenoaks excels - create a big balance of payments surplus with the EU and the world. They thrive in the Single Market, but Government has forgotten them, They deserve help to make their case.

Merilyn Canet

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Sevenoaks District Council.