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How Brexit could impact on Norfolk - in the words of its decision-makers

PUBLISHED: 15:07 21 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:18 21 September 2018

The Union Jack at County Hall flying at half mast for those that lost their lives in the terrorist attack in Manchester. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

The Union Jack at County Hall flying at half mast for those that lost their lives in the terrorist attack in Manchester. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Ever since that fateful day in June 2016, questions have been asked over just what the people of the United Kingdom - and Norfolk - had voted for.

As negotiations continue, exactly what post-Brexit Britain will look like can not conclusively be said.

However, ongoing studies and assessments carried out by Norfolk County Council and released to this paper have aimed to answer just this.

The council has provided these reports, conducted at various points over the past year, which concern the potential impact on the county’s business, industry and workforce - among other key matters.

Council bosses have raised concerns that the county’s trade economy could be hit by a shortage of migrant labour and have recommended the government set up a fund to mitigate for potential loss of funding from the EU.

Norfolk County Council says the agricultural industry could be hit post-Brexit Picture: Nick ButcherNorfolk County Council says the agricultural industry could be hit post-Brexit Picture: Nick Butcher

However, County Hall has also identified some opportunities leaving the EU could present, such as encouraging the farming industry to seek new innovation.

In November 2017, council officers responded to a central government consultation into how Brexit could impact the county.

The report raising the following issues:

Farmers across East Anglia have been concerned about a shortage of migrant labour in the run-up to the UK's departure from the European Union. Picture: Sonya DuncanFarmers across East Anglia have been concerned about a shortage of migrant labour in the run-up to the UK's departure from the European Union. Picture: Sonya Duncan

EU funding

“The East of England Brussels Office estimates Norfolk and Suffolk have accessed £1.9bn of EU funds since 2007. With leverage, this is 7.34bn of total investment in the two counties.

“Loss of access to this level of funding would have a significant impact on the two counties, which would not traditionally be seen as areas of need.”

Trade

“The EU is the largest export market for Norfolk, accounting for 53pc of trade (£2.1bn) and worth more than all the rest of world exports combined. In terms of imports, it is also the largest source for Norfolk.

“EU trade relations are therefore vital to Norfolk.”

Migrant workforce

“Access to skills, either in low skill employment or high skilled professions is becoming increasingly challenging, as migrant workers choose other EU countries because of the uncertainty over Brexit or the fall in the value of the pound makes the UK less attractive.”

Agriculture

“Direct subsidy represents around 57pc of average farm incomes. The risks of Brexit could be very significant.

“Capital land values are likely remain relatively unchanged as other factors unrelated to Brexit maintain those values.

“An increase in import tariffs on items such as fertiliser may make these things more expensive.

“Agricultural subsidies indirectly support rural economies and communities by providing jobs. There may, therefore be high levels of rural unemployment in areas which are already deprived.

“However, there are opportunities in potential for new markets and removal of subsidies will encourage and promote a technological step in UK farming - as happened in New Zealand.”

The county council also responded to a call for evidence from the Local Government Association - which was launched in February 2018.

In this response, the county council recommended that a fund be set up and localised to mitigate any additional cost caused by exiting the union.

Exports

“Additional charges for exports would immediately serve to reduce their competitiveness and UK firms focussed on exporting will be weakened. Unless support is provided to mitigate this could result in considerable job losses and businesses could face risks.”

Local labour force

“In 2016 the total EU population working in Norfolk was 41,195, across 11 sectors. In the long-term, it is highly likely that migration from the EU will drop.

“It has been widely stated the UK needs to increase the amount of food it processes from local produce, whereas the loss of migrant labour could see a reduction of output or even closures if operations become unviable.

“Norfolk businesses need reassurance that mechanisms will be found to maintain the flow of migrant labour to key areas of local shortfall, both lower and higher skilled roles.”

The most recent report made available was published in June under the title of ‘Getting Norfolk ready for Brexit’. Some of the points made include:

Construction

“Loss of access to a single market is likely to cause shortages in building materials, risking increased cost of construction and delivery.”

Tourism

“[Norfolk’s] Visitor economy is most exposed to the restriction of labour. This sector employs a high number of EU migrants to plug domestic skill shortages in hard-to-fill vacancies.”

The next piece of work the council plans to publish is a risk register, which will be updated soon and aims to further assess the potential impact on workforce and changes in regulations.

A spokesman for the council said: “Norfolk County Council is working with a range of partners on our response to Brexit.

“We have commissioned a wide range of activities, both on our own and with partners and will continue to support people and businesses over the complex issues surrounding it.”

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