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Brexit: embracing the challenges and taking opportunities

29 September 2017

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A key thing about Brexit is that it magnifies the importance of us dealing with the challenges that we face. Whether that be transforming our transport infrastructure, tackling our housing crisis or investing in our young people. It’s an imperative that we equip ourselves as a country and as a region.

Though I campaigned for Britain to remain within the EU, far from being a so called “remoaner”, since the referendum I’ve actually become increasingly upbeat and confident about what Brexit could mean for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Yes there will be challenges, but I have every confidence that the people of this country will not only tackle these challenges but will also exploit the opportunities.

Since being elected Mayor in May, I have spent a significant amount of time meeting businesses and investors and what’s clear to me is that there are a large number of reasons why the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough should feel optimistic about Brexit. Though certain businesses have their concerns, all are getting on with their day to day business, making investments, and generally seem optimistic both about their future and that of the area.

This week the Prime Minister set out the Government’s current strategy. I have sympathy for those who believe that there needs to be a more of a positive strategy from the Government and more communication. At times it does seem as though some see Brexit as a problem to be managed, rather than an opportunity to be seized. Though not downplaying the significance of the challenges that lie ahead, we’re only going to make a success of Brexit if we’re confident and bold regarding our decision making.

The most exciting thing for me about leaving the EU will be our ability to strike our down trade deals with some of the fasting growing and most dynamic countries in the world. This will likely lead to concrete benefits here in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. The European Union has failed to strike trade deals with the fastest growing countries in the world. Countries such as Switzerland and Australia have done far better striking their own trade deals. The need for each one of the EU’s twenty eight member states to agree to each and every deal has meant that the EU has often been awkward and slow when it comes to trade negotiations, rather than nimble and dynamic.

Brexit is of monumental significance to the life of the nation and only in the fullness of time will be truly know whether the decision to leave the European Union was the right one. However, what is clear to me is that one of the key negatives associated with Brexit, the uncertainty, is more prevalent now than it ever will be. Whilst the benefits and freedoms associated with leaving, such as our ability to strike our own trade deals haven’t yet kicked in.

As the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough part of my job is standing up for the area on the world stage. Over the past month I’ve visited the US Embassy to meet with senior officials to discuss trade and investment opportunities and have welcomed a delegation of Japanese parliamentarians to Ely to discuss the success of the UK’s first Sake brewery in Fordham.

Next month I will also be welcoming the Mayor of San Diego to Cambridge, I look forward to discussing with him the partnerships and opportunities between our two regions, both world leaders in the life sciences sector. Whilst at the US Embassy I was informed that a delegation of members of Congress had been over to London earlier in the year and they were so enthusiastic about facilitating a US-UK trade deal that they wanted to strike one then and there.

Earlier this week I spoke at an event at the Babraham Institute launching new flights from Stansted Airport to New York and Boston. This is great news for the whole of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Only with a truly international airport on our doorstep will we achieve our true economic potential. I also see this news as another show of faith in our local economy.

Leading businesses from both the US and Japan believe in Britain and Cambridgeshire, two countries that the EU has failed to strike a trade deal with. Whilst it’s important that we’re not blind to the challenges presented by Brexit, its equally important in my view not to be blind to the opportunities and our own potential.