Humber business boss wants second Brexit referendum to protect Grimsby seafood sector

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 30 Nov 2018

An influential Humber-based business boss wants a second referendum to be held to reverse Brexit.

Lord Christopher Haskins, the former food magnate and chairman of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said staying in the European Union would be better for Grimsby and its premier fish processing industry than Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

In comments made to Grimsby Live, he predicted the Prime Minister's divorce terms would "hurt us all".

The Prime Minister arrived back from Brussels on Sunday evening after seeing her withdrawal agreement and political declaration – a vision for the UK and the EU's future trading relationship – signed off by all 27 member state leaders.

Lord Haskins, the former boss of Northern Foods, said Grimsby – which voted by 70 per cent to leave in 2016 – should get a second chance to decide whether it is "worth accepting [Brexit’s] many downsides" now the terms of the deal are known.

Tory Lincolnshire MPs Martin Vickers and Sir Edward Leigh plan to vote against the Prime Minister's Brexit deal

The Irishman predicted that, while Mrs May's deal was better than crashing out of the EU, customs checks would slowly come into force as time went on – a move that would "hit hard" upon Grimsby’s seafood processing sector, which employs more than 5,000 people.

Lord Haskins said: "It's unrealistic to expect a revival of the fishing industry in Grimsby. Far more important for the town's future is the fish processing industry, which is seriously threatened by the introduction of any friction on the border.

"Businesses in Grimsby tend to be highly reliant on frictionless trade, as the town is a key link in our trading chain with northern Europe. These businesses will be looking at the PM's deal and wondering what comes next.

"The transition period is better than the cliff-edge of no-deal, but they will still be facing years of uncertainty about how the future UK-EU relationship will affect their businesses. In particular, fish processing businesses which rely on a steady stream of imports will be hit hard by any friction at the UK-EU border in the future."

The crossbench peer is calling on northern Lincolnshire MPs to vote down the deal and push for a second referendum.

Mrs May, with more than 90 MPs on her own Tory benches against her deal – including Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers and Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh – looks unlikely to have the support required to see her Brexit negotiations approved.

And if that turns out to be the case, Lord Haskins said: "The only remaining route is to ask the people."

The former Labour Party member pointed to polling carried out on behalf of pro-EU groups which suggested opinion was changing in Grimsby when it came to Brexit.

He said: "I don't think MPs who have their constituents' interests at heart should in good conscience vote for this deal.

"Yes, Grimsby voted overall to leave the European Union. But the latest opinion polls suggest a lot of people in Grimsby – around eight per cent – have changed their minds and would rather stay in. We remain divided - but this deal will hurt us all."

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