YP Comment: Brexit talks watershed moment. Counting down to leaving EU.

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TODAY marks a watershed moment in the history of Britain. The start of formal negotiations with the EU about the terms on which the country leaves sets a clock ticking on determining the future for decades to come.

Last summer’s referendum vote in favour of Brexit started Britain on a journey into the unknown. As detailed talks begin, it is now up to the Government to ensure that any uncertainty is dispelled
and the course is set towards a bright economic future.

Yet the Government’s difficulties make securing such an outcome all the harder. Its strong hand of just a few weeks ago is now weakened following the outcome of an election intended to increase its majority that achieved precisely the opposite effect.

An indication of how problematic Brexit could become politically will come on Wednesday, when leaving the EU will be at the heart of the Queen’s Speech. The debate on the legislative programme it sets out will undoubtedly be fractious, and a Government dependent upon the support of the Democratic Unionist Party to gets its measures through is in a far from ideal position.

Nevertheless, there are grounds for optimism. It must never be forgotten that it is in the interests of the EU’s remaining 27 members to secure a good and mutually beneficial trading relationship with Britain.

There has been much posturing and tough talk on both sides in advance of the formal negotiations. That must now cease, and be replaced by a sober and rational approach that addresses access to markets and immigration controls.

It is impossible to predict the result of the negotiations, but Britain’s people were decisive in their wish to leave the EU. The country is no less firm in its expectation that the Government delivers an outcome offering the maximum possible benefits.

Flood defences

FLOODING has been the cause of vast economic damage and immeasurable personal heartache to Yorkshire in recent years, and so the launch of new defences for Hull this week is much to be welcomed.

The city suffered devastating damage in 2007 when 9,000 homes and businesses, as well as virtually all the city’s schools, were flooded forcing more than 6,000 people into temporary accommodation, some for more than a year.

It is to be hoped that the £120m being spent on flood defences to protect 40,000 homes in Hull over the next four years ensures that there is no repeat of such terrible devastation.

But a note of concern must be sounded that it has taken 10 years for these defences to be established. Even allowing for the detailed surveying, planning and engineering works
that they involve, this seems like a very protracted timescale, especially since it will be several years yet before they are complete.

Successive governments have failed to provide adequate flood defences for large parts of Yorkshire. Eighteen months ago, it was the turn of West and North Yorkshire to go through the same ordeal that Hull had in 2007, and the Government’s response was less than adequate.

If, as seems likely,
climate change is to result in more frequent bouts of torrential rainfall that increases the risk of flooding, the Government needs to be much faster
in its response. It is good that Hull has its defences. Other areas of Yorkshire
are still being kept
waiting.

Second chances

THERE will no prouder graduate of the University of Leeds than Liam Knights on the day when he eventually receives his degree in criminology.

That is because of the extraordinary personal journey he has made from despair to hope. Homelessness and a spell in prison might well have locked his life into a downward spiral, but instead he has transformed it into success.

Mr Knights’s story is an inspiring one because of the determination he has showed in turning his fortunes around. But it is also a potent illustration of the redemptive powers of both education and being given a second chance.

The university’s scholarship scheme and
the support of an anonymous sponsor provided the help and boost that Mr Knights needed. He is living proof that with the right support, the many troubled young people in our society can make successes of their lives despite the most unpromising of beginnings.