Robert Jenrick is Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and MP for Newark.
In just 89 days, we will be leaving the European Union. We would prefer to leave with a deal, and we will work in an energetic and determined way to get that better deal. This will, of course, require movement from the EU on the anti-democratic backstop. If it is not possible to reach a deal we will still leave on 31st October, which is why we are making all necessary preparations to do so.
Local government has a vital role to play in helping to make Brexit a success so it’s right that as planning for a No Deal Brexit ramps up across central government, we see this replicated at the local level. From Whitehall to the town hall, Brexit preparations must be intensified in every community.
To that end, as Secretary of State for Local Government, I am asking all local councils in England to appoint a Brexit lead, who will work hand in hand with me and my team in central government to plan for our exit on 31st October, with or without a deal. Because taking back control doesn’t just apply to Westminster; we are going to thrive after Brexit and it will mean local people taking more responsibility for their communities.
Councils across the country have already worked hard to prepare for Brexit, and I’m grateful for those efforts, but the appointment of a designated Brexit lead officer in every local area, with clear responsibilities and lines of accountability, marks a shift change in how councils will organise themselves in the coming weeks.
I know the pressures that councils face – they are on the frontline of delivering public services, supporting local businesses and helping vulnerable people, so I will support their extra efforts with £20 million in additional funding. This will allow councils to immediately designate and train staff and update their communications plans, recognising that the nature and scale of the challenges ahead will vary across the country. Councils will work closely with their local resilience forum, which in turn will be updating their plans to prepare for the specific circumstances of Brexit.
Beyond 31st October we will have the opportunity to shape how prosperity is created and shared across the United Kingdom. I stand squarely behind the Prime Minister in his ambition to unite our country and level-up, by ensuring that power, opportunities and wealth aren’t just concentrated in London and the big cities.
We have already dedicated £3.6 billion to improving transport, full-fibre broadband, skills and culture in our towns, we will provide investment for transformative regeneration of our high streets – to give places new energy and life as they evolve to meet changing consumer habits – and we will bring forward plans for a UK-wide Shared Prosperity Fund that will be designed to boost the productivity and economic growth potential of those parts of the country that lag behind in a more focused and imaginative way than that provided by the EU. The benefits of leaving the EU must be felt far and wide.
But the first step in realising this vision must be to fulfil the democratic mandate we were given over three years ago in the referendum. With renewed focus and intensity at every level of government, we will be ready to leave the EU on 31st October.
Councils across the country will be receiving further guidance from me next week and I will be holding regular opportunities to question me on our plans – in person and online. I’m looking forward to working with you.