But leader warns Brexit will be bad for North East

Sunday Sun - - News - By Sean Sed­don Reporter sean.sed­don@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

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

SI­MON GREENER

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