Mark Casci: Brexit continues to suck the life out of essential issues

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The word “uncertainty” hovers over the UK economy like an omnipresent heavy rain cloud.

And, following the announcement that the Brexit debacle has been postponed for another six months it looks as though the forecast is not set to brighten any time soon.

More people eligible to vote since the Brexit referendum. Picture by PA

More people eligible to vote since the Brexit referendum. Picture by PA

You would be hard-pressed to find many people in our nation, aside from perhaps the family and friends of the Prime Minister, who would consider the past three years to have been a golden age for Britain’s standing in the world.

One of the few things currently uniting our nation is the disquiet and displeasure concerning the Government’s handling of our departure from the European Union.

The latest kicking of the can down the road was bittersweet for industry leaders and for myself.

As I have written in these columns before I did not back Brexit but respect the decision to leave and believe it should be implemented. However, I cannot and never will have any support for a no deal exit. Such a move belongs to the politics of empire, rather than a rational and grown-up nation. Leading nations should be able to establish new trade agreements that are built on common ground and do so in a manner which does not damage the integrity of the countries to which it applies. The paucity of leadership in Number 10 has led us to this current situation, with the Prime Minister unable to bridge the gap between the No Deal fanatics and those who, three years later, cannot accept the result of the referendum.

A road traffic sign is in front of the Union Jack and the European Union flag hanging outside Europe House in Smith Square, London. British citizens should be able to choose to keep various benefits of EU membership including the freedom of movement after Brexit, the European Parliament's chief negotiator has said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday March 10, 2017. Guy Verhofstadt said he hoped to convince European leaders to allow Britons to keep certain rights if they apply for them on an individual basis. See PA story POLITICS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

A road traffic sign is in front of the Union Jack and the European Union flag hanging outside Europe House in Smith Square, London. British citizens should be able to choose to keep various benefits of EU membership including the freedom of movement after Brexit, the European Parliament's chief negotiator has said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday March 10, 2017. Guy Verhofstadt said he hoped to convince European leaders to allow Britons to keep certain rights if they apply for them on an individual basis. See PA story POLITICS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

And while the catastrophe of leaving without an agreement has been temporarily averted we are still no closer to leaving.

That means another six months of the remain camp re-running the debate, six more months of uncertainty and six more months of me having to listen to drivel from Mark Francois.

The ongoing ramifications of our failure to strike a deal on the day-to-day of many of our businesses is palpable, and increasingly existential.

The newly-restored British Steel brand to our country has been most welcome but we learn in recent days that the impasse over Brexit has left it frozen out of a current EU-wide carbon trading scheme, leading to it pleading with Government for an emergency £100m loan. This is far from a solitary example of a business on our shores which is struggling with this matter.

The British Steel plant in Scunthorpe. Picture Scott Merrylees

The British Steel plant in Scunthorpe. Picture Scott Merrylees

However, the biggest tragedy is that the Brexit bonfire will continue to suck the oxygen out of essential day-to-day matters.

Take for example the loan charge scandal. This ill-considered measure, introduced in response to concerns about “disguised remuneration schemes” is driving many SMEs to the verge of ruin. The Yorkshire Post is one of only a handful of news organisations taking notice of the scandal, with the Brexit soap opera continuing to dominate the agendas of too many media outlets.

In normal times, without the colossal distraction of Brexit, this matter would have been dealt with in the court of public opinion and reversed as a matter of urgency.

Consider too the lack of meaningful support for the Northern Powerhouse agenda since the departure of George Osborne from the Treasury,

While the businesses and civic leaders of the North have done an admirable and effective job of keeping its mantle alive, the pursuit of a more balanced economy is one that enjoys lukewarm support at best in Whitehall.

Were Government more focused, I am convinced the devolution deadlock seen in Yorkshire would have been resolved sooner.

The debacle with our transport infrastructure has been overseen by Chris Grayling, one of the least effective secretaries of state this nation has seen in generations.

Under normal circumstances he would have faced dismissal but his position as both an ardent Brexiteer and supporter of Theresa May means he is currently politically convenient to the PM, something that cannot be said for the rest of us.

Life for UK business can no longer exist in purgatory. We need clarity yet political dogma shows no sign of disappearing from our horizons.