“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”
It’s an age old saying, but it fits this Government’s position on Brexit to a tee.
Just this past week Downing Street admitted that if Theresa May’s deal is voted down (which it will be) any debate over a Brexit “plan B” would be 90 minutes long. Ninety minutes to explore the merits of a second referendum or how to remain in the single market and customs union. Ninety minutes to determine the future of the fifth biggest economy in the world.
For a city like Liverpool, our economic prosperity cannot be left to the whim of a debate that lasts no longer than a football match.
Let’s put aside the constitutional crisis surrounding our withdrawal from the EU, which has polarised and poisoned debate ever since David Cameron triumphantly announced the referendum. Pandora’s box has been opened. And as I write, the UK is leaving on 29 March. Deal or no deal.
Instead, what’s the plan to navigate this departure – to ensure our manufacturing sector as well as the underpinning transport and logistics infrastructure can cope? With 40 per cent of our trade and millions of jobs at stake, you’d have thought contingency plans would be in place. After all it’s been two years.
Well, you’d be wrong.
Despite persistently asking for answers I’ve not had a single reply from Government on the implications for Liverpool, its port, its industries and businesses.
The silence is deafening. My counterparts in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff et al, are equally in the dark.
And in this vacuum of uncertainty (the perennial enemy of investment) major companies are taking flight. The fright has long set in, with everyone’s fears of a contracted economy confirmed by the leaked findings of the Brexit department’s own research. The country has barely climbed out of the hole of the crash in 2008, with Austerity’s dead hand grip on public finances choking the life out of a meaningful recovery.
I’m seeing the devastating impact already. We’re witnessing it at Cammell Laird. And have again this week with concerns over Jaguar Land Rover’s Halewood plant. Thankfully, this time the damage is limited but business is preparing for contraction. The birth pains of Brexit have already begun.
My son works at Halewood. I’ve seen up close and personal how Government’s inability to explain and prepare for the impact of Brexit is affecting individuals and families.
My city voted by a clear majority – 58 per cent – to remain in the EU back in June 2016, primarily because people in this city recognise the tangible merits of EU membership. Europe helped us come back from the brink, providing the basis for Liverpool’s renaissance in recent years, including, of course, our year as European Capital of Culture in 2008.
The risk is that Brexit reverses so much of our good work. But, after suffering a decade of austerity – with the loss of two-thirds of our government funding – we simply cannot take the extra shock of a hard Brexit, especially one that comes with no instructions!
Cameron’s folly was to enable a blind leap into the unknown.
Well, we now know there’s no soft landing when we go over this cliff – and based on the debate in Parliament, we are woefully under-prepared to cope with its impact.
I’m disappointed, but sadly not surprised, that at this critical moment the focus of many in Westminster is personality politics. When hard working people are losing sleep about their livelihoods, it is shameful that some politicians are more concerned about attacking John Bercow or jockeying to be the next Conservative leader.
I can only conclude that they simply do not understand the extent of the anxiety and stress which is being caused by the prospect of no deal.
A change of course is urgently needed. For the good of business, politics and above all, the youth who are yet to shape our great nation.
It would be a monumental collapse of democracy to fail them. If we do, we should prepare to never be forgiven.