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“It is very likely that Brexit will have some positive effects for the residents and businesses of West Berkshire.”

Council leader hits back at Lib Dem criticism of lack of Brexit risk assessment

John Herring

John Herring

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886633

Council Brexit impact clash

WEST Berkshire Council’s leader has hit back at Brexit critics and claimed that exiting the European Union could even have a “positive effect” on the district’s economy.

Graham Jones (Con, Lambourn) added that the council would do “everything in its power” to ensure that Brexit would work for West Berkshire and stood by Newbury MP Richard Benyon’s comments over the impact on local services.

In last week’s NWN, the opposing Liberal Democrat group criticised the council for not having a Brexit risk assessment in place ahead of Britain leaving the EU next March. 

The leader of the group, Lee Dillon (Thatcham North), accused the Conservative-run council of failing to assess the impact seriously. 

However, Mr Jones has responded by saying his political rivals were “talking down the local economy”.

He added: “It’s true to say that our scope as a council to effect major change as the country goes through one of the biggest changes to its legislative structure in generations is limited.

“However, residents and businesses can rest assured ‎that we are doing everything in our power to ensure that Brexit will work for West Berkshire’s vibrant, resilient economy.” 

Mr Benyon told the NWN last week that he failed to see how council services would be impacted by “any sort of Brexit other than a wider economic impact”.

The Remain-backing Conservative added that he was “quite bored of people trying to scare the public into thinking there’s this great looming crisis”.

When asked whether he agreed with Mr Benyon, Mr Jones said: “I supported the Remain campaign, as Richard did, but now want to see a Brexit that works for West Berkshire.

“I agree with Richard’s wider point that this is a national issue and that the economic impact of Brexit, whatever it is, will be determined much more by national issues than local ones.

“That isn’t to say that West Berkshire Council won’t be monitoring and assessing the national picture and seeking to influence the outcome of Brexit negotiation in any way it can; recognising, of course, that the scope for this is very limited.

“I feel that the Liberal Democrats are determined to talk our local economy and our prospects down when what they should be doing is considering what opportunities leaving the European Union may present.

“We have so many reasons to be optimistic about the future and it is very likely that Brexit will have some positive effects for the residents and businesses of West Berkshire.”

Mr Jones said that major international businesses had moved onto the Greenham and Arlington business parks in recent weeks. 

He added that a number of businesses, including Snaffling Pig, had been recognised by the Government, while Roc and Kahootz, had won lucrative government contracts.

Responding to Mr Benyon’s comments, Mr Dillon said: “I am pleased that Richard is so optimistic about how West Berkshire will fare, but saying it won’t have an impact isn’t the same as knowing if there will be an impact, and with no local assessments being done how can we plan?

“After the referendum, Richard said he would use his influence in Parliament to fight for the best deal possible.

“Without the knowledge of the impact how can he?

“He has gone from being pro-Remain and working across political parties, supporting the Stronger Together campaign, to now reducing any debate about the impact into a crude remain/ leave argument, throwing around accusations of scaremongering from remain voters (which he also claimed to be).”

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