Beep me when the Apocalypse comes...

In 1951, from the ashes and devastation of the Second World War, the European Coal and Steel Community rose. It was an economic treaty and one of its most important functions was to avoid the arms races and tensions which led to France and Germany knocking ten bells out of each other. Over time, via the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the agreement grew into the European Union.

The EU was not perfect. But it was a glorious 60 year experiment. And now, after Britain’s decision to leave, it is staring down the barrel of a gun.

All I’ve ever known is Britain within the EU. So today feels very strange, emotional, and terrifying. I’ve benefitted hugely from Britain’s membership – equal pay, maternity pay, employment rights, free healthcare while on holiday, easy access at EU borders, a job in the financial regulatory system which probably wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t been a member state. And now there’s a real fear that these things could be lost.

But, setting aside my fear of the unknown, I look at the real terms effects we are seeing now, today, and what they could spell for Hitchin and North Herts.

The markets have fallen to their lowest level since 1985. Lower than they’ve ever been during my lifetime. And this has a real impact on our exports, costs to businesses of buying goods and the affordability of our impending holidays. Banks are already discussing moving business centres out of London, with the result of job losses. Morgan Stanley will not wait for the Article 50 resolution to pass. It has just announced 2,000 jobs will be moved from London. The Dow and SNP 500 are both expected to open down. So it’s not just a local, European, economic effect we’re seeing. The impact of this decision will affect our global trade.

One point of view, and an interesting, if somewhat hyperbolic, prediction is that we will see more (not fewer) civil servants as the Government has to expand to deal with the mess the Brexit vote has created as it tries to keep our services operating and our country safe. Our steel industry could be revived as we become more industrial, less reliant on imports, which are likely to become more expensive. Someone I know said the pits will reopen, but that’s probably a Yorkshire nostalgia thing. Some good is possible from this result though, if we work at it, which we absolutely must.

What is clear is that the economic outlook today is not positive. We are potentially facing hard times, and a deeper, longer, harder austerity than any of us, regardless of whichever side of the debate we were on, could imagine. And this means more cuts. Tougher decisions for Council as our budgets are squeezed further. Possible increased prices from contractors – the waste and recycling contract is up for renewal and this outcome is likely to impact on what is the biggest Council budget. And increased costs, but less money means cuts to essential services.

Labour councillors will do all we can to fight for our constituents and represent their interests in the tough times to come. And we’re going to lose the EU funding we had – for the period 2014 – 2020 Herts County Council had been allocated €69.2million. €69.2million… That’s an enormous loss. Nationally, the UK would have received €10.7 billion. I’ll let you reflect on how that will impact on us…

The apocalypse isn’t coming, but today sure feels pretty devastating.

Elizabeth Dennis

Hitchin Walsworth Councillor

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