Over the last two years, conversations about Brexit have left many people confused and concerned, particularly North East residents, students and EU citizens living in the UK. I spoke to Catherine McKinnel, Labour MP of Newcastle and advocate of the People’s Vote, to find out how we will really be affected in the event of a hard or no deal Brexit.
How do you beleive that a hard/no deal Brexit will affect students?
The Government have made some short-term commitments to protect students and universities – but it’s not clear what this outcome would mean in the medium and long-term, for example for EU nationals who want to study in the UK – or for UK students who want to take up opportunities their predecessors have been able to benefit from, such as studying or working in an EU member state as part of their course. We also don’t know what the long-term future is for the significant amount of EU research funding allocated to UK universities, or indeed how Brexit will affect the ability of the thousands of UK-based university researchers to continue to collaborate with colleagues across the EU. And of course students are not immune to the wider impacts of a hard / no deal Brexit, in terms of what this could mean for our economy, future job prospects and the funding that would be available to spend on public services.
How will the North East be affected by a hard or a no deal Brexit?
The Government’s own analysis shows that the North East’s economy will be hardest hit by any form of Brexit – but the worst impact of all will be from a no deal scenario. We are the only region to consistently export more than we import, and over 60% of the North East’s exports currently go to the EU, meaning we have a higher proportion of our exports going to the EU than any other part of the country. We also have a huge number of firms – particularly those involved in advanced manufacturing, such as Nissan – who rely heavily on the ability to easily import parts from across the EU on a ‘just in time’ basis. Putting barriers and red tape in the way of all of this – in addition to new costs – will have an enormous impact on the region’s productivity and ability to remain competitive. This is just one example of how a hard or no deal Brexit would affect the North East, with potentially very serious consequences for the many thousands of good, skilled jobs across the region which rely on our current easy access to, and frictionless trade with, EU markets. Even more concerning is the complete failure by Government to set out how they intend to mitigate the impact of any of this for our region.
How do you feel about May’s claim that the rights of EU citizens will be protected in the event of a no deal Brexit?
I know there has been a huge amount of uncertainty over the last two years for EU citizens living in the UK – and that is certainly reflected in the messages I receive from constituents, and when I visit almost any organisation in Newcastle where EU citizens work. This entire process has been extremely unsettling and distressing time for so many people across the country, and it’s frankly unacceptable that they should have been treated by our Government in this way. People rightly want absolute certainty about their ability to continue to live in this country, to work here, to study here – or do business – and, given everything that’s happened since the referendum, it’s not surprising they do not feel reassured by the Prime Minister’s promises.