We urge Government to tackle the most pressing crisis before us – COVID-19 – before addressing the second one – our future relationship with the EU. Getting our relations with the EU right is so important that we cannot negotiate whilst in parallel confronting the challenge of COVID-19.
As you know, food and farming are of the highest importance to Wiltshire: it is the most farmed county in the south-west. There are over 2,000 commercial farm holdings employing over 6,000 people in agriculture. Our countryside is wholly reliant on farmers caring for the outstanding Wiltshire landscapes and the high value biodiversity, arable, vegetable, and animal production it sustains. They contribute in the region of £12.5million to the county’s local economy. Farming is also likely to be hardest hit by a no-deal Brexit. Farmers will be uncompetitive if they try to export under a no-deal arrangement since it would bring in tariff and SPS barriers between them and their EU customers for the first time.
Will Wiltshire farmers, grappling as they are with COVID-19 countermeasures, be able not only to cope but eventually prosper under such a radically different trading regime?
By far the largest employment area in Wiltshire is retail, employing some 35,000 (17.2% of all employment). Retail relies on just in time deliveries from the EU. Likewise manufacturing, employing over 9% in the county, much of which is heavily reliant on a frictionless supply chain across the English Channel. COVID-19 has taken the wind out of the sails of most entrepreneurs. A recent survey by Business West Chambers of Commerce found an overwhelming majority (96%) were affected by the coronavirus, reporting decreased sales, cancelled contracts, cash flow problems and supply chain issues. Small businesses in particular reported a pessimistic future with only 89% saying they would be able to cope if the crisis extended a further 6 months.
How will the government sustain the Wiltshire economy so that employers and entrepreneurs alike can find their feet?
We want the UK government to do the right thing by the country. It should concentrate on dealing with COVID-19 and its disastrous consequences without the distraction of complex negotiations with the EU, in which the Government seems to be attempting to squeeze five years’ trading negotiations into five months.
The risk of a crash-out departure at the end of December grows significantly if by the end of this month our government does not extend the transition period. We already face a financial crisis due to COVID-19; we will compound it if we fail to make time to negotiate an ambitious relationship with the EU.
Polling has consistently shown that most people would like to see an extension to the negotiating timetable. We believe the government would be wise to do so
Mario Caves (North Wilts & Chippenham)
Malcolm Hewson (Bradford on Avon and Trowbridge)
Jane Jarvis (Salisbury)
Jasper Selwyn (Devizes)
Marisa Zoeller (North & South Swindon)
One Crisis at a Time
Homes for the young
Britain is short of 4 million houses at the present time. This is of particular concern to the young and families just starting out in life.
The young generation are the flower of the nation and the baby boomer generation should be helping them along as best they can, but in fact the opposite is the case.
The majority of baby boomers own their own houses, and a fifth own more than one house. The majority of people under 45 live in very expensive private rented accommodation and are paying rent to landlords.
Speaking as a baby boomer myself I can see we have let down the young generation. In my opinion this shift in wealth to the older generation started when Britain began selling off all the council houses at huge discounts.