This report to Council sets out the ways in which Warwickshire County Council has been preparing for European Union Transition.
Councillor Izzi Seccombe moved the motion and reminded Council that a briefing on EU transition had recently been held. She stated that at the time of the meeting she had hoped that there would be some agreement on an EU trade deal. This had yet to happen. Warwickshire County Council had been working hard with businesses to prepare them for whichever outcome there may be. Work is ongoing with the Local Enterprise Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce.
It had been thought that there was to be a new inland border facility in Warwickshire but it has been decided that this is to be at Birmingham Airport. Trading Standards staff have been trained but there remain some concerns over capacity to manage the expected workload.
The EU Settlement Scheme is set to end in June 2021. There are currently 41000 EU nationals based in Warwickshire. Councillor Seccombe closed by explaining that the UK Shared prosperity Fund is expected to continue.
Councillor Peter Butlin (Deputy Leader of the Council) seconded the motion and reserved the right to speak.
Councillor Jerry Roodhouse (Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group) observed that EU transition should have been resolved sooner. Local government, he observed, would be left to intervene when things go wrong. Funds had been made available to the Council to help manage the transition, but these would be insufficient. He thanked officers for the recent briefing and for their hard word to date. Councillor Roodhouse added that businesses are unclear on what is required of them. The government website was cited as being particularly unhelpful. Council was informed that problems at Felixstowe docks and a global shortage of shipping containers was leading to difficulties with importing goods into the UK.
Councillor Keith Kondakor forecast that any trade deal agreed would not be comprehensive. He expressed his sympathy to those involved in manufacturing. The report he felt was too focused on business. Consideration should also be given to the wider population. For example, there is likely to be a reduction in immigration. This could have an impact in terms of recruitment to jobs.
Councillor Sarah Boad (Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group) reminded Council that the EU referendum was held four and a half years ago. People’s livelihoods are at risk either through the Pandemic or EU transition she added.
Councillor Peter Butlin expressed his disappointment that the trade deal had not been agreed. It was, he suggested, a matter of who blinks first. The only thing to be done at this stage is scenario planning, filling in the gaps where there is no knowledge. The County Council has been doing a good job. Communication is the key if people are to be helped, he concluded.
Councillor Izzi Seccombe stated that she was confident that the County Council will do its best in difficult circumstances. The UK is an entrepreneurial nation that will recover. This will, however, take time.
A vote was held. The motion was agreed unanimously.