North Devon Council is to begin its preparations for Brexit – six months before the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union (EU).
Two urgent motions were submitted to a full council meeting last Wednesday.
Independent councillor John Patrinos motioned for the council to gain departmental information and analysis from the Government about how Brexit will impact on businesses and the wider North Devon community.
In addition, Liberal Democrat leader Councillor David Worden’s motion asked for a cross party group to be formed to meet with ‘experts and leaders’ in different sectors to ‘fully understand’ the risks and potential impacts for the area.
Cllr Worden said: “We live in one of the most deprived areas of the South West. We simply cannot sit back and let the disastrous no deal scenario, which seems ever likely, to be upon us, unprepared.
“This proposal is pragmatic and in the best interests of everybody in our North Devon community.”
He added: “I know we don’t have all the answers to potential problems and pitfalls, but we can explore the options and possible consequences.”
Both motions were carried, but the latter was met with scepticism by some councillors.
Councillor Rodney Cann said: “Brexit is an issue that is going to impact us all for good or bad and the impact on the local economy is a major concern.
“Getting together with local businesses would be a good start but without facts it would be yet another talking shop.
“Public events are meaningless until we learn the final proposals.”
Council leader Des Brailey said he supported the motion ‘in principle’, but would have preferred to wait and see what type of deal emerges from the Government’s negotiations.
“The council of course wants to help our businesses and residents, but we, like everyone else, are waiting for the outcome of the government’s negotiations,” he said.
“That’s why it would have been better to delay, so that we can make this a truly useful session and provide real advice for our local businesses.
“What we don’t want is just another political debate about the merits or otherwise of Brexit, and I truly hope that’s not what we get.
“A non-partisan, practical advice session would certainly be valuable, and I hope that’s what we can now look forward to.”