Boris Johnson as PM - Beverley Debates

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Sir Vince Cable Q&A - Life After Lib Dem Leadership

By Beverley Nielsen, Associate Professor at Birmingham City University’s IDEA Institute and Senior Fellow at BCU’s Centre for Brexit Studies, Liberal Democrat Councillor on Malvern Hills District Council and responsible for the Economic Development & Tourism Portfolio

key_vince.jpgHow are you feeling at the end of your term as Leader?

I am not sure what the next stage of my career really is. I’m in California over the summer with my son and I’m looking forward to coming back feeling refreshed. I will of course still be MP for Twickenham.

I’m writing another book looking at the links between politicians and economics and taking a closer view of the figures who have made a big difference through these links including Alexander Hamilton (1) and Deng Xiaoping (2).

[(1) Alexander Hamilton (1755 – 1804), was renowned as one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, leading the way in interpreting and promoting the US Constitution, founding the nation’s financial system, the Federalist Party and the New York Post. As First Secretary of the Treasury, he was promoted the economic policies for George Washington‘s administration, setting up a national bank, enabling funding for state debt, establishing a system of tariffs and  trading relations with Great Britain.

(2) Deng, credited through economic policy reform with lifting more human beings out of poverty than any other human being, drew on a model of ‘state capitalism’ set within the framework of Communist party rule. Deng himself was pragmatic: a gradualist who believed in ‘crossing the river by feeling for the stones’, being interested in results rather than dogma or doctrine.]

What are your proudest achievements?

Most of the achievements I’m proudest of were achieved during the five years I spent serving as a Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in the Coalition government. I was able to promote bank reform, the creation of new British Business Bank and Green Investment Bank as well as the Vickers reforms brought forward by the former Bank of England Chief Economist, Sir John Vickers. The Industrial Strategy was a success, in particular for the vehicle and aircraft sectors, currently being so dramatically undermined by Brexit, and I was proud to launch the Catapult network and I do continue to meet people in the network, in particular the National Automotive Innovation Centre at WMG, University of Warwick, which has achieved a successful funding formula working with business and the better ones like these are doing well.

I was disgusted with the sell-off of the Green Investment Bank. It was a very good institution and having invested £12bn in new green businesses it was sold off to the Australian asset stripper which will likely now disinvest in the UK.

Whilst my main achievements were during the Coalition, I’ve also been a turnaround specialist for the Liberal Democrats. I took over in 2007 on a temporary basis when the Party was at a low ebb and it was in much better shape when Nick Clegg took over. In these last few years the Party has also revived. We are now in much better position as Jo Swinson takes on the role of leadership. She is putting forward a fresh new face and getting good coverage as we fight to Stop Brexit.

What do you consider the most important thing for the Liberal Democrats to achieve at present outside of stopping Brexit?

We must now consolidate our position as one of big players politically. YouGov polls today (24thJuly) put us second only to the Tories and ahead of Labour, with the Brexit Party falling back to fourth place. We seem to have settled into a stable position as one of four main parties. The big task is to build on that and to go into any future General Election as a major party in our own right.

What lessons do you take from the Coalition years?

Being in a coalition under present voting system is bad for any party and I don’t see any appetite for this without electoral reform. There isn’t any appetite for this in the country either, in spite of the widespread consciousness of the failings of government. It is a complete and utter mess at present with a minority ruling for the majority. But we still must continue to make the case for reform.

Is another storm brewing for the UK and for us globally?

Yes, I think another storm is brewing. I noted the comment by Andrew Neil that the US is embarking on massive deficit financing at the peak of a boom, a bit like Peron did in Argentina. We are looking at a likely crash landing. There are plenty of signals with the trade war and our own economy in decline. We have had two and maybe three quarters of falling output. But it’s a strange recession with full employment. Wages have been flexible, too flexible most likely, and people have kept their jobs.

As Boris Johnson becomes PM could you have foreseen politics where it is today from 2009 after the Global Financial Crisis?

Boris has different personalities and we have to see what he does. We need to look to see what route he will follow. The Tories have to neutralise the Brexit Party as the right wing vote is split if not. If they do get together with them then it’s good news for the Liberal Democrats. I’d be very surprised in Nigel Farage becomes US ambassador for example, despite having been mentioned in a recent speech by Sajid Javid. I think it will be more of a passive understanding in doing the Brexit Party’s dirty work so there’s no need for them to continue. The intention will be to do to the Brexit Party what they did to UKIP.

There is a bigger danger for the Tories in the Shire seats that even if they get together with the Brexit Party then they lose the support of the moderate Tories. I think this will happen all over the country.

The pollster, Prof Sir John Curtice, says the UK population divides roughly into the social liberals and social conservatives – do you agree with these two broad splits in our population and are they linked to our views on Brexit?

Yes, broadly I agree with Prof Curtice. I think the point he’s trying to make is that we now have the politics of identity rather than a straight left- right split.

What do you say to young people who voted by over 70% to Remain in the EU?

They have been betrayed by the Labour Party, that much is very clear. The Brexit Party vote is heavily driven by age and the left-behind as well, but the biggest determinant is age. The older generation have shafted the young. Now we are getting an angry younger generation, betrayed on Brexit, let down on housing and let down on environmental issues and Labour Party is no longer of any value to them.

The Greens are still in single figures in the polls. If they look at the potential for winning seats in Parliament, it’s hard to see where the Greens go, whereas we have the potential to win large numbers of MPs in any future general election and of making a real difference.

What message of hope could we give to young people now?

You have been betrayed over Brexit and should get behind the one party which is fully committed to remaining in the EU and fully alert to your concerns about the environment and housing.

This is the time for councils to be building truly affordable housing.  There are a lot of councils building houses and even this wretched government is giving them the freedom to borrow. Councils like Liberal controlled Eastleigh and others of all parties are building where there is land. South Shropshire has done quite a bit of social housing. As far as private housing is concerned why don’t councils CPO some land to take this agenda forward.

As a Party we’ve got the basic elements in place. The fact that Jo Swinson has been elected as a young woman with young children is plainly something relevant that she’s bringing, together with her experience, to this role and to the image of the Party. It’s the right image for this generation.

What do you think about the tuition fee situation now?

I have been promoting the idea of Lifetime Learning Accounts as a personal proposal and there is a Lifetime Learning Commission looking to explain how this could work on a more modest scale.

