Brexit: a new dawn or a disaster?

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In the second half of its spotlight on Brexit, The Scarborough News asks ... if the referendum on leaving the European Union was run again, would you vote the same way? In our Special Report, Ed Asquith spoke to two of our regional MEPs Richard Corbett (Labour, former adviser to a president of the European Council) and John Procter (Conservative, former Leeds councillor) in their offices at the EU Parliament in Strasbourg ...

LABOUR SUPPLY

What about immigration and recruitment?

In light of concern that the imposition of immigration curbs has already curbed the flow of skilled restaurant staff, and could cause severe labour shortages for practically every sector of manufacturing and services, we asked how the MEPS view the decision to leave the EU.

The arrivals of new nurses and midwives from the EU have also already fallen, with 2,270 over April May last year compared to 131 this year.

The government is now indicating that a sudden cut off in immigration would need to be reviewed and phased in or modified.

Mr Corbett said that “legally it would be very difficult, perhaps practically impossible” for the UK to decide its own policy of the movement and rights of EU labour. “The European Court of Justice decide common rules. It would be impossible to extract every aspect affecting European citizens and workforces,” he said.

Concerned at the impact on service industries in particular, staffing for restaurants and hotels, and the effects on nurses, for example, who might prefer to work in other EU countries rather than the UK, especially when they hear of incidents such as the murder of a Polish man in Essex. It creates an impression that we are not welcoming.”

“There us uncertainty over the rules ... could I bring in a family member, and perhaps they would otherwise go to Sweden or Italy.

Mr Procter said migrants have economic rights and would undertake jobs in the UK that others did not want to do and that a distinction had to be made between highly skilled and unskilled labour.

The European Court of Justice could oversee any agreement between the EU and the UK, from the perspective of EU law.

BUSINESS and TOURISM

How will business and tourists be affected?

Companies which trade with Europe are facing exchange rate increases and supply chain uncertainty.

Staying in a Customs Union instead of full EU membership would mean the UK could not create its own deals with countries around the world, and the Federation of Small Businesses says they would be least able to cope with post-Brexit trade barriers.

Airlines, such as Ryanair, say it “will be cancelling holidays” in 2019 if a deal on aviation is not agreed.

The idea of a European Economic Area (referred to as the Norwegian option) could mean compromise on the free movement of people and accepting EU law, upsetting many Brexit voters.

The Institute of Directors fears that a weaker exchange rate could raise UK business costs by 5%.

Mr Corbett said geography had to bow to international reality. “A lot of businesses and their supply chains want and need to go across borders, whether it is for agriculture, aerospace or engineering. Exporters would face particular problems.”

He said entry to an EU country with passports we could end up with Britons in a separate, perhaps longer, queue.

The entire Brexit process could be complicated by the need for the UK to create a new range of regulatory agencies to fill gaps currently undertaken by EU legislation.

“There is a European Air Safety Agency. If we are leaving, it would mean creating our own agency and having to fund it,” he said.

Mr Procter questioned the accuracy of claims that the business world has not been sufficiently involved in the Brexit process by government.

He said: “There has been lobbying from a number of organisations.

“The UK wants to trade with Europe and Europe feels the same.”

Mr Procter added that Britain would still decide the key points. “Don’t forget that it is the commissioners of each nation state in the EU, including the UK, who will decide what happens.”

Mr Procter, EU culture and education spokesman and his group’s deputy chief whip, is also concerned about copyright issues and data protection.

He has raised questions to the Parliament, saying that, as the end date for Britain leaving the EU is to be at some point in 2019, there will be an overlap of about one year in which UK citizens accessing the EU institutions’ websites will be subject to the data protection rules as they apply to EU bodies and institutions, and asking how the status of the EU bodies’ protection of UK citizens’ personal data will change after the split.

WHY ARE WE SCEPTICAL?

Why is there a disconnect between us and EU empire?

