Brexit: The clock is ticking

Nick Sandford (left)
Nick Sandford (left)
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Nick Sandford, Lib Dem group leader on Peterborough City Council:

The Prime Minister famously once said “Brexit means Brexit”. But negotiations with the EU over Brexit have rapidly turned into negotiations between the warring factions of the Conservative party.

If the Tories are divided on Brexit, then Labour is chaotic and confused and without any coherent policy on the most important issue of our time.

The clock is ticking towards the fateful hour on 31 March, 2019 and many of our leading politicians are showing a complete failure of leadership.

You may not all agree with the Lib Dem position on Brexit; but it is clear and we are united in putting it forward.

We continue to believe that the UK would be better off remaining in the EU. The EU was formed to protect democracy, human rights and freedom across Europe in the aftermath of two devastating World Wars.

It’s also about protecting free trade and our environment and guaranteeing rights at work, both of which are important if we are to have a fair, sustainable and prosperous economy.

People were given a vote on the principle of leaving the EU in 2016 and voted to do so by a narrow majority: now it’s vital that the people are given a say on the terms of EU exit, with an option to remain in the EU if people are not convinced the country has ended up with a good exit deal.

But we don’t have a Lib Dem government, and Brexit may well happen. Companies large and small across the country are thinking about how they might have to adapt to changed economic circumstances and different (possibly more difficult and expensive) trade with other countries.

So, don’t local authorities need to think about how they might need to adapt to Brexit? We now have Tory majority control of Peterborough City Council. I have seen lots of gleeful tweets from Tory councillors about how great leaving the EU might be, but no evidence that either they, or council officers, have done any contingency planning.

And what about the NHS? Already official statistics show a dramatic decline in nurses from EU countries registering for work in the UK, and we have a Government that is advocating swingeing cuts in migration from non-EU countries. Those two trends could add up to a disastrous scenario for health care in Peterborough and across the country.

Sometimes, one chance conversation makes you sit up and think.

In the recent local elections, I spoke on the doorstep to a Polish gentleman who told me he works in the health service. He said he wouldn’t be voting because: “It seems that you people don’t want us in your country.”

For someone to say that in Peterborough… a city which has been made prosperous by decades of immigration from other parts of Britain, Europe and across the world…. should make us all think what we run the risk of doing to our country and its people, and how there is still time left to change course.