In terms of Further and Higher Education (HE) we tried to narrow the disparity in funding between the two when I was in government and the mechanism we came up with was tuition fees. We tried to promote fees for Further Education (FE), but it did not work. There is a disparity in the funding which needs tackling (3). The Augur report, which acknowledged this, made a commitment to narrow the gap. Apprenticeships were doing well, we were getting them up and running but the government screwed up really badly with the Apprenticeship Levy with apprenticeships down by a quarter in 2017/18 to just over 375k, with an annual target for 3m apprenticeships having been set by government by 2020. Whilst 25% of big firms are able to fund apprenticeships in their supply chain and SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) pay only 5% towards these with government paying the rest, the accreditation of tailored courses has been taking too long.  There is also no real organisational capacity to organise the supply chain and SME activity. People are now getting used to it but there has been a lot of wasted time.

[(3)around £7bn per annum in FE to cover 4m students and over £8bn a year government funding in HE to cover over 2m students]

Does a fairer UK means greater devolved powers to the region?

Yes it does, but we need to be careful. I am a big supporter of Heseltine’s review (‘No Stone Unturned’). I have concerns about turning over Further Education and Apprenticeships to a devolved system as you may well end up with different standards all over the country. With transport it makes sense to have regional transport plans. But fragmentation of training is a danger. With health there is a familiar dilemma – we do tend to have more initiatives but there is the danger of postcodes lotteries. Overall I am in favour of devolution but it can lead to many different outcomes.

Does a No-Deal Brexit mean breaking up the UK?

Not immediately.  It will certainly bring more and more pressures to bear on Northern Ireland.  The Nationalists majority and sympathetic Unionists may go for a united Ireland. When the Scots see the mess Brexit will make as Britain breaks away from Europe, they will probably think again about breaking away from the UK.

What would the impact of a No-Deal Brexit be on manufacturing and regions like the Midlands as the home of UK automotive and an aerospace cluster of global significance?

It would be disastrous for the West Midlands but I think a No-Deal Brexit is still very unlikely. A lot of this is hot air to cover the extreme wing of the Tory Party. Brexit itself will be very damaging.

What is the likelihood of a general election this Autumn?

I don’t see the chances of an Autumn election much above 30%. I think Spring is much more likely if Boris Johnson keeps control; if he loses control we may have election forced on us.

After the Storm – do you think we have dealt with fundamentals of capitalism and will the Industrial Strategy sort out our productivity shortcomings in the UK?

There are still a lot of problems. The banking system is a lot more stable. But there are still a lot of issues that we need to address regarding capitalism and corporate governance.  The environmental agenda needs to be less about talk and more about action. But we still do not have many alternative models that work.

How best to decarbonise capitalism and does this lead to more ethical capitalism?

Yes, decarbonising capitalism can be stimulated but we do need to be a bit careful and wary of moving too far ahead of the public. The kind of thing governments can do is to implement Carbon Taxes and tougher regulations. A segment of the public is ahead of the politicians, but this has not so far a big driver.

Looking internationally and the rise in international migrants from 170m in 2000 to 260m worldwide in 2019, are our global institutions working?

Key bodies like the World Trade Organisation and the World Bank have lost authority but it is essential that this is rebuilt and retained otherwise our global rules-based order disintegrates. This is one of the reasons why remaining in EU is so important and we have to show this can work and to stay in it. Managing globalisation, having rules and showing they can be enforced for the benefit of large numbers of countries is vital.  But we shouldn’t get too despondent as in most parts of Europe the nationalists have not made too much progress and are in a minority. There has been damage in the UK and US, but we are not yet back to the situation of the 1930s.

Do you have any thoughts for us in Malvern Hills where we are promoting ourselves for our trailblazer 5G testbed (the first in the country), our sensors and cyber security leadership?

In terms of the smart economy, I am not a technologist so I won’t try to make observations, but what you are describing is precisely what the Catapult network was trying to do. I think we may well need a Catapult to deal with 5G technologies. If that were to be agreed with the resources required, it would help to bridge the gap from testbed to commercial viability and I could see this being a potential for a place like Malvern located between GCHQ and Birmingham.

Reprinted with permission - Centre for Brexit Studies

Lib Dem PPC for West Worcestershire, Cllr Beverley Nielsen, calls for ‘an integrated zero carbon transport plan for Malvern Hills’


Pictured: Illustration; Parry People Mover retro-styled tramway system with no overhead wires, drawing on zero carbon bio-methane flywheel hybrid powertrain, set in context of Malvern Hills.

115 Councils across the UK have so far declared a climate emergency and amongst these 71 have set a carbon neutral target of 2030. Amongst these Worcester City Council recently pledged to make the city carbon neutral by 2030. Malvern Hills District Council is calling for greater collaboration and more resources from central government to support local action for this issue at its meeting 23rd July. 

However, these pledges are made at a time when residents continue to complain about drastic cuts to public transport services, being often wholly reliant on cars with diesel and petrol engines. Many elderly residents have to rely on taxis when trying to get to the shops or vital health appointments due to the lack of public transport available.

Cllr Beverley Nielsen states: “There is no plan at present to use low carbon and zero carbon alternatives giving our residents real choices in Malvern and our other urban centres. I am pleased to be involved in early discussions with key partners about this problem. Promoting electric vehicle use, including smaller electric buses, installing charging points, planning for a tramway that could help to provide thousands of residents and visitors with sustainable transport alternatives.”

Cllr Nielsen has supported the designers and operators of the Stourbridge Shuttle over the last three years (pictured below) and says: “The railcar in operation in Stourbridge was funded by private investors who put around £1m into this. The operator, Premetro Operations Ltd, have transported 5m people over last 10 years, shuttling them between the Stourbridge bus station and mainline rail station. With a 99.7% reliability track record it is one of the most reliable rail services in the country. It uses an ultra-low carbon, low-cost powertrain drawing on a hybrid 2.3l propane engine and flywheel.

“This has improved air quality and connectivity and is a ready-made solution which can be rolled out to more communities. The picture above envisages a retro-styled tramway system that could be used to transport thousands of people to the Three Counties Showground (from Great Malvern station, for example), at present only accessible by car and coach. 

“Moving away from our overdependence on fossil-fuel based car and bus systems is proving challenging in Worcestershire. Organisations based in the County have been bringing together plans, most recently AtoB in Malvern 2040 and High Street Malvern. We need to see more imagination, a can-do attitude and a great deal more ambition for our residents in terms of sustainable transport options.”

