EVEN though the country’s immediate political and economic fortunes are inextricably linked to Brexit as car manufacturer Nissan scraps production of a new X-Trail model at its iconic North East plant, The Yorkshire Post has repeatedly argued that the issue of Brexit is just as fundamental and important to this county’s future.
This is highlighted by the results of the CBI’s annual survey of employers in this region. Despite the chaos and confusion as Theresa May struggles to win Parliamentary support for her EU Withdrawal Agreement, 45 per cent of firms here still expect to expand their workforce in 2019 – a figure which is also in line with the national average.
Yet, while Nissan’s announcement – and knock-on effects for its suppliers – has heightened fears about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit after the firm cited the prevailing uncertainty as a factor, it is equally significant that bosses believe skills, and the availability of people with the necessary qualifications and expertise, is the biggest barrier to expansion plans which should be welcomed.
An issue which runs counter to the daily pessimism of the BBC and others, the results of this survey also come on the day that the Open University, set up by Yorkshire’s very own Harold Wilson, reveals that more than £3bn in apprenticeship levy funding in England remains unused because of deficiencies in its operation.
What a waste when the need for a closer correlation between education and business policy has never been greater so today’s students can become tomorrow’s wealth-creators and innovators. However the social mobility agenda cannot wait for new railway lines to be built in the North to improve transport links. The issue is immediate – and integral to every Brexit eventuality. As such, it is high time that this reality was recognised by this country’s leaders.