East’s tourism industry faces Brexit ruin, warns MP at Labour conference

MP Emily Thornberry has warned of the impact on the east's tourism industry if a no-deal Brexit goes

MP Emily Thornberry has warned of the impact on the east's tourism industry if a no-deal Brexit goes ahead. Photo: Archant - Credit: Archant

East Anglia's tourism industry will be devastated if Britain crashes out of the European Union, a Labour frontbencher has warned.

Speaking at Labour's annual conference in Liverpool, Emily Thornberry told this paper the consequences of a no-deal Brexit for Norfolk, Suffolk and north Essex were 'very, very dark' and could result in planes being grounded at Norwich Airport and Stansted.

The shadow foreign secretary accused the prime minister of behaving recklessly by insisting her Chequers Brexit deal is the only workable option.

'I remember saying on Question Time that if we had a no-deal Brexit the planes won't be able to take off and the Tory MP there said 'Emily stop telling lies, this is project fear'. But I am afraid if we have a no deal there is not the clearance for our planes to be able to take off and go to Europe and vice versa.

'Who will be allowed to come into the country? How will we deal with tourists coming into the country? And then there is the impact on our economy of a no-deal Brexit. It would undermine confidence in our country. It is very, very dark.

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'I think Theresa May has been reckless about this throughout simply saying 'if we don't get what we want then we are going to have no deal, we are going to harm ourselves and in-turn we will harm you if you don't give us what we want'.

'The Chequers deal simply doesn't make sense and doesn't work.'

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She called on the government to investigate what could be done to help struggling tourist areas in our region, highlighting how the Conservatives promised a cut in VAT for Northern Ireland's tourist industry while negotiating with the DUP after the hung parliament at the last election.

She added that it was not fair on other tourist hotspots to be treated differently.

Asked if she predicted major disruption if there was no deal on the day after Britain left the EU at places like Norwich Airport, she said: 'Yes, and not just of goods but for people as well. Planes will not take off, that is the truth. It seems extraordinary to have to say this but that is what no deal means.'

Ms Thornberry added that she believed there would be a general election this year and Labour would look to extend the negotiating period with the EU so talks could begin afresh.

Her comments were backed up by shadow chancellor John McDonnell who said a radical approach was required to rebalance the amount of spending in London and the South East with other regions. He said a plan akin to how spending was equalled out after the reunification of Germany was required to protect regions including the East.

He added: 'This kind of radicalism isn't coming from us, it is coming from the grassroots. We are not going to tolerate anymore the neglect of the regions – particularly coastal towns. We need a government that will acknowledge the neglect that has gone on. Particularly in the last eight years.'

He added that under a Labour government major infrastructure projects like the duelling of the A47 would be considered and regional leaders could bid for cash created by a National Investment Bank.

Meanwhile conference was dominated by talk of a second Brexit referendum, a so-called People's Vote. Delegates are expected to get the chance to vote on whether the party should back another referendum.

And leader Jeremy Corbyn said that even though he did not personally think there should be a second vote – instead demanding a general election – if the conference voted in favour he would respect it.

He said: 'What comes out of conference I will adhere to. But I'm not calling for a second referendum. I hope we will agree that the best way of resolving this is a general election.

'But I was elected to empower the members of the party. So if conference makes a decision I will not walk away from it and I will act accordingly.'

During his keynote speech on Monday Mr McDonnell will also announce plans to force every company with more than 250 employees to set up an Inclusive Ownership Fund which would see shares distributed to workers.

Conference whispers

One East Anglian MP has had more than just policy debates to worry about in the run up to Labour conference.

Ipswich's Labour MP Sandy Martin has been racking his brains about how he can top what has become a legendary rendition of a disco classic at last year's gathering.

Mr Martin picked the rather tricky Donna Summer classic I Feel Love in Brighton at the karaoke party last time and is determined to top it this year.

'It was a big song to choose,' the former councillor said. 'But it was a lot of fun. I think this year I might pick something a bit more sober.'

It is unclear if Mr Martin meant choosing a slower number or not having too much wine before making his decision.

A Labour comrade who witnessed the crooning last year said: 'I am glad he is putting some thought into it I have to admit. There was a lot of effort last time – little else. Let's just say he is a better MP than a singer.'

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