Roger Sutton, Chairman, High Street Malvern (HSM) stated: “HSM is very supportive of all efforts to agree policies tackling climate change and a reduction in pollution. Locally our councils have the opportunity to take a lead for the area in promoting electric vehicles – both private and public – and addressing the problems of town centre diesel fumes to improve air quality and the experience for our residents and visitors”.


Pictured: Class 139 Parry People Mover Railcar in operation in Stourbridge for the past 10 years moving 5m passengers with 99.7% reliability, drawing on propane–flywheel ultra-low carbon powertrain.

‘Malvern, home to the country’s finest classical Urban Arboretum’, says Cllr Beverley Nielsen, for Malvern Priory

‘Malvern’s Marvellous Trees’ launches four new Routes to enjoy leafy promenades around Malvern

8th July 2019

Mike Goodfellow-Smith (past chair of Malvern Community Forest) launched ‘Malvern’s Marvellous Trees’ as a charity (awaiting registration) in 2018 having moved to Malvern from Leeds in 2012. 

Having moved with his wife, Julia to Barnard’s Green, Mike observed the mature trees along Avenue Road being ‘topped’ to allow double decker buses to move up and down and noticed that several spaces had appeared along the avenue where the trees had died and had not been replaced with younger saplings.

His interest rapidly expanded from Avenue Road to the whole town and luckily for him he found out about the ‘Great Malvern Route to the Hills’ at a time when they were able to provide some seed investment through Heritage Lottery Fund to help Mike develop new routes around our town enabling residents and visitors to view Malvern’s Marvellous Trees.

Through this investment Mike was able to bring together a growing band of volunteers sharing his passion for our trees. Together they helped create four new routes to walk around our town whilst learning about and enjoying Malvern’s leafy promenades. Supported with superb tree photography by Jan Sedlacek.

Speaking about Malvern’s Marvellous Trees four new guides Mike stated:

“It’s fantastic to be able to launch our four new guides highlighting the tremendous variety of species we have here in Malvern. What people don’t realise is that right in the heart of Malvern we have the country’s finest urban arboretum. Planted in the 1800s by a group of town visionaries and architects they bequeathed to us something beautiful for every single one of us to enjoy every single day.”

Mike is now concerned that we are able to pay it forward for coming generations by displaying the same generosity of vision as our town forebears.

Beverley Nielsen, Councillor for Malvern Priory, which houses the main body of Malvern’s arboretum and who is also Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for West Worcestershire stated:

“I am so keen to help raise the profile of this work by Mike and his colleagues at Malvern’s Marvellous Trees in highlighting Malvern’s position in hosting the country’s finest classical Urban Arboretum. I know everyone who lives here is very conscious of our beautiful place and in Malvern Hills District Council it has, and will remain, a focus for development. If we are able to offer an additional destination to the 550,000 visitors to Westonbirt Arboretum each year this could assist in drawing vital visitor numbers into our Town to appreciate our wider visitor offerings.”

“I would like to see Malvern Hills aiming to be the smartest and greenest place in England, building on our wonderful heritage by drawing on the smart people living here to develop our own living legacy for generations to come. As the old Greek saying goes, ‘A society grows great when people plant trees whose shade they will never sit in.’ It is this spirit we need to capture and build on for the future.”


Pictured: Mike Goodfellow-Smith, founder of charity, Malvern’s Marvellous Trees, with Cllr Beverley Nielsen, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate West Worcestershire, in front of the Cedar of Lebanon, Malvern Priory, launching four new tree-lined routes and highlighting Malvern as the country’s finest Urban Arboretum.

Bridging the Gap – the new cast in Europe taking over Brexit negotiations


Since the European elections in early May 2019 the European Parliament party groupings have been busy forming a ‘grand’ central coalition bringing together the three largest groups including the centre right European People’s Party (EPP) with 215 MEPs, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (Socialists) with 154 MEPs, Renew Europe with 108 MEPs (formerly known as Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe, ALDE). Whilst talks have also included the Greens with 71 MEPs , they have so far held back from formally signing up.

These Parties have been working together on a joint programme for the Parliament through June, agreeing that key positions in the EU should be shared more equitably given that each of these groups now has around 100-200s MEPs each between them, with Renew seeing the largest increases from 67-108, Socialists the largest falls from 221 to 154, EPP with 215 remaining the largest single grouping and with the Greens also making substantial gains up from 50 to 71 seats.

The fact that a woman is now proposed for the top job of President of the Commission seems to have occurred more by accident than design. Following election losses suffered by the Socialists it was felt inappropriate for them to have the nomination for Commission President, and subsequently agreed that the EPP should have the right to propose their candidate for this role,  with the Liberals taking the top job at the Council.

Following three days of wrangling, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, 60, was nominated by the EPP for Commission President,  with Parliament due to vote on this over the coming week. Her name came as a surprise and if approved, von der Leyen will become the first woman to fill the European Union’s top job. However West Midlands Liberal Democrat MEP, Phil Bennion, tells me that some Liberals are muttering about withholding their support in light of outstanding allegations regarding her handling of defence contracts leading to concerns over the impact of this on her reputation and ability to get the job done.

Whilst Von der Leyen only entered politics aged 43, her background is steeped in it with her father, Ernst Albrecht, presiding as the minister-president of Lower Saxony and former DG at the European Commission.  In 2013 she was appointed Germany's first female defence minister and remains a close ally of Angela Merkel in the conservative Christian Democrats, CDU (Merkel having nominated von der Leyen later abstained from voting). As a native French and German speaker also fluent in English, she studied economics at the London School of Economics followed by medicine with a specialisation in gynaecology in Hanover and has a large family of her own with seven children. During her tenure at the defence department she was accused of awarding questionable private contracts linked to the hiring of two consulting firms, McKinsey and Accenture. She has admitted to procurement errors pledging to take steps to prevent it from ever happening again.

Other candidates that fell along the way include Manfred Weber, previously stated as the EPP’s preferred candidate for the Commission President as their leader in the European Parliament but not accepted by the Socialists who were promoting Frans Timmermans as their preferred choice.  However Timmermans did not have the support of the Visegrád Group, or V4 as they are known – Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia – even those with socialist governments did not support him for the Council’s top job.  Other EPP nominations had been rumoured including Varadkar from Ireland and Barnier as a French nomination. Vesteger, the ALDE (now Renew) candidate, whose name had appeared in the press as the favourite for the Commission President, was not supported by the EPP.

