Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans is pioneering the use of new legal powers to force the Government to reveal the truth about the impact of Brexit on Plymouth.
Councillor Evans is invoking the Sustainable Communities Act to make the Government share what it knows about what Brexit will mean for the city, even if it is considered confidential.
In a letter to James Brokenshire MP Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Councillor Evans invokes the Act to demand: “Immediate receipt by Plymouth City Council of all government departmental information and analysis pertaining to the impacts upon Plymouth’s communities and businesses of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, including any information deemed by the government to be confidential.”
Plymouth is believed to be the first council in the country to use the Act, set up to allow councils to challenge the Government to help the economic, social or environmental well-being of a local area, in this way.
Councillor Evans explained: “Like many other cities, there is a big cloud of economic uncertainty hanging menacingly over our heads.
“Brexit is going to have an impact on Plymouth, that is for sure. But for this council to do the job of protecting businesses and residents, we have to know exactly what the government has planned for us because at the moment, we don’t know.
“We’ve seen various dossiers released in the last few weeks. They have been at best woolly and do not address what Brexit means for individual communities.
“This must change. They have to give us answers.
“Plymouth is a city that relies upon imports and exports. We have a fishing industry. We have a food industry. We have an engineering industry. The Council has to stand strong for them. The custom arrangements in post-Brexit Britain is a complete unknown and yet is crucial to the very existence of these important industries.
“As we stand today, half of our 20 biggest companies are foreign owned. They have invested in Plymouth because of the direct access to the EU market. What about them? How are we going to support them to stay in the city, to continue to employ local people?
“Whether is going to be hard Brexit, soft Brexit, or even no Brexit. What have the government found out and why are they keeping the answers from us?
“Although we are the first Council to use the act in this way, I don’t expect us to be the last. I will be speaking to colleagues all around the country in the next few days to help put pressure on the government for answers.
“This doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. If there are advantages to Brexit then tell us so we can exploit them. But we must also know where there are disadvantages so that we can temper them.
“We are already one step ahead. We have a scrutiny panel dedicated to looking at these issues and they have done a sterling job. But the need help and guidance to be able to serve the city properly.
“Under the terms of the Sustainable Communities Act, the government must finally answer our questions. So I ask, on behalf of 260,000 people: What does Brexit mean for Plymouth?”
The a full copy of the letter is available in the agenda of the next Brexit, Infrastructure and Legislative Change Overview and Scrutiny Committee, scheduled for Wednesday 5 September. Click here to view it.