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Counting the cost

The decision by Nissan to produce their new model car in Japan instead of Sunderland, because of the “continued uncertainty around the UK’s future relationship with the EU” is the latest piece of bad news linked to Brexit.

It comes after news that 29% of UK businesses are planning to relocate their work overseas because of Brexit. 16% have already started relocation and another 13% are actively planning to do so. Most are looking to move their operations to one of the EU member countries. Panasonic, for example, has announced that it is moving its European headquarters from the UK to the Netherlands. France and Belgium are actively working to attract UK companies to move their operations to their countries.

No, this is not the fear factor that hard line Brexiteers usually claim whenever bad news related to Brexit is announced; it is hard fact and threatens the jobs of those currently employed by those firms in this country. The same accusation was directed at Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, when he warned that the UK would be worse off under any form of Brexit and would face a serious recession if there was a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

The 2016 referendum committed us to leave the EU and the Government is attempting to carry out that result but one wonders how seriously the voters were made aware of the possible consequences of Brexit when they voted. In the heat of the campaigns, promises were made of the positive outcomes of leaving and negative predictions were dismissed as rubbish. Now reality is staring us in the face and polls suggest that another referendum would find a majority for remaining in the EU.

Nor is bad economic news the only cause for concern. Both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted with significant majorities for remaining in the EU. Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister is questioning the democratic justice of Scotland being dragged out of the EU when 62% of Scots voted to remain. Predictably Ms Sturgeon is arguing the case for Scotland to leave the UK rather than the EU.

Similarly in Northern Ireland 55.8% voted to remain and Sinn Fein, the Opposition party, is making the case for a referendum about leaving the UK to be reunited with the Irish Republic. This cannot be ignored because the border with the Republic is the most intractable issue in the Brexit negotiations. How seriously did the voters in 2016 consider the possibility that Brexit could lead to the breakup of the UK?

Another victim of Brexit, at least in the short term, is the NHS which hitherto has recruited doctors and nurses from other EU countries. Staff vacancies in the NHS have increased 10% in the last three months so that 108,000 posts are currently unfilled. This has meant that the number of patients having to wait over a year for treatment has doubled since 2017. Training more British doctors and nurses is a long term solution but it takes 5 to 7 years to train a doctor.

My point is not to argue for another referendum on our membership of the EU but to suggest that referenda should not be held at all unless the voters are told as much as possible before we cast our votes. I cannot remember if that happened in the 1975 referendum but it certainly didn’t in 2016. The latter has deeply divided the country and led to a serious disenchantment with our politicians that has damaged British democracy and could possibly even lead to the breakup of the UK. Nor, in the short term, should we overlook those who could lose their jobs as a consequence of Brexit. Jesus’ parable of the builder who failed to count the cost of building a tower (Luke 14:26-30) reminds us of the wisdom of counting the cost of any decision before we act. It is a lesson we all need to learn.