In the Parliament the main groups have collectively come behind Italian socialist, David Sassoli for Parliament President, or speaker, voting for him by 345 votes out of 667 votes cast in the second round. Sassoli has been an MEP since 2009 and will lead the Parliament until 2022 with an eye on further integration and highlighting ‘momentous transformations’ in his acceptance speech and the need to provide real answers to ‘youth unemployment, migration, climate change, the digital revolution, the new world balance …which need new ideas and courage.’

The European Council of EU country leaders voted for their own President choosing the Belgian lawyer and Liberal politician, Charles Michel. As the son of a former European Commissioner, Charles Michel is fluent in Dutch, English and French and became Belgium's youngest prime minister since 1845 when he was elected at the age of 38 in 2014.  He is known as one of the first EU politicians to suggest the bloc was heading towards a "two-tier" union because of migration, with some member states reluctant to take in migrants losing some of their EU rights.

Speaking about Michel’s appointment, West Midlands Liberal Democrat MEP, Phil Bennion, airs some of his early concerns as a member of the Renew group, stating:

“I’m a bit worried about Michel as he is nowhere near as firm on Brexit as Tusk who’s been useful in promoting the importance of Britain’s role in the EU, but Michel is closer to Macron in his position. We are furiously working on MEPs from En Marche Renaissance to talk to them one-to-one to persuade them that Brexit is not inevitable and it’s in the EU’s interests for it not to happen. We are also working to persuade Charles Michel to work on keeping Britain in the EU. Sassoli has not been very helpful either so far.

“In terms of the British situation looking ahead, Michel is the main person for Boris or whoever becomes our PM in future to deal with. With regards to the tricky and troubling situation in Northern Ireland, I can’t see the Backstop being varied from here as Varadkar won’t let them vary it. It seems impossible to see a position where we end the Backstop and have an open border with the EU with Britain outside the Customs Union. Putting off the Backstop is the worst option as nothing is going to change in two years of transition as the choices will be just as stark in two years as they are now.”

Working through the European Parliament’s procedures presents many challenges for the newly elected teams… the agenda has not paused and decisions are having to be made in tight timescales.  

“The internal workings of the Parliament are like nothing else I’ve seen, primarily because of the churn in MEPs elected. We have a group where virtually no one else has been an MEP before. Out of the 108 Renew MEPs only around 20 were previously MEPs. There is a bit of floundering around trying to work out what we are doing. The Socialists however have not had as much churn and they are continuing to promote the same agenda that they have piped on about over the past 20 years promoting the same worker’s rights and working conditions right across the EU. The EPP have also had more change, largely because they have lost seats but there is more continuity there than for the Liberals. Even our leader, former Romanian prime minister and the head of the country’s PLUS party, Dacian Ciolos, is an EPP defector. Guy Verhofstadt is still there and very convivial. Our Liberal Democrat group are getting along very well even though only 4 out of our 16 have been MEPs before.”

Asked about his predictions for the future from here, Phil Bennion MEP outlines a range of options leaving the future wide open.

“Depends on whether Boris is elected PM by the Conservatives and if so whether he can persuade the Euro sceptics to back a deal. If he does the Brexiters get their way and we are out.  But we still have the issue of transition and the Backstop position following that. If Boris fails to get the Brexiters to support a deal and does not ask for an extension then there could be a vote of No Confidence. This might come too late for an election prior to 31st October. However, Boris might call an election in September so that in the week or so after it he still has time to take a position on a deal in parliament. If he’s nowhere near to getting the numbers he needs then he’ll call an election. If he has the numbers then there won’t be an election. Following any Autumn election I think you’d need to see a National Government to either get an extension or to revoke Article 50.

“MP talks are going on now even as we speak across parties between everyone who’s against a no-deal Brexit. They are already testing ideas regarding the mechanisms and timings required and may already involve the Speaker in terms of questions of procedure and how to avoid getting notice periods incorrect. It’s difficult trying to predict where this is going.”

There is one other European nomination that has attracted press comment over the past week. Another woman and another surprise, Christine La Garde has been proposed by EU Leaders for the role of President of the European Central Bank. As David Smith notes in the Sunday Times (7th July), ‘she was not among the runners and riders thought to have the right central banking credentials…She is neither a central banker nor an economist’. She is generally regarded as having been a ‘capable’ head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but as Smith notes this is a ‘strange way’ of making such ‘important appointments’.

Europe and the UK remain poised in the midst of turbulent times. Women are coming to the fore, but not as front line candidates seen as front runners, but rather as compromise candidates promoted out of necessity. Whilst far from ideal, it is progress and perhaps one of the only good things so far to emerge from it all.

A view from the Malvern Foothills: Securing our 5G first-mover foothold

By Beverley Nielsen, Associate Professor at Birmingham City University’s IDEA Institute and Senior Fellow at BCU’s Centre for Brexit Studies, Liberal Democrat Councillor on Malvern Hills District Council and responsible for the Economic Development & Tourism Portfolio

The latest Quarterly Business Report from the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce (GBC) covering around 400 businesses representing 30,000 employees across Birmingham, Burton, Chase, Lichfield, Tamworth, Sutton Coldfield & Solihull was launched last Friday 21st June.

Covering the period 20th May – 10th June 2019, it uses a balanced score to assess the levels of health in our local economy. Worryingly but unsurprisingly Brexit uncertainty continues to impact confidence and activity levels, with both domestic and export demand dropping to the lowest levels since the Referendum in 2016. Capital spend intentions have fallen to their lowest levels since Q1 2009, with recruitment difficulties persisting. Cashflow challenges remain with significant price pressures impacting the prospects for West Midlands business and productivity.

GBC are clear that businesses are not ready for a chaotic no-deal Brexit. They are working with the British Chambers of Commerce and the wider Chamber network to urge government to do ‘everything in its power to avoid a chaotic no-deal scenario’. Organising labour, stockpiling, rethinking international trade arrangements, briefing investors and other preparations takes time and costs vast amounts of money. Their latest Quarterly Report demonstrates the impact Brexit uncertainty is already having on businesses, most notably in falling capital expenditure and business level investment. They continue to seek ‘clarity on Brexit now’.

