On 28 February 2018, the following letter was presented to Kent County’s Council leader Paul Carter by 14 concerned groups from across the county.
Cllr Paul Carter CBE
Leader, Kent County Council
Kent ME14 1XQ
23rd February 2018
Dear Cllr Carter
We represent several groups across Kent, with a growing membership, who are concerned about the government’s determination to leave the European Union, without clarity over the impact this will have on our economy and social services.
We are already seeing the negative effects of the government’s decision to implement the results of the referendum in June 2016, with the UK’s economic growth falling behind much of Europe and forecast to stay there, a rise in inflation, and reductions in real wages and business investment.
The UK has lost the European Banking Authority (170 jobs) and the European Medicines Agency (900 jobs), and seen a 60% reduction in lending by the European Investment Bank. At least 50 banks have approached the European Central Bank to discuss relocation plans. Airlines are to introduce “Brexit clauses” if no agreement on aviation regulation is reached, and the UK will lose access to the European Space Agency, the Galileo GPS project and other high-value projects from which we have benefited through cost-sharing with 27 other countries.
The government’s own Brexit impact assessments show that all Brexit scenarios will damage the UK economy. The impact in Kent is likely to be very high indeed, including:
- Delays in cross-Channel freight traffic, which will have a major detrimental impact on Kent’s road networks, as well as impacting the regional and national economy (KCC evidence to the Transport Select Committee in 2016 estimated the cost of Operation Stack to be £1.5m per day).
- The NHS is already suffering from staff shortages caused, in part, by a reduction in nurses from Europe registering to work here, and Kent hospitals are reporting staff shortages (670 unfilled nursing vacancies at hospitals run by three trusts reported by Kent Online in July 2017) and difficulties with recruitment and retention. Private healthcare providers and the care sector also heavily rely on EU labour.
- Jeremy Hunt has admitted that cancer patients may be adversely affected by leaving Euratom, and our conversations with shoppers on the streets of towns across Kent on 27th January have shown that this is of grave concern to people, regardless of how they voted in the referendum.
- Kent fruit farmers are leaving crops to rot because of the lack of EU migrant labour – a result of the lower value of the pound, as well as anti-migrant sentiment in the UK.
- 65% of Kent business leaders favoured remaining in the EU in a poll at an event in 2016 run by Kreston Reeves and Furley Page. Small businesses, particularly exporters and those involved in hi-tech and service industries, are most likely to be concerned about the impacts of Brexit.
- If we leave the Customs Union businesses will be required to pay VAT upfront for all goods landed in the EU, even in transit, with a delay of up to five months before they are able to claim it back. This will be devastating to the cash flow of small business exporters.
- In the event of No Deal, the UK will receive approximately 1,200 third country permits for 75,000 road hauliers, which will result in loss of contracts for road haulage operators, many of which are located in Kent, as well as severe disruption to supply chains. Manufacturers and service providers tied into EU-wide supply chains will find it harder to retain existing contracts in the face of an increased risk of delays.
- Whilst the drop in house prices across Kent may be good news for some, it will not alleviate our housing shortage. The loss of European Investment Bank funds has significant implications for the provision of affordable housing (young people especially are telling us that access to housing is a real problem), and the construction industry is reporting an increase in costs since the referendum.
No doubt you are considering all these issues very carefully, but we would request that they, and the wider implications of Brexit, are taken into account in any detailed impact assessments you commission, and that the results of those assessments are made public at the earliest opportunity.
Chair, West Kent European Movement
Chair, East Kent European Movement
Co-ordinator, Sevenoaks and Swanley Together in Europe
Chair, Tonbridge and Malling Unite for Europe
Chair, Canterbury for Europe
Chair, Whitstable Sceptics
Sarah Gleave and Roy Foster
Co-secretaries, EU Thinking: Deal and Dover
Chair, Open Britain Ashford
Co-ordinator MidKent4EU (Faversham branch)
The 48%, Folkstone and Hythe
Group Manager, the 48%, Gravesham
The 48%, Thanet