The Leave vote brought to the fore a number of issues - some people wanted immigration curbs, some were concerned over sovereignty, others with a general antipathy against distant bureaucracy and maybe some motivated by the costs of membership or reluctance to see the UK as part of the EU empire ...

Mr Corbett, who is deputy leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, and a prolific writer and blogger, said: “Some people say we voted to Leave is because we are an island but so is Ireland and Malta, or that we were a major empire but so was Portugal, France and Holland. But over the past 20 years, there has been in the written media a matter of policy in having a Euro-sceptic line, drip by drip, with silly stories projected. It affects public opinion.”

Mr Procter said: “It’s to do with history and different nation states.

“We have a different psyche to other European countries but people have been misinformed and there has been mis-reporting with views that are not accurate.

“We abide by the all the rules and the others don’t.

“The reality is that what is agreed is left to nation states to implement and successive civil servants have written the detail. The others don’t do that, far more flexibility has been applied.”

THE PRICE

What price will be pay when we leave the EU?

Mr Corbett said: “A percentage of our GDP goes to Europe but most of that comes back.”

Mr Procter gave a different perspective on the same point, looking at it the other way: “We pay in more than we get back. We are a net contributor, as are France and Germany.

“So it works both ways ... there would be a blackhole in the EU budget.”

The team of Michel Barnier, the EU lead negotiator on Brexit, who was told to “go whistle” for an estimated £60 billion to £80 billion UK settlement, anticipates an £8 billion a year loss in EUrevenue.

Mr Procter said he wanted to look to the future and how best the problems could be resolved, with more information on what the voters want and what issues they are concerned about.

He gave a message to the people of Whitby, Bridlington and Scarborough: “I would like to hear what people and businesses have to say, what are their specific concerns?”

Fishing

The fishing industry is potentially worth £6.3 billion to the UK economy. In the first spotlight, we looked at the impact on fishing and the possible benefits or risks involved in creating fishing exclusion zone.

In the meantime, places such as Whitby are benefiting from being part of the EU. Repairs to corroded steel piling in Whitby harbour will cost £420,000, 75% of the funding for the much-needed repairs will come from European Fisheries Funding. That capital contribution would be lost.

Bridlington is still one of the biggest shellfish ports in Britain. The EU exit could boost fishing ... or it could lead to further reduction. No-one knows.

But the Blue Marine Foundation, a charity dedicated to marine reserves, said fishing would benefit from British leadership in UK waters and oceans around the world, and East Yorkshire MP Sir Greg Knight said that “we will be re-claiming our traditional fishing right as we leave the EU”.

For balance, we also invited a UKIP Euro-MP to share her views on the EU situation but she was too busy to discuss the demise of the body that the UKIP opposes but still attends. However, the Whitby Gazette reported earlier this month that UKIP Fisheries Spokesman Mike Hookem MEP has said he fears another “wholesale betrayal” of Britain’s fishing communities after it was announced the government will withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention but failed to give assurances on restricting access for EU vessels in the UK’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone post-Brexit. Mr Hookem has called on the government to clarify ‘once and for all its big picture position’ on fisheries post-Brexit.

THE LEGAL LOGISTICS

The 66-page Repeal Bill published by the Prime Minister earlier this month needs to be put into effect by March 2019 when the UK is due to leave the European Union.

The first measure of the Bill was to repeal the European Communities Act which took the UK into the Common Market on January 1 1973.

It transfers all EU legislation to British law, allowing Parliament to delete or amend EU legislation.

For two years, government ministers will be able, due to a provision in the Repeal Bill, to change laws without Parliamentary debate, which has also caused alarm in some quarters.

YOUR OPINION

What’s your opinion on leaving the European Union? Do you stand by your original vote to Leave or Remain, and what are your top three concerns?

Email us with the label Brexit, to newsdesk@jpress.co.uk

You can also contact Richard Corbett and John Procter and discuss your views by email: richard@richardcorbett.org.uk or john.procter@ep.europa.eu