These fears are based on considerable research. The results are set in the context of consensus forecasts for UK growth at around 1.35% this year and next, in anticipation of a ‘smooth Brexit’, with growth falling below 0.5% in the event of a no-deal Brexit. UK government’s Brexit impact assessments highlight no-deal leaving the UK economy 6.3% to 9% smaller after 15 years with customs checks alone costing business £13bn a year.

Research by Professor Raquel Ortega-Argiles, University of Birmingham, indicates 12.2% of West Midlands GDP is at risk over Brexit-related negative trade consequences (The Economic Impacts of Brexit on the UK, its Regions, its Cities and its Sectors). The Government’s own analysis suggests that the West Midlands region will be the second most exposed to a potential reduction in economic output post-Brexit (EU Exit Analysis: Cross-Whitehall Briefing, House of Commons Exiting the European Union Committee, January 2018).

It’s clear that business people, used to deal-making and problem-solving in the real world, simply can’t understand why politicians haven’t been able to do what they have to do every day – deliver.

Three months back when the last Quarterly Business Report was produced, the Chamber CEO, Paul Faulkner, aired these frustrations on behalf of his members, stating: “For the last two years, a sense of chaos and turmoil has defined political activity at Westminster, creating the impression that very few politicians are capable of putting aside party allegiances and working together in the national interest to tackle the most crucial negotiation this country has witnessed in over a generation….As we approach the end of March, it is clear the spectre of Brexit is having a marked effect on local business output.”  One can only imagine these sentiments have hardened considerably since then.

Whilst more businesses are reported as being prepared for a no-deal Brexit, up from 20% to 40%, Bank of England governor, Mark Carney noted last week that around 150,000 still did not have the paperwork required to continue exporting after a no-deal Brexit. Not very encouraging for the West Midlands with 15% of our economy powered by manufacturing.

At the latest meeting with West Midlands MPs held by the Greater Birmingham Chamber, June 21st, and hosted by Paul Thandi, CEO, the NEC Group, Dame Caroline Spelman MP (Conservative, Meriden) shared his frustrations. She said there was a strong spirit in favour of cross party cooperation. She had worked with MP Jack Dromey (Labour, Birmingham Erdington), to push through a non-binding cross party amendment rejecting a no-deal at any time under any circumstances.

This was later moved by Yvette Cooper MP (Labour, Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) after Dame Caroline felt obliged to withdraw when it became clear the government would be whipping against it, with this non-binding amendment passed by a narrow majority in the Commons.  However Dame Caroline observed with regret that there was no longer any mechanism to prevent a no-deal Brexit which would, she stated, lead to the fastest process of de-industrialisation ever witnessed.

Her hope was that in September, when MPs would be given a final chance to vote for the Withdrawal Agreement, they would not be whipped providing Labour MPs with the chance to vote freely.

Andrew Mitchell MP (Conservative, Sutton Coldfield) noted that the ‘genuine differences of opinion between MPs’ made it very hard to gain cross party consensus. The parliamentary stalemate persisted. He outlined how he had, for example, voted for the first Oliver Letwin amendment enabling a series of eight indicative votes on what sort of Brexit, but he had voted against taking no-deal off the table as this remained a powerful negotiating card.

Stating there was ‘no such thing as no-deal’, rather a managed exit, he added that we were ‘under-gunned’ on the Midlands Engine, leaving us poorly positioned vis-à-vis the Northern Powerhouse and Manchester, cited, too often it was agreed by all present as being Britain’s ‘second city’.

The meeting provided a good opportunity to ask Mr Mitchell in my capacity as Economic Development Portfolio Holder Malvern Hills District Council, about our 5G testbeds in Worcestershire. My query focussed specifically on government advice to cease drawing on Huawei technology as a 5G testbed project partner.

This followed President Trump’s recent comments regarding possible US withdrawal of future intelligence sharing with the UK.  It was hard not to wonder if we were ‘taking back control from the EU only to hand it over to the US’. Mr Mitchell stated that through his privileged intelligence access he personally felt clear that Huawei did not pose a security risk….An encouraging answer if followed through with action to lift the suspension. Especially so in the case of those based at the Malvern Hills Science Park trialling the UK’s first advanced manufacturing 5G test bed, a £4.8m Midlands Engine funded project secured by the Worcestershire LEP.

Bringing together leading 5G and Industry 4.0 experts, the project team includes Huawei who have apparently provided up to 2000 5G nodes for this project, along with Malvern Hills Science Park, O2, BT, Worcestershire County Council, 5GIC at University of Surrey and AWTG. Given the Huawei technology suspension, it has been proving harder to capitalise on the project’s first-mover advantage.

The nearest suppliers with any equivalence to Huawei – Ericsson and Samsung – are reported to be technologically 6 months behind and in the case of the former much of their production is currently based on the Chinese mainland – although they are talking about moving to the US given the massive market potential and the anticipated impact of the trade wars.

Worcestershire trials have been focusing on how to improve industrial productivity drawing on the enhanced data capacity provided through 5G with speeds of up to 100 gigabits per second or up to 100 times faster download speeds than 4G with the trials providing evidence of an early +2% productivity uplift.

Drawing on this enhanced 5G capacity – speedier, less signal delay and more simultaneous connections to multiple devices – international businesses based in Worcestershire – Worcester Bosch and Mazak – have been trialling these capabilities since March 2018 to provide preventative and assisted maintenance across their advanced manufacturing plants using robotics, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and augmented reality.

The project also includes cyber security elements through QinetiQ assurances on the ‘security by design’ of 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) technology. A project extension was granted from March 2019 with Huawei removed as a partner during this period. It’s hard not to ask what the cost of this decision will be both in terms of the Worcestershire 5G testbed and nationally as consultants are pulled in to assess next steps with new partners joining and the resulting upheaval and timescale implications.

Alongside the 5G testbed, the Malvern Hills entrepreneurial ecosystem is being enhanced through access to 5G capabilities and support from the recently launched Betaden, a commercial tech launchpad and accelerator located at the Malvern Hills Science Park, headed up by its impressive CEO and founder, Linda Smith.

These early steps are vital for future growth and success. It’s going to be an all-out bunfight for market share as these global tech giants slug it out, with Ericsson way back in 2017 forecasting a $1.233 trillion market, but with these market estimates mushrooming regularly. Of this they stated 20% would come from energy utilities; 19% from manufacturing; 13% public safety; 13% healthcare; 10% media and entertainment; 10% public transport; 8% automotive; and 6% financial services.

