Mark Casci: Frictionless trade essential for Yorkshire and welcome news on Burburry

A European Union flag in front of Big Ben, as Remain supporters demonstrate in Parliament Square, London, to show their support for the EU in the wake of Brexit.
A European Union flag in front of Big Ben, as Remain supporters demonstrate in Parliament Square, London, to show their support for the EU in the wake of Brexit.
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Imagine that two thirds of the good and services you provide could be subject to additional costs and delays in delivering them to customers.

Now further imagine that this situation is one that you have known about for some time, could in theory come into effect at any minute and that you have been helpless to defend yourself against.

That is the exact situation faced by some of this region’s largest towns and cities if frictionless trade to EU member states is ended.

The data published today from the Centre for Cities shows that York and Wakefield’s share of their export markets to EU nations currently lies as 63 and 62 per cent.

Bradford, Barnsley, Hull, Sheffield, Doncaster and Hull all have shares which amount to more than half of their export markets going into EU member states.

None of this is particularly surprising.

The seamless transition of goods and services is part and parcel of EU membership.

Moreover these states are our nearest geographical neighbours and, in the shape of Germany and France, are among the largest trading nations on the planet.

The EU remains the largest export market for every British city with almost one in every three British cities sending half or more of exports into the trading bloc.

The antipathy of larger businesses to any form of Brexit that involves the imposition of tariffs on services or goods between us and these markets has been well documented.

While the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May remains loathed by many, it did contain the ability for this frictionless trade to continue for our business community.

However, in an age when dogma and particularly political opportunism trump reality, these factor has scarcely been mentioned.

I have long argued that Brexit had to not come at an economic cost to our nation. Such a state-of-play would represent one of the worst failings for our nation in terms of our ability to conduct international affairs in modern history.

It would endanger jobs and livelihoods and any government which willingly brought such a scenario would be judged incredibly harshly in the pages of history.

However, it does bring into sharp relief the reality that we are as a region and nation continuing to put so many of eggs into one basket by trading so heavily and in such great volume with one market.

One of Yorkshire’s leading business people told me late last year that, when it came to economic supremacy, that the 19th century was all about Europe, the 20th century was about the United States while the 21st century would be about Asia.

It would be risible for me to suggest that it is possible for all exporting businesses to simply abandon Europe and concentrate on Far Eastern markets.

However, in an ever expanding global market, new avenues are absolutely necessary if we are to continue to be a major trading nation.

Powerful and diverse links with all markets are advisable and sensible in the modern economic world.

But to abandon our largest and closest trading partner at this crucial juncture is, frankly, for the birds.

The news that Burberry is to sell the 10 acres of land it owns in Leeds is both good news for Leeds and for Yorkshire as a whole.

​​The luxury fashion brand is to take the land it owns on the South Bank to market and instead invest in its two sites in ​​Castleford and Keighley​. ​

The plans are at an early stage but they offer an exciting new pathway for the areas affected.

The South Bank regeneration plan is, as anyone who has seen CEG’s current work there, rapidly underway. This land should be prime real estate for anyone looking to be part of this exciting new chapter.

Equally the investment into Castleford and Keighley will safeguard jobs in these towns and continue high skill employment there.

Here’s hoping for a win-win.