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13 December 2019

Publish date: 13/12/2019

So, there you have it… we are about to "get Brexit done" according to Boris Johnson who has taken a sufficient majority to make that task far more achievable then had previously been envisaged. With a major cabinet reshuffle planned post Brexit in February and only minor changes taking place right now, I will certainly be keeping an eye on Robert Jenrick's status and pondering whether he remains as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and if not, who will take up that position? Far more pressing however is the nature of the Brexit withdrawal agreement and the question of Scottish Independence following the success of the SNP. Both things will be of considerable concern to those in Whitehall before the recess.

What kind of Brexit can we expect to see? This is not an easy question to answer despite there being 48 days to go. Now that the conservatives have a sizeable majority there could be scope to propose a softer Brexit with minimal economic impact. On the other hand, the path lays open to pursue a bare bones trades deal. The fall-out could have major repercussions for the economy and local communities.

Industry bodies, notably aerospace, high tech, car production and clothing have already warned of a substantial manufacturing risk due to reliance on imports and exports with the EU. However, the Institute for Government notes that the agriculture and food processing industry could benefit from any new trade barriers arising between the UK and the EU.

Having laid the groundwork and waited, local authorities must now move at speed to ensure their plans for Brexit impact preparation are engaged. The sheer, vast array of functions and service provision means that local authorities will be affected by and have a role to play in nearly all areas. With the delay in the fair funding review and business rates retention scheme together with all eyes centrally back on Brexit, now might just be the opportunity to inject a more positive note and congratulate you all on the election process and the role you played in ensuring a democratic, legally compliant election. It is an exhausting day and night delivering democracy but, yet again, you did deliver with professionalism and commitment. Hats off!

With very best wishes

Helen McGrath

Head of Public Affairs