But leader warns Brexit will be bad for North East
LIBERAL Democrat leader Vince Cable believes there is a real spirit in the North East but that it is not being channelled properly.
Vince Cable revealed his assessment of the region – heading for Brexit without a significant devolution deal and facing rocky times – ahead of his address to the North East England Chamber of Commerce this week.
Since the EU referendum, Mr Cable’s party has been going the length and breadth of the country warning Britain is clumsily idling towards disaster.
In the chaos which is looming, he says, the North East needs to stand up for itself – and that isn’t happening.
The 74-year-old made the comments to the Sunday Sun and said: “I think one of the great disasters of modern local government history is when the North East voted against having its own assembly and regional Government because that would have really put the North East on the map in the way that Scotland is. “That’s been, that’s history. “Since then, what’s happened is Teesside has got itself well organised, they’re very effective and have reached a deal with Government.
“What you’re now seeing is other areas – like Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds and Bradford – have got their acts together and got interesting devolution deals from central Government over skills, innovation and housing in some cases.
“The North East, partly because of friction between different local councils, isn’t even at that point.”
Council bosses from Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland are in discussions over a ‘north of the Tyne’ devolution deal but nothing has been agreed yet.
This matters now more than ever, he says, because the region and the country at large could be about to enter a period of unprecedented economic disruption.
The region’s manufacturing base is his biggest concern, arguing the likes of the government’s Nissan deal won’t mean much if companies like Hitachi and Sage fall through the cracks.
Mr Cable said: “There’s no reason why [the North East] should suffer disproportionately more – actually, the main casualty is likely to be in areas like financial services which are not a big industry up here.
“But this area starts from, in a way, a lower base – certainly income levels and levels of training and education are less than other parts of the UK so people are less adaptable and less able to move.
“There are positives – you have very good universities, provided they’re not damaged by Brexit and don’t lose access to research funding and staff.
“Some of the manufacturing industries are global industries so I want to be positive, I think the region has got actually quite a lot going for it, it’s not as negative as people up here often describe it to me.
“But Brexit is not good news Vince Cable thinks Brexit will have a negative impact but has high hopes for the North East’s manufacturing future generally for parts of the country which were already struggling. It’s going to be hit hard.”
Cable has been advocating a second referendum to give people the chance of having an “exit from Brexit” once they’ve assessed the consequences of the leave vote.
Other than Newcastle, the whole of the North East voted to leave the EU and, perhaps consequently, his party failed to make a significant impact in June under Tim Farron.
Cable described the leave vote as a “protest” inspired by anger over stagnating wages and says his party need to convince people that living standards will decline more dramatically once we leave the EU.
The last general election came too early for the party, he said, and a Labour resurgence cancelled any chance they had of making gains – but he’s confident that will change.
Once the consequences of Brexit filter into the public’s decision making and the Jeremy Corbyn bubble bursts, Cable believes there will be a window for his party.
And he truly believes the Liberal Democrats are on the cusp of a comeback in parts of the country like the North East.
He added: “I think what’s happening in the country generally is people are getting very alarmed by the way in which British politics has become very polarised between the hard-right and the hard-left and a lot of people just want a common sense, middle-of-the-road alternative.
“We’re practical people, we believe in running things well, we believe in sound money but also in having a social conscience, we’re concerned about inequality, about have good public services.
“I think that mix of things missing in British politics.” is