On Tuesday representatives from Southwark Council joined councillors from Lambeth and Lewisham to raise concerns on the impact of Brexit within their boroughs and lobby for a local voice in negotiations with the bloc.
Councillor Victoria Mills said: “Local authorities will be significantly affected by Brexit, as will many of our residents, and so we are using this as an opportunity to strongly make our case to the government that more clarity is urgently needed and that councils need to be directly involved in the Brexit process.
“It is clear that local government’s voice has been markedly absent from the Brexit negotiations and this is a vital opportunity to make a compelling case for consideration of our services during the Brexit process and discuss funding, legislation and regulation concerns.”
Cllr Mills is the first local authority cabinet member to have a Brexit portfolio.
The cabinet member for finance, performance and Brexit has held three Brexit panel discussions for Southwark since the referendum, hearing evidence from businesses, organisations and individuals across the borough, as well as national experts.
This week, on Tuesday October 30, the three south London councils met as part of the Local Government Association’s Regional Sounding Board, chaired by Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP, Neil Coyle.
As the News reported last week, Southwark’s local hospitals stand to be hugely affected in the event of a no-deal Brexit due their reliance on EU workers in frontline healthcare roles. At Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, nearly one in five midwives are from the EU.
Neil Coyle told the News: “Southwark employers tell me that the damage from Brexit is already filtering through.
“Some have lost staff, others find it harder to recruit due to the hostile environment created by the Government.
“Others have deferred investment or growth plans due to the uncertainty of Brexit and lack of information from central government.
“It isn’t just businesses affected either; the News revealed last week that Guys and St Thomas’ faces a huge shortfall in the number of nurses from the EU and the Lib Dem Tory Coalition tripling of tuition fees and scrapping of the nursing bursary also means fewer British people are now training to become nurses.
“Ministers must recognise the damage they are doing and should extend Article 50 as a minimum and ensure access to the single market to benefit Southwark jobs and protect our NHS from further damage.”
Councillor Kevin Bonavia, cabinet member for democracy, refugees and accountability said:“Brexit is the biggest challenge facing this country in generations.
“There is huge uncertainty about the extent of the detrimental impact on the economy and public services.
“Councils are already struggling to maintain local public services as a result of many years of central government cuts to council funding.
“And yet the national debate seems to exclude the impact on local government. It is high time these issues were brought out into the open and discussed in real terms.
“What will the impact be on our communities and their cohesion? The goods and services we rely on? Staffing levels in the public sector and NHS?
“Jobs and businesses are under threat and it is absolutely right for local authorities to be making a stand on their behalf.
“Since the referendum there has been a marked increase in hostile behaviour towards immigrants and an unpleasant and dangerous increase in nationalism and xenophobic attitudes – this needs to be addressed urgently.
“I’m very pleased to take part in this debate. Let’s hope we can get some answers to these critical questions.”
Cllr Lib Peck, Lambeth Council leader, said: “The effect of Brexit on our economy, on the costs in the construction market which affects the building of affordable homes, and on the numbers of EU workers coming to support our public services is already having significant negative effects on our borough and across the country.
“Lambeth is home to more than 30,000 European citizens and we are particularly concerned about the implementation of the EU Citizens scheme, especially its impact on vulnerable EU citizens.
“Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark already work closely together on many policy issues and this sounding board is an important opportunity for us to work collaboratively to address the risks posed by Brexit.”