Agenda item

Brexit No Deal Preparedness

Officer: Jo Negrini

Key decision: No


The Leader of the Council delegated authority to the Cabinet to make the following decisions:




1.     Note the measures in place to mitigate the risks emerging from our exit from the EU including the Brexit Board, ongoing communications with partners and appointment of a Brexit lead; and


2.     Note that Brexit preparations have been affected by the lack of clarity over the nature of Brexit, its scale and its timing.


The Leader of the Council introduced the report and paid tribute to the officers in Croydon Council and across London who had been working hard to mitigate the effects of Brexit. He noted that it was a hugely worrying time but the Council had a responsibility and needed to work on reassuring the residents of the Borough. The Prime Minister was due to state if a deal had been reached shortly and Parliament would return in October 2019 whether a deal had been agreed or not.


The Place Manager of NHS Croydon, Matthew Kershaw, addressed the Cabinet and explained that the key areas the NHS had been focusing on in regards to Brexit were; members of staff who were not EU nationals, supplies within the NHS, and research.


The Place Manager explained that there was just over 300 people employed within the Croydon NHS who were not EU nationals and they had all been spoken to and offered support if they wished to apply for settled status. He noted the importance of making the staff feel valued, and recently 300 additional nursing staff had been employed to support the organisation, largely from overseas. Croydon NHS were in a good position and were able to respond accordingly if necessary.


It was explained to the Cabinet that there was an in-house national team working on Brexit and they were leading on the supplies within the NHS. It was important to not stockpile medication or supplies as this could cause a shortage; stock levels were being maintained at the normal level. Medication, medical equipment and other supplies could be receipted 24/7, and this was supported by the Supplies Team. There were concerns for supplies, but the Place Manager noted that they were prepared and would be able to tend to patient’s needs.


Croydon University Hospital (CUH) was one of the largest researchers in the UK who were not a teaching hospital. Extensive research had been completed, including European research, which had contributed with making appropriate arrangements in the current period.


The Place Manager explained that Croydon have the resources for overseas patients visiting the hospital and there were ongoing conversations with the National Team to support this. The Overseas Team would be overseeing the treatment for EU nationals within hospital in case the situation changes; therefore, the hospital would be able to respond to this.


The Place Manager concluded by noting that the timing of a no-deal was significant as it was previously scheduled for March 2019 and this would have been in a slightly less challenging time for the hospitals. However, despite having more time to prepare since March, the timing of a potential no-deal Brexit would be additionally challenging as it would be during the winter period.


The Leader of the Council thanked Croydon NHS for their hard work and Mr Kershaw for addressing the Cabinet. He invited everybody to the EU Citizens’ Rights & Brexit event being held in the Braithwaite Hall on Monday 23 September at 1800 hours. 


Councillor Leila Ben-Hassel addressed the Cabinet in her capacity as the Council’s European Champion, rather than a Local Councillor, and thanked the Leader for the report and ongoing work by the Council officers. She noted the importance of raising awareness regarding Brexit and the concern for the damage caused by the media and released government messages; she specified the messages publicised on local transport posters.


Ms Maria Klos introduced herself to the Cabinet and outlined her family background; she was half British and half Polish and had lived in Croydon her whole life, and raised her family locally. Her family lived in Warsaw during World War II until her parent came to Britain as a child refugee. She noted that when Poland joined the European Union in 2004 she felt both sides of her family were united in freedom. After Brexit, Ms Klos explained that she had felt betrayed by the residents of the United Kingdom; that her education and work had been worthless, which resulted in her being diagnosed with depression in 2018. She expressed concern for her family friend’s health being impacted by Brexit; she had become a German citizen to protect her access to health supplies as she was terrified that she would need to purchase her medication after Brexit had been implemented. Ms Klos had joined Croydon for Europe and had spoken to hundreds of people; the experience had so far been eye opening as residents were relaying stories of abuse they had been receiving. She concluded by stating that Brexit made her feel like a stranger in her own country and own town.


Mr Bill Smoker introduced himself to the Cabinet and explained that Brexit had caused the rise of the extreme and far right. He noted concern for the EU citizens; some people from the EU had lived in Britain for decades without having concerns for their citizenship and now had an uncertain future. Since joining Croydon for Europe Mr Smoker had connected with a lot of EU residents who were not applying for citizenship as they were concerned about how their application would be treated, through defiance, and in the hope Brexit would not happen; he stated that it should be a case of registration, not application. Mr Smoker’s wife was from Finland and had resided in Britain for 30 years, raised two children in the British education system and now needed to apply for citizenship. He explained that Croydon Council had been helpful to EU residents, especially during the EU elections when the Elections Team had sent forms for EU nationals to complete to enable them to vote and had actively chased these when not receiving a completed copy; unfortunately, other Councils had not done this. He suggested that the information on the Croydon Council website could be refreshed and a second EU Citizens’ Rights & Brexit event should be organised with more notice. Mr Smoker concluded by reading an extract from the book “In Limbo: Brexit testimonies from EU citizens in the UK”, highlighting a story of a family who no longer had a country called home.


The Leader thanked the speakers and noted that 55% of Croydon residents voted for remain and it was an inclusive place. He would look at organising future events for EU residents; however, he was unsure of when these could be in the near future as there could be General Election called.


The Cabinet Member for Economy and Jobs thanked the guest speakers for the emotional stories they shared. She noted the large impact Brexit was having on businesses and employment and that there was new information being reported daily through the media. The Get Ready for Brexit event had been held for local businesses who traded internationally and she had been working closely with partners and local employers in the health and social care sectors. The London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, was preparing for Brexit and the GLA (Greater London Authority) had set up a Brexit support hub. She had attended the previous Coast to Capital Annual General Meeting where it was stated that three local authorities had seen business growth higher than nationally reported, and the London Borough of Croydon was number one.


The Cabinet Member for Safer Croydon & Communities thanked the guest speakers for sharing their concerns and noted that there had been a rise of abuse and hate crime due to Brexit. Councillor Hamida Ali and the Leader had had discussions with the BCU Commander regarding the preparation for the rise in hate crime after a no-deal Brexit, similar to that of after the Referendum. She noted the anti-hate crime pledge which made a statement that there was no place for hate crime in Croydon; 350 individuals had signed up to it, in addition to 30 organisations representing staff in Croydon.


The Shadow Cabinet Member for Health & Social Care thanked the speakers for sharing their emotional stories and noted that she was from an international background; her mother was born in India and her family were from across different areas of Europe. She noted the importance of inclusivity and that the Conservative Councillors were in support of this. She thanked Matthew Kershaw for speaking at Cabinet and for the huge amount of work and future planning which had been completed; there was a high percentage of residents who were living and working at the Croydon University Hospital and the Borough was in a unique position due to this.


Councillor Simon Hoar entered the Council Chamber at 1942 hours.


The Cabinet Member for Clean Green Croydon noted that there was a large impact on local businesses because of Brexit, including Veolia. