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Norfolk’s Brexit capital ‘likely to be most vulnerable to its effect’ council report warns

PUBLISHED: 11:04 15 November 2018 | UPDATED: 16:20 15 November 2018

Great Yarmouth quay and town hall. Pic: www.gettyimages.co.uk

Great Yarmouth quay and town hall. Pic: www.gettyimages.co.uk

Few places nationwide voted more in favour of leaving the European Union than Great Yarmouth.

The borough returned a result of 71.5pc in support of leaving, making it comfortably Norfolk’s most Brexit-favouring region - and the fifth strongest leave vote in the country.

However, with negotiations at a crucial stage, Great Yarmouth Borough Council has warned that people living in the borough are “likely to be amongst the most vulnerable to the effects of Brexit”.

A report due to go before the council’s economic development committee next week will tell councillors of the potential impact Brexit will have on the borough, with a variety of concerns raised.

Among these, fears the port’s status as a major player in the offshore industry could be weakened, that the borough’s workforce could suffer across a number of sectors and that its people could be hit in the pockets.

Barry Coleman, chairman of Great Yarmouth Borough Council's economic development committee Picture: James BassBarry Coleman, chairman of Great Yarmouth Borough Council's economic development committee Picture: James Bass

The report, which has been drawn together from discussions with local businesses and analysis from both the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and Norfolk County Council, identifies a range of challenges - and opportunities - which could arise from Brexit.

It says: “Great Yarmouth and the wider UK’s status as an ideal location to access the European offshore market would be significantly weakened by the removal of the UK from the single market.

“One of the major existing challenges for the offshore window sector relates to its workforce, as there is a shortage of offshore wind farm engineers in the UK.”

The report does, however, speculate that Brexit could lead to a boost to the local tourism sector - but a boost that would come as a result of an overall weaker economy.

Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group in Great Yarmouth Photo: Archant libraryTrevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group in Great Yarmouth Photo: Archant library

It suggests potential for a weaker pound, increased border controls and lower levels of disposable income could discourage people from holidaying abroad - instead doing so domestically.

The report also warns of a possible impact on health services, expressing concerns about difficulties to recruit nurses and midwives, and potential delays in medicine arriving in the country - as is experienced in Canada and Switzerland.

Members of the borough council’s economic development committee will discuss the report on Monday, November 19.

Political reaction

While the report does not present the brightest of pictures, the committee’s chairman says he’s still optimistic the town could thrive post-Brexit.

Barry Coleman, chairman of the economic development committee said: “I think Brexit will be a great opportunity for us. I campaigned for it at the time and I am still sure it will work out in the long term.

“I am very optimistic about the future - I have felt this way since 1973, my opinion has not changed and I think it will benefit Great Yarmouth.”

Trevor Wainwright, leader of the town’s Labour committee, welcomed the report’s publication, saying it was something he had called for months ago.

He said: “We have a wonderful amount of business in the borough who operate in Europe, so we need to know the impact on them.

“It will be interesting to see what comes out of the discussions.”

Residents reaction

Residents in Great Yarmouth have admitted they are “losing track” of the impact Brexit could have on the town but maintain leaving the European Union is still the ‘right thing to do’.

Ben White, 26, who has lived in Great Yarmouth for 11 years, said: “It really is difficult to keep up with what is going on and I am losing track. I certainly hope the town won’t be to badly affected. We have had a vote so I don’t think we should go back on it.”

Kyle Ferguson, 50, who works in Great Yarmouth believes Brexit will turn out to be a positive decision in the long term.

“I do not think the impact will be as bad as people are making out. In the short term we might struggle but in the long term I believe it will be beneficial. We have had a vote and should go through with it,” he said.

Jean Turley, 68, from Great Yarmouth said: “I think we should have stayed in the EU because leaving is very complicated and there is a lot of uncertainty about it.”

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