An 'historic and momentous date' - how Sunderland is reacting to the impending arrival of Brexit Day
Sunderland politicians have labelled Brexit day as an “historic and momentous date” and vowed to hold the Government to account over the exact terms of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.
Friday, January 31, marks the nation’s final day in the EU as the 2016 Brexit Referendum result is finally rubberstamped.
The exact departure terms, however, have still to be determined with the Government now entering into detailed negotiations over future trading relations.
Several politicians and leading local businesses, perhaps because of the subject’s divisive nature, declined to comment about Brexit Day when contacted by the Echo.
Yet the Labour leader of Sunderland City Council, Coun Graeme Miller, said the UK’s departure was an “historic and momentous date” and added: “Voters in Sunderland and across the country have delivered strong messages about what they want and rightly expect their representatives to deliver.
He continued: “We are taking every opportunity to make Sunderland the best connected, international city it has the potential to be and we have always worked with governments of all colours to get the best for Sunderland and its residents.
“All the city’s councillors have this week pledged to continue working with the Government and holding it to account. This is not going to change with Brexit.”
Sunderland Central Labour MP Julie Elliott said she was worried by comments from Chancellor Sajid Javid suggesting there would be no alignment with EU trading regulations.
She said: “Whilst the Tory’s Brexit deal may have finally passed its first parliamentary hurdle, this is not the end of the process.
“The Government’s transition arrangements mean that we have until the end of the year to finalise our whole future relationship with the European Union, our biggest trading partner.
“In reality, this means it will be needed to be sorted by the summer.
“I am concerned about the Government’s attitude towards jobs, especially as the Chancellor talks about non-alignment and his admission that there will be impact on business, conceding that some will benefit and some won’t, is worrying.
“I will continue to hold the government to account on this.”
The North East England Chamber of Commerce wants “a deal that protects and promotes trade with Europe as soon as possible”.
On the “risk of no deal at the end of the year”, policy adviser Jack Simpson added: “This will have a huge impact on people’s jobs, income and regional prosperity.
“Members at the chamber have repeatedly said they want to avoid this outcome at any cost, even if it means extending negotiations.”
Professor Lawrence Bellamy, academic dean at the faculty of business, law and tourism at the University of Sunderland, said “it’s really what follows which will decide whether the stated benefits of Brexit will be delivered”.
He added: “The UK is poised, once the ink is dry on the paper, to open up new opportunities which were previously closed.
“It’s all to play for and whilst speed is of the essence, the devil is in the detail.”
Ellen Thinnesen, chair of Sunderland Business Partnership, a collective of more than 50 businesses in or with an interest in the city, said: “For some businesses, there will still be a sense that leaving the EU will be damaging, and for others, this is absolutely what they wanted.
“Ultimately, though, there is at least some certainty about the direction we’re moving in and I’m sure Sunderland businesses will be making all the right preparations to ensure they can maximise the opportunities and deal with the challenges that may lie ahead post-Brexit.”