Brexit in the Borders

Stuart Bell.
Stuart Bell.

Local Democracy Reporter

Leader of the opposition, Councillor Stuart Bell, is seeking assurance from council chiefs that their much-touted ‘Brexit response team’ will be presenting their findings to councillors in the near future.

The team, drawn from the council’s own officers, was set up in January 2017 with a view to negating the short-term financial impacts of Brexit.

At today’s meeting of Scottish Borders Council, councillor Bell plans to ask council leader Shona Haslam why so little has been heard from the Brexit response team.

“Our council has been specifically advised by Audit Scotland to closely monitor Brexit developments and to have plans in place to mitigate any emerging operational risks,” said Councillor Bell. “What actions have you taken to ensure the timely presentation of a report, even an interim report, by the Brexit response team to this council?”

Council chiefs have been quizzed on the impacts of Brexit on the Scottish Borders before; most recently about the potential effects on Berwickshire’s fishing industry, and the loss of EU rural funding. Their response has largely been that until the terms and impact of Brexit are known the response team cannot comment on the effects on the wider Borders economy.

Councillor Bell said: “Brexit uncertainties continue and public anxiety grows as the deadline for leaving Europe looms.  

“The council and the Borders public need to hear from this group. We need to hear about the potential opportunities from Brexit and the risks and mitigation measures which our council and partners should be taking to ensure the prosperity of the Borders economy and continuity of council services.  

“I have a deep fear that they are not prepared to face up to potential local problems because of embarrassment at their links with the party in power in Westminster.  

“I want to know if Councillor Haslam is doing something to ensure the Scottish Borders are prepared for Brexit.”