It would be great to not only lead the world in our tech innovations but to benefit from the commercialisation, something we have too often failed to do in the past.

The next KPMG Economic Outlook report due out this week and written up by economist David Smith in the Sunday Times, 23rd June 2019, (Our export prospects burn bright – if we dodge no deal),highlights KPMG’s central scenario predictions for total trade (exports plus imports) rising from £1,200bn now to £1,800bn by 2030. Investing in innovation and technology is essential to accelerating our trade growth outcomes in post-Brexit Britain with the most optimistic scenario taking place through greater technological convergence in the context of a managed Brexit.

Under a no-deal Brexit – leaving on World Trade Organisation terms –  trade volumes would fall and by 2030 be at just the same levels as 2018, representing ‘a lost decade’ with fewer opportunities anticipated for technological convergence including in digital services (requiring the sorts of secure management systems being developed in the Worcestershire cyber security cluster). Highlighting Consensus Economics forecasts showing there is now a 32% probably of a no-deal Brexit, 35% chance of an exit with an agreement and 33% of no exit at all – the article reflects the impact the stalemate in parliament is having on the odds for our economic growth or otherwise over many years to come.

In Worcestershire, as a smaller piece of this picture and the various scenarios outlined, pushing through the Huawei gridlock will be vital in enabling us to gain a first-mover foothold of the 5G commercialisation opportunities. With such vast amounts at stake it will remain a top priority for Malvern Hills, the Midlands Engine and in turn to a lesser or greater extent for the nation as a whole.

Originally posted:

A view from the Malvern Foothills


Beverley Nielsen writes for the Centre for Brexit Studies at Birmingham City University in her role as Associate Professor Director, Institute for Design & Economic Acceleration (IDEA Institute) and as Lib Dem Economic Development Portfolio Holder on Malvern Hills District Council

Two lessons for me this week in reviewing British and European politics from the Malvern foothills: Old attitudes die hard; and never (unless you are well known political scientist, Sir John Curtice) make election predictions.

I suggested that the Lib Dems were going to see dramatic gains in the Euro Elections, predicting last week a move from 1 seat to 8 or 9. In fact, the party’s gains were beyond my wildest expectations, amounting to 16 seats in total, a huge +15 seat gain. 

With the Tories vote collapsing to 9% share in the Euro Elections -- a 200 year low – and Labour’s vote share at 14%, you might think there’d be a chance for a reassessment of British Left / Right politics. Fat chance.

For the Liberal Democrats polling 20% of the vote nationally, it was a historic achievement. In the West Midlands, the Party secured 16.3% of the vote returning Phil Bennion as MEP -- the first Lib Dem MEP in the West Midlands since he was last the MEP here in 2014. The vote represented the highest ever for the party across the region, touching the Labour vote at 16.9%, with Lib Dems only narrowly missed out taking second place.

The success of the Brexit Party has been widely broadcast - winning 29 seats across the UK, a 32% vote share and up +5% on the share held previously by UKIP. The Lib Dems came in second with 16 seats, Labour third with 10, the Greens fourth claiming 7, the Tories a mere 4 seats, with the SNP 3, and Plaid Cymru and the DUP taking 1 seat each.

And why do I note that ‘old attitudes die hard’? The prevailing commentary is cast in the politics of yesterday and remains so. Having attended major business lobby group meetings over the last week I continue to hear the same analysis of Left / Right politics. When I’ve asked about their views of the Lib Dem success, I’m told it was a ‘flash in the pan’… relating to specific circumstances with the party relegated to the ‘smaller, specialist interest’ category. Still.

The Brexit Party success, often highlighted in the context of growing nationalism across Europe, was not, in fact, the order of the day as the much-hyped surge in populist support failed to materialise to the extent predicted. In the end, populist parties won 112 seats in the new Parliament, up by just 18 MEPs on the 2014 result and representing15% of total elected MEPs, 10% off the 25% frequent predictions made ahead of the elections. And this despite Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance Alliance (RA) coming second to Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN) and the Brexit Party surge in the UK.

Not so much has been written though, about the substantial gains for the Liberals in Europe, taking an additional +38 seats to total 105 seats, and representing the largest advances amongst any group. Whilst the Green gains of 19 new seats, totalling 69 altogether, led to the coining of the phrase, the ‘Green Wave’ sweeping across Europe - Germany and Ireland in particular - it has not been much observed that the Liberals and Green groups taken together have the second largest block in the EU Parliament. With a total of 174 seats, they sit just behind the ‘mighty’ European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) with 179 seats.

In Europe, the scene is now set for decisions regarding the successors to Tusk, and Juncker, both in place since 2014 as Presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission respectively.  Business lobby briefings suggest that Manfred Weber, Leader of the European People’s Party, was initially seen as in the running, but with Macron apparently thinking that ‘France is owed the top job’ they are promoting Barnier for the role. Business Groups have not, in the meetings I’ve been attending, referenced the Liberals in this mix.                                                                      

However, following the elections, Guy Verhofstadt, Leader of the ALDE, was quoted jubilantly stating, “Europe is back… The ALDE group renaissance is here”, no doubt acutely aware of the French President’s MEPs, and those from the Romanian USR-PLUS coalition, swelling the ranks of his reconstituted Liberal grouping.

There will be no “business as usual” carve-up of the EU’s top posts, he claimed. “There is a new balance of power. We will be open to negotiating a new strong robust majority way beyond partisan lines.”                                                   

Similarly, senior Green MEPs argued that their Party would also have to be taken in to account in forthcoming negotiations, stating:

"Greens priorities will need to be included in negotiations on any new Commission programme. Any new President will need to deliver on our core principles of climate action, civil liberties and social justice.”

Margrethe Vestager, EU Competition Commissioner, recently confirmed that she’s become the Liberals leading candidate for the Commission President. Donald Trump famously branded her the ‘Tax Lady’ in referring to her efforts to extract fair tax settlements from the US tech giants and in successfully fining Google $5bn – an amount larger than the annual net contribution the EU receives from The Netherlands.

In setting out her stall to become the next Commission President she’s argued, “new coalitions can be built. We can show change. We can have the first gender-balanced Commission”.  And notably, she hinted at working with the Greens in a progressive coalition.

This block – the ALDE (Liberals) and Greens, represent what might be referred to as the ‘Green Centre’. Whilst their joint + 47 seat gain has scarcely merited a passing mention in the British press, it’s time that we sat up and took note.

