Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council has written to the local MP over his concerns over the likely impact of a No-Deal Brexit, when combined with the Covid pandemic, on public safety.
On Friday 12th June, the UK government decided not to seek an extension of the existing transition period before exiting the European Union. The UK will leave the European Union entirely on 31 December 2020.
Councillor Sykes worries for the most vulnerable in society if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal whilst still reeling from the impact of Covid-19.
Commenting he said: “A No-Deal Brexit combined with Covid would represent a double whammy. Progress made so far on securing a future trade deal between the UK and the rest of Europe has been painfully slow. Council, medical, key and care workers across our borough are already fully engaged in battling the impact of Covid-19. The disease is impacting those who are most vulnerable in our society.”
“I have real concerns that if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal then we may also face food and medical shortages in 2021, and these too will hit our poorest and most vulnerable residents,” said Councillor Sykes.
The Oldham Liberal Democrats are asking a local MP to press the Government to publish impact assessments that were first carried out in the autumn of 2019.
Councillor Sykes hopes that these assessments will provide clarity in four key areas:
- The impact on food prices and food availability.
- The availability of medicine and drug stockpiles.
- The ability of essential products, materials, and chemicals to be imported from the EU.
- The ability of British businesses to prepare for a potential no deal, and any negative impact on employment.
Councillor Sykes said: “In April alone, the country’s economy shrank by 20.4%. This has never been seen before. The full devastation of the pandemic is yet to be revealed: widespread job losses, reduced living standards, and debt are certain.”
“The Prime Minister refuses extend the EU transition period. We need to know what this will mean for Oldham. A No-Deal Brexit combined with Covid will mean that yet more Oldham people’s lives will be in the balance.”
Copy of letter to: Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, no reply or acknowledgement to date
10 July 2020
Debbie Abrahams MP, Lord Chambers, 9 Church Lane, Oldham OL1 3AN
Dear Debbie Abrahams,
Re: Covid-19 safety guarantees amidst a No-Deal exit from the European Union
On Friday 12th June, at the second Joint Committee meeting, the Government formally rejected the option to extend the transition period. The European Union have made it clear that they would still be open to an extension and that the progress made so far on key areas of the Brexit negotiations is insufficient.
The deadline for requesting an extension is 1st July 2020, after which point the UK faces the possibility of crashing out of the EU if a deal is not secured before the end of the year.
Oldham Borough’s services and its economy are already battling Covid-19. Our resources are stretched and the most vulnerable in our society have been those most affected by the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.
In April alone, the country’s economy shrank by 20.4% in April. This is the largest monthly narrowing on record. The full devastation of the pandemic is yet to be revealed: widespread job losses, reduced living standards, and debt are certain.
In light of this, and in light of your position, the Oldham Liberal Democrats are calling for you to support our calls for the Government to publish a review of the impact assessments done in Autumn of 2019, to understand full the impact Covid-19 has had, particularly in the following areas:
- The availability of food products and any subsequent impact on food prices
- The availability of medicines and the impact coronavirus has had on medicine stockpiles
- The ability of essential products, materials, and chemicals to be imported from the EU
- The ability of British businesses to prepare for a potential no deal, and any subsequent impact on employment
The Liberal Democrats would also like to see the government undertake an economic assessment on the impact of a no deal exit from the European Union. The Government refused to initiate such an assessment in Autumn 2019, but this is crucial considering the financial situation the UK is in due to the Covid-19 epidemic.
The Government must demonstrate that they have fully assessed the impact of leaving without a deal, considering the pandemic. Tackling the pandemic must be their priority, yet the threat of a no-deal exit looms large. This could deliver another devastating blow to our already weakened economy and public services.
The Prime Minister refuses to rethink his position on accepting an extension to the transition period. It is therefore high time the facts were laid bare about what this will mean for Oldham, and the rest of the United Kingdom.
I hope you support the contents of this letter and I anticipate your thoughts on the matter.
Yours sincerely – Howard Sykes