It feels a bit strange on the Boxing Day holiday to be focusing on something that will happen in June, although to be fair the weather at the moment and the impact of COVID-19 offer at least two good reasons why the Summer months in 2021 are worth thinking about. However I wanted to also add an additional reason why all of us should raise the subject of June 2021 even though we are six months away. In 24 weeks time and two days it will be 16th June 2021 and as many people will be aware we celebrate Sussex Day on that date. When we get to Sussex Day, some of us may be aware of the Sussex Charter which includes the following three themes
“The people of Sussex will undertake responsibility for the general wellbeing of our neighbours, our wildlife and that through custom that we will support all local businesses.”
Clearly if anyone is wanting to find a suitable resolution for the beginning of the New Year this Friday that would be a very positive use of the charter but my reason for mentioning it now is not just as a suggestion for a New Year resolution. Sadly at the same time as many of us will put together a resolution, unless there has been a change from the Government before Thursday night, sadly we will have moved out of the European Union by Friday morning. That inevitably will have a serious impact on our nation as a whole and our County of Sussex in particular. As we wake up on Friday or indeed before we go to sleep after the New Years celebration we will need to consider doing three things that are all encapsulated within the Sussex Charter.
The need for us to try to strengthen our communities is clear and whilst we could all wait until midnight on the 15th June to care for our neighbours and our potential neighbours, it seems as though we need to do that today and every day. The reason I mention potential neighbours is not just referring to the people who may move home over the next few months and who will come into our road, but the reality is that our County area is responsible for enabling new homes to be built for the many people who are currently homeless or living in settings which are intended to be temporary. Caring for the people who live in Sussex is something that will be vital over the next few years as we are faced with a lack of connection with the rest of Europe. The lack of visitors from Europe and the loss of workers coming into our nation will have a challenge for all of us due to the lack of people in the NHS and for some of our rural industries.
The Environment is another key issue as our Government has made all sorts of claims about our departure from the EU and our ability to increase the environmental priorities. However most of their promises are very poor quality and even if Great Britain suddenly took on board the idea of promoting priorities from people like Caroline Lucas, the reality is that we need to work with the EU and other nations if we are going to improve our environment. This is clearly vital as we move into 2021, as our ability to connect with nations that are part of Europe will become much harder than has been the case since 1973. One clear challenge is that if we need to import and export products outside of Europe that historically we have dealt with EU members is that we may well add to the environmental threats to our world as a consequence. However, this aspect leads us to a focus on the third theme from the Sussex Charter which relates to local businesses.
It is clearly lovely that on the 16th June we can refer to the need to support local businesses, however by June, there is a potential for a significant number of current local businesses that have been struggling over the last 9 months of COVID, to end up long before Sussex Day if we don’t act now. In addition now that our barrier to the EU is being constructed by our Government, businesses that either export or import to the EU are about to experience much more serious challenges. We now need, more than ever to be creative so that our neighbours and our friends can be retained in their roles and if over the next six months we could set out to ensure that wherever possible we can use local businesses, our region may be in a much better state by June than its current prospects seem, based on what we know.