In Britain too, it is just possible that our conservative, small ‘c’, no fuss, population are already sitting up. Perhaps this is prompting new responses from our political parties. Perhaps this is no longer about tired Left / Right arguments. Sir John Curtice has proposed it’s actually about ‘social liberals’ versus ‘social conservatives’. He says it’s a discussion about what kind of society we should be: Social liberals are open, tolerant, embrace social diversity; social conservatives like the idea of a commonly shared moral code, commonly shared national symbols and a shared language.

On Radio 4, 30th May (2019), Lib Dem, Ed Davey, in plying his bid for leadership of the party floated the notion of the ‘Green Economic Model’. To quote Bob Dylan, The Times they are a Changin’; this is, in my view the big change that people want to see tackled in considering the legacy we leave to our grandchildren. To add to Sir John’s arguments I believe we need to consider how society delivers a sustainable and fairer economic model.  

And how does all this relate to the Malvern Hills as the cowslips and buttercups hit their zenith during this glorious month of May?

The people of Malvern Hills are no slouches either with our district polling the highest in the West Midlands at 43%. I am just taking up my new position as Economic Development Portfolio holder in our new Lib Dem, Independent and Green alliance, boasting an Independent Council Leader, Cllr Sarah Rouse, and our Lib Dem Deputy Leader, Cllr Tom Wells. It seems that Malvern Hills, renowned for our ‘original pragmatism’, is once again, in the vanguard of the changes sweeping across Europe… And it’s not all as bleak and extreme as it’s cracked up to be. The new radical, progressive centre is on the march, it’s fixed on delivering a sustainable fairer economic model for the future and it’s starting in Malvern foothills.

Liberal Democrats secured the highest gains in local elections 2nd May 2019

Vote Share for Lib Dems in West Worcestershire hits 24% up from 9.4% (2017); Malvern Hills Lib Dem Vote Share hits 28%

West Worcestershire Vote Share May 2019














Malvern Hills District Council Vote Share 2019

Gaining over 700 Lib Dem Councillors nationally, May 2019 delivered the highest number of gains in the history of the Party. 30 new Councillors were elected across the West Midlands, with the region accounting for 5% of the total increase.

In West Worcestershire Lib Dem vote share stood at 24% up from 9.4% in the 2017 General Election.

Malvern Hills District the Liberal Democrats gained 28% of the vote share – just 1% behind the Conservatives. The party gained 5 new seats on the Council to deliver a total of 9 seats. In Wychavon the party gained 2 new seats totalling 6 Lib Dem seats on the District Council.

Cllr Tom Wells, the longest standing Councillor with the highest vote share in the ranks of the Lib Dems in Worcestershire stated:

“This has been a great week for the Liberal Democrats across the country and closer to home in Malvern Hills.

“We have seen our seats increase from 4 to 9 here an increase of over 100%. The electorate has overwhelmingly rejected the Conservatives mandate and want to see a fresh approach. They keep saying to me they are fed up with extremes and want to see a moderate, inclusive approach taken that takes into account the needs of our elderly, vulnerable and importantly the next generation who will carry the baton forward.

“I am thrilled that amongst our newly elected cohort we have some great new talents including our youngest new councillor, Kaleem Aksar, who at 21 years old will, I’m sure, inspire other young people to become more involved at this critical time.”

Newly-elected Councillor for Malvern Hills (Priory) and Parliamentary Candidate for West Worcestershire, Beverley Nielsen, said:

"I'm really proud to have been elected and to join my fellow councillors in Malvern Hills. I’m looking forward to representing the great people of Malvern Priory and the district and showing them that electing Lib Dems gets things done!"

“Standing up for local people is what the Lib Dems are known for. We want local people to take part in the change that they have voted for. Many people have told us they’re very upset with the tired and split Conservative and Labour parties, and it's time for something different.”

“This result shows that we are within touching distance of the Tory vote in Worcestershire and a genuine challenger for the electorate. These figures speak volumes about the substantial recovery the Liberal Democrats have made and the Party is now targeting this seat in the General Election, whenever the Tories call it.”

Dee Tomlin, Chair, West Worcestershire Lib Dem Executive said, “This is a great result for us in West Worcestershire. We are backing our successful candidates and building on this as we look forward to the Euro elections on 23rd May."

Message from Beverley Nielsen, Chair, West Midlands Liberal Democrats

Since my last message, delivered as we entered the New Year, 2019, who would have thought that we would be where we find ourselves as a country almost halfway through the year.

Uncertainty over Brexit persists. Turns out Brexit did not mean Brexit. It meant stasis for the Conservatives. Perpetual disagreement with spanners in the works on all sides, including from their allies the DUP.

We have faced two potential dates for a cliff edge Brexit and we may still face yet another. The government has been unable to get its deal through parliament and business, large and small, has had to contend with almost three years of uncertainty.

The impact of the economy has been devastatingly clear. Investment has shrivelled, exports have declined, and for us in the Midlands Engine, automotive and aerospace producers are furious and all in business – whether of a Remain or Leave mind – want to know in what direction the country is headed. A wish resolutely denied by the government. 

The businesses I work with through my think tank, IDEA Institute at Birmingham City University, are clear about their direction of travel. They want the West Midlands to be the ‘Silicon Valley for Sustainable Transport and Built Environment’. With young activists including Greta Thunberg taking centre stage our businesses are keen to support this vision and see a circular economy actively promoted through government as a key element in driving the solution.

For me personally, it has been a time of great focus. A focus on promoting the Liberal Democrat message at every opportunity. I firmly believe in Remain as the best course for the future of our country, especially in light of the overwhelming majority of over 70% of young people who voted to Remain. They are about to see their right to the freedom to travel, live and work anywhere across 27 other countries in the EU taken away from them with no serious alternative in sight.

Having taken part in numerous debates prior to the Referendum I am clear that no one prior to the vote three years ago had given a moment’s serious consideration to be in the Customs Union or EFTA or the EEA. These options were simply not discussed in any meaningful detail. Similarly, the impact of leaving the EU was never considered in relation to Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement.

