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Council Leader Rob Stewart on the implications of Brexit for Swansea

The result of last Thursday’s vote was a shock not just to the UK but to the whole world. The implications are still being seen in the financial markets and will be felt for months and years to come in communities across our country. We are truly in uncharted territory.

I, like most elected members, said during the referendum campaign that remaining in the EU was in Swansea’s best interest. However, I believe in democracy and the will of the people. The people have spoken and we must all now pull together, adapt and respond to the new world we find ourselves in.

We must find new innovative ways to take our city and county forward and we will work tirelessly to ensure Swansea does not lose out as a result of the vote to leave.

Some people may not realise but EU funds support a number of schemes in Swansea and Wales. In Swansea alone we have received more than £100m in the past few years. This money is currently used to funds new roads and other infrastructure like the new bus station and rover bridges, as well as supporting schemes to provide apprenticeships and reskill people to help them get back into work.

If or how these schemes will be funded in the future is unknown. The leaders of the leave campaign Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Iain Duncan Smith made claims during the election that the £350m a week would now stay in the UK and be used to fund the NHS and other priorities. They said they would bring in a new immigration system. They said they would ensure Wales was better off. They must now deliver all of this.

Over the coming weeks and months we shall see if the reality matches the promises. The signs are not good. Johnson,  Farage, IDS and a number of other key leave leaders have rowed back from promises faster than Sir Steve Redgrave at the Olympics. They quickly redefined promises as aspirations or long-term possibilities. That is simply unethical and the public will not tolerate it. Many people will have voted leave on the basis they believed what they were being told was the truth.

If the new UK Government can’t or won’t, then people will need to consider if they were lied too. If they were then Johnson, Farage, IDS and others should be rightly held to account.

The bottom line here is the new UK Government must match what we were getting from the EU. They must give that commitment soon because our communities will expect the promises to be honoured and the money to be forthcoming – as will we!

The new UK Government must not fumble, dither or delay. They need to bring certainty and stability as quickly as possible. A long period of uncertainty will negatively impact the economy, jobs, pensions, wages and prices. Swansea, Wales or the UK simply cannot let that happen.

As a council we have already started the work to understand the implications and effects of a leaving this EU. We will release more information on this later this week. However, be under no illusion we mean business and we will work to ensure the people of Swansea’s livelihoods, priorities and aspirations are protected.

To ensure there is no misunderstanding of our intentions I will be writing on behalf of the Council shortly to the UK Government to seek assurances. Although things are so uncertain at present we are not sure who will be there to open the letter. Henry the Downing Street cat seems to be the only figure certain to be there in the months ahead.

It would be funny if it weren’t so close to the truth.

But more seriously we want to seek firm commitments and quick decisions on a number of key schemes. This will include:

  • Tidal Bay Lagoon needs to happen. So our message is finish the review quickly and give us the decision. We are itching to get on and get this built.
  • The workers at TATA Steel plant and their families are in limbo and need answers and reassurance quickly. Now we have voted to leave why can’t the UK Government find a way to ensure big national projects buy British made steel from TATA giving a boost to the plant and supporting our industry in Port Talbot. I’m sure HS2 or Tidal Lagoon would be good customers to buy steel made here rather than imported from China.
  • We are looking for agreement on the £500m city deal – our vision of a high-tech, high-skill Swansea Bay worth up to £500m in investment in our communities over the next 20 years. Let’s not delay. Let’s get on a sign the deal.

All of these things are under the control and gift of the UK Government and they need to get on with it – now! We want to see the money you said we would have and we want to see it soon!

Finally, I just want to reiterate that the vote to leave was taken for many reasons. However, it was not a vote to justify acts of racial hatred, intolerance and abuse. Those things are completely unacceptable. I hope people from all sectors of our community will stand up to the vile behaviour of the few and condemn those that spread hate, fear, violence and intolerance.

Our priorities are the people’s priorities and are about creating jobs, helping people out of poverty, giving people opportunities, making great schools, supporting the vulnerable, and transforming the local economy and ensuring we have a vibrant and successful city. That will not change. We will continue to be a focused organisation, on your side, committed to delivering for the people of Swansea even in uncertain times.

 

 

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