Brexit could have negative effect on Wakefield’s economy

The impact of Brexit could have a “disproportionately” bad effect on Wakefield’s economy compared to other areas, the district council fears.

The local authority has identified several concerns it believes may come to fruition after the UK leaves the EU in March next year.

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Among them is the effect the potential loss of migrant workers may have on small businesses in the distict and a repeat of 4,500 job losses which hit the area in the space of 12 months after the 2008 recession.

A total of £5million has been set aside from the council reserves specifically to mitigate any negative effects of Brexit.

Responding to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request asking for its Brexit impact assessment, the council said: “Wider local impacts from a general slowdown or recession in the UK economy may fall disproportionately on Wakefield, due its relatively low wage/low skill economy.

“Many…smaller manufacturing firms in Wakefield have become highly dependent on EU migrant labour.

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“A reduction in that labour will increase costs for those firms, but may stimulate investment in automation and employee skills development.

“However, the options firms will gravitate towards is currently uncertain.”

The local authority says that around 20,000 EU migrants live in Wakefield, around 90 per cent of them from Poland.

There is also concern about the loss of funding for universities after Brexit, which the council said could “impact adversely” on its own ambitions to develop higher education in the city.

A working group has been set up to examine the effect of any outcome of the EU negotiations, including a ‘no deal’.

Merran McRae, the council’s chief executive, said: “Like many local authorities we are working through the uncertain implications of the EU referendum result. Much of this is dependent on the final scope and outcome of negotiations.

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“We are also awaiting the full release of the Government’s technical notes on the implications of a no deal Brexit – we understand these will all be due by the end of September.

“However, the full wider impacts of exiting the EU will be long term, so we will continue to monitor the implications on a long term basis.

“We remain committed to helping to sustain and grow local business, protect jobs and families.

“We are working closely with our partners and local businesses to establish the possible impact across the district.”

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