As a result, I have put myself forward as a candidate for the District Council Elections in Malvern Hills, where I am standing in Malvern Priory Ward. My fellow Lib Dem in Priory, Dee Tomlin, and I have been working in the ward for the past months, getting to know the residents, the key issues and proposing solutions wherever possible. I am looking forward together with all our 27 other great candidates to the election and to the vote next Thursday 2nd May. I do hope as many residents as possible will get out and back us for our local focus and for our consistent promotion of the benefits for all in our country on remaining in the EU, right down to district level.

I am proud to have been selected as Parliamentary candidate for West Worcestershire. Having been born in the area and chosen to return with my husband to raise our family here, this is our home. It is a part of me and every time I see the Malvern Hills and the Beacon I know I am heading in the right direction. We like so many others living here, love this place and want to see the very best for all our residents living and working here, now and into the future.

I put myself forward for the Euro elections and was proud to be included on the Lib Dem candidate slate as I have seen first-hand the benefits of EU membership for our country and our region.  In the post-industrial era, the UK government did not choose to invest in the West Midlands or Birmingham. In dealing with the challenges thrown up, our city leadership found that they could access investment from Europe and were able to regenerate our city and parts of the region that would otherwise have remained in states of severe deprivation. Brexit which has been seen as a protest vote by the so-called ‘left behind’ is a reflection on our government’s enduring focus on austerity and their ongoing inability to promote inclusive wealth creation. We need to be able to invest in our communities to provide the best quality education, homes, transport for all – across the West Midlands and in all areas of the country outside London.  We should not blame Brussels for a lack of democratic accountability but bring our focus much closer to home.

I intend to take all the lessons from standing in these elections back to our West Midlands Lib Dem Regional Executive so we can ensure that we are supporting fellow Liberal Democrats standing for election and representing our region as fully as possible in light of the learning and given our available resources.

Brexit – ‘no clarity any time soon’

First published by Centre for Brexit Studies, Birmingham City University

For almost three years businesses have been crying out for certainty. The government has blithely told them to prepare for all Brexit options. Larger businesses have been able to make preparations, spending billions with consultants and in stockpiling. For small businesses coping with the day-to-day matters, it is just not possible. Whilst devolved economies have made funding available to support their SMEs, firms in England have enjoyed no such support. As former CBI President Paul Drechsler said way back in March 2017: “…in reality many firms can’t prepare because the cost of change is simply too high to even consider it ….” The malaise has infected the wider economy with the NHS seeing a flight of EU doctors and nurses, with Brexit uncertainty said by Resolution Foundation to be costing each household £1500 and growth slower by 2%. According to the Bank of England the economic output lost since the referendum is worth about £800 million ($1 billion) per week, or £4.7 million ($6 million) per hour.

Instead of reaching out following the election when it was clear the government had only the merest majority, they embraced their hard right wing, pro-Brexit ERG and the DUP, aiming to push through a Partisan Brexit agenda.

The government claimed that to be true to the plebiscite 'red lines' had to be drawn. This meant not participating in the Single Market, the Customs Union and ceasing freedom of movement. However, they did not clarify the position for either EU nationals in the UK or for British nationals in Europe. Liam Fox repeatedly claimed that rolling over EU trade deals – around 40 in total -- would be a matter of ‘seconds work’. Three years later he has rolled over just £16bn out of £117bn trade deals, with business expressing 'fury' at the UK failure to roll over EU trade deals.

Whilst businesses large and small continued to plead for clarity the Government’s Brexit deal had been voted down three times by the House of Commons, with the PM’s own hardliners being the hardest to bring into line. A confirmatory public ballot (People’s Vote), had twice topped a poll of MPs as the best outcome of this Brexit mess, and whilst our MPs had secured a longer extension to the Article 50 process right through to Oct 31st, for business this simply pushed the cliff edge further away again.

The quest for certainty remained as elusive as ever for our local businesses. Lobbying organisations called it a “point of national crisis”, with the head of the CBI urging politicians to “act in the national interest, rather than in their “narrow party interest” to “find a compromise”. Adam Marshall, Director General, British Chambers of Commerce, (BCC), put it rather more bluntly on Radio 4 Today programme, stating that whilst the Conservatives used to be known as the ‘Party of Business’, they were no longer. Speaking in March to the BCC’s Annual Conference of ‘those in Westminster’ he said: “We are angry. We are frustrated. You have let British business down.” In July last year, Grant Thornton’s International Business Report of 12 July 2018, highlighted that almost a quarter of firms had carried out no planning for Brexit with 42% believing that a plan was unnecessary. Practice Leader at Grant Thornton Birmingham, David Hillan, reflected the mindset of many businesses at the time as, ‘moving forward with their growth plans and adopting a “we’ll deal with it when it happens” approach’. However, ‘ducking and keeping their heads down’ had now given way to levels of frustration amongst business, not seen since the 1970s as they faced huge uncertainty. With just days to go before the March 29 deadline and the possibility of crashing out with No Deal, a new deadline of April 12th had been agreed giving the Prime Minister time to get her deal through Parliament by 22nd May ahead of European Elections on 23rd May. If this did not happen a further new deadline of October 31st would be applied – which whilst avoiding the uncertainty of a No Deal (up to that point) was playing havoc with automotive manufacturers who had brought forward summer closures to cope with Brexit uncertainty on the basis of the original March 29th deadline. Hillan explained the picture for one business he’d been advising with an overseas HQ, manufacturing technology equipment abroad, bringing this into the UK for further processing ahead of exporting the equipment for onward global sales, Their owner had wanted to close the UK operation following the Referendum, as he did not know what FTAs (Free Trade Agreements) might be in place post Brexit. After some lengthy discussions David had managed to persuade the owner to keep his UK operations open. However, concerns remained with the US in particular holding the view that Brexit was about the UK ‘severing’ its relationship with Europe, with all the implications this would have in terms of future investment. The impact on UK exports was already evident with the UK trade deficit mushrooming to £146.4bn over the past 12 months, up from £138bn during 2018 and up from £118bn in 2012. As research highlighted by David Smith in the Sunday Times April 14th 2019 was indicating, trade based uncertainty had resulted in more than 5,300 firms which had intended to start exporting to the EU deciding against it, and a further 5,400 businesses halting sales into the EU.

Business organisations remained up in arms using language rarely uttered before to government - not in private and certainly not in public. Whilst the financial crash was, in their view, a global event beyond the control of MPs in parliament, this was not. This crisis was of our government’s own making and the government needed to sort it out to ensure we did not slip into a serious recession brought on by continuing uncertainty and through the inability of our businesses and residents alike to plan for the future.

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