Westminster Labour were disappointed but not surprised when Westminster Conservatives dismissed a motion at full council last night calling on the council to campaign to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
Westminster Council is uniquely reliant among local authorities on sources of revenue that are under threat from crashing out of the EU, with the Council’s Audit and Performance Report identifying no-deal as a critical level risk to the council’s finances. No-deal would also have significant impact on staffing in a number of key services and the continuing deepening of tensions poses a public order risk.
Westminster Labour had previously called on the Council to support a second referendum (in which Labour Councillors would campaign to remain) in January 2019 and were rebuffed by the Conservatives. However we had hoped that the council would be able to find common ground on the sensible motion set out below that sought to unite members with different views on Brexit around the urgency to prevent no-deal.
Sadly the Conservatives tried to claim that this was not an issue on which the council should have a view, despite the fact that the council routinely advocates for changes in policy by national and London government, including a number of pledges to do so on other issues discussed at the same council meeting. They tabled and passed a wrecking amendment that praised work the welcome work the council was already doing (much of which had already been included in a previous Tory amendment in January) that removed any requirement to make its views known on the potential no-deal crisis and rejected taking any actions that would stand up to the Government.
Westminster Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “A no-deal Brexit would be a disaster for the United Kingdom that would have a catastrophic impact on Westminster Council’s finances and would some of its services at serious risk. Whatever their views on whether the UK stays in EU or not surely Westminster Conservatives should be able to make it clear that no-deal is not in the interests of our residents or the council. Westminster Labour Councillors will continue to put pressure on politicians to stop no deal and we also remain committed to fighting for a second referendum in which we would campaign to remain.”
LABOUR GROUP MOTION TO FULL COUNCIL (No. 2) ‘NO DEAL’ BREXIT
This Council notes the real risks posed to the citizens of Westminster and Westminster City Council by leaving the European Union without an agreed deal as evidenced by the UK Government’s YellowHammer civil contingency plans.
The council believes that a ‘No deal’ Brexit could cause significant damage to Westminster City Council’s finances, both directly and indirectly, and potentially further aggravate issues for the Council’s contractors.
This Council believes that a ‘No deal’ Brexit would have a significant impact on the livelihoods of Westminster residents and on the local economy, as well as having serious consequences for vulnerable residents who depend on medication that could be in short supply, including cancer treatment.
This Council notes that the official Vote Leave Campaign, led by the now Prime Minister, promised voters in 2016 that the UK would leave the UK with a negotiated and beneficial deal.
This Council resolves to make urgent representations to the National Government and to all relevant stakeholders to avoid ‘No Deal’.
This Council affirms its opposition to a ‘No deal’ Brexit and also resolves to further enhance the council’s preparations to mitigate the damage it may cause to our city.