THE political paralysis over Brexit contrasts with the leadership being shown by this region’s manufacturers and leading employers. Even though they, too, have no idea of the consequences if Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement is voted down, they’re preparing for every eventuality.
And the pragmatism of individuals like Sheffield Chamber of Commerce director Richard Wright makes it regrettable that Mrs May did not involve business leaders in Brexit negotiations and preparations from day one. Any short-term uncertainty – and manufacturers are stockpiling supplies to guard against a no-deal Brexit – could, they contend, be offset by medium and long-term gains.
But Mr Wright, and others, also know that most political decisions are short-termist – it is why David Cameron called the EU referendum – and the country cannot afford to become defeatist or this risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy to compound the problems if, for example, Chris Grayling’s new ferries don’t materialise.
And, at the same time, MPs should heed the considered speech delivered in the House of Lords by Jim O’Neill, a former Treasury Minister and architect of the Northern Powerhouse. Describing himself as an “unexcited remainer”, he suggests the “under-performance of UK productivity” is still the biggest barrier to future growth, more so than Britain leaving the EU without a deal on March 29, and there is no excuse for policies like the Northern Powerhouse being “frozen”.
Time will tell if sufficient MPs do take off the Brexit blinkers next Tuesday. As Lord O’Neill said: “It is surely unacceptable that Brexit requires so much time and resource that there is no scope for things that, in my view, are more important. Whatever the outcome of the current EU debates and plans, this needs to urgently change.”