With time rapidly running out for the UK government to request an extension to the Brexit transition period, and no sign of progress towards a trade deal, campaigning group Cornwall for Europe has sent a powerful video letter to Cornwall’s MPs urging them to ask Boris Johnson’s government to act before it is too late. The EU agreed the end of June as the deadline for an agreement on outline terms of Brexit but no progress has been made in talks, another casualty of Covid 19.
The video includes heartfelt pleas from a range of people in Cornwall whose families, businesses and livelihoods would be jeopardised by a “no deal” exit from Europe in December.
Gordon, who owns a kitchen ventilation systems business, says that disruption to their supply chains from a no-deal Brexit would cause severe problems: “We would struggle greatly. The USA is certainly not our saviour for this business and with sterling being weak, our import costs are rising regularly already. Boris, we need an extension. Give us that extension so my business is viable.”
The owners of a video production company describe how their business is being undermined by the looming prospect of a no-deal in December, and how this would mean a huge extra burden of paperwork and expense when filming in European countries: “These forms cost £650 minimum – if you’re taking more equipment they can cost more. They take a long time to fill out and you have to stop at every border – the exit border from the UK, the entry border to the new country, and then the same again on the way back. And then every item of equipment that you’re taking to that country has to be checked by a customs officer and signed off against the form. And if you’ve made one mistake, you’re turned back.
“The irony is that although we’ve filmed in Europe many times, one of the bigger trips we did recently was for the UK government to create films to encourage British companies to export! You’re looking at a massively increased cost for an industry in which the margins are really very small.”
Stephen, a retired GP from Newquay, says: “I’ve had a blessed life – no need to fight any wars, unlike my father and grandfather. Churchill himself said after the Second World War that the means to avoid future war is for countries to trade easily and fairly with each other. This has worked very well for my entire life, and I would like it to work extremely well for my children and grandchildren – that’s not even looking at the financial disadvantages of not having a good trade agreement.
“Battles come very easily, and we must avoid them. We must genuinely remain friends, and not just talk about ‘our friends in Europe’ without meaning a word of it.”
Emmanuelle, a French citizen living in Newquay, asks her MP, Steve Double: “I would like to know how you intend to safeguard the links to other EU countries for the 18,000 EU citizens in Cornwall and all their families. How will I be able to afford medical insurance for my family of four, or for my elderly parents to be able to come and visit me?”
Edward, from Feock, describes how his daughter is expecting a child any minute in Germany, and asks his MP Cherilyn Mackrory: “Can you guarantee our granddaughter’s rights to protection and medical care in her British grandparents’ country?”
Tom, from Falmouth, says he is extremely concerned by reports from the pharmaceutical industry that stockpiles of essential medicines are already at zero as a result of the Covid-19 crisis: “I have friends and relatives, as most people do, who depend on uninterrupted supplies of these things. I know at least one of them voted for Brexit, but he certainly didn’t vote for interruptions to supplies of drugs on which his life depends.
“I very much hope that MPs in Cornwall and around the country will put all the pressure they can on the government to get an extension to the Brexit transition period, because without that these people lives are going to be at risk. And we’ve seen already what a massive crisis there is as a result of lack of proper preparation. A no deal Brexit has not been properly prepared for, and we need to act very quickly to make sure disaster is not heaped on top of the current catastrophe.”
Anita, a Dutch citizen suffering from breast cancer who lived for years in Cornwall and whose daughter is still at school in Truro, said: “She wants to stay in the UK. We were told we could stay if we wanted to. But there’s no idea of what her future will look like. People say I should just bring her back to Holland – I can’t. She’s gone Cornish. She likes black tea with milk, she prefers pasties over our Dutch national dishes…
“And what about all these children who grew up in the English system? Do they just ditch that? They can’t – it’s become part of them. Their futures are there. Please, please – don’t leave without a deal. What are you gaining by doing that? You’re ruining the lives of so many families.”
Charles Boney, speaking for Cornwall for Europe, said: “We hope this video letter makes Cornwall’s MPs sit up and think.
“A report for Cornwall Council this week shows that as many as 72,800 jobs are at risk in Cornwall from the impact of the coronavirus. It is absolutely unbelievable that the government is now greatly increasing the likelihood of even more harm to people’s jobs and livelihoods by refusing to request an extension to the Brexit transition period. Negotiations are clearly not making progress, and the prospect of a hugely damaging no-deal at the end of December is now very real indeed.
“MPs need to think about the consequences of this to their constituents, many of whom are already facing an extremely very grim outlook. If they put ideology above the well-being of people in Cornwall, they will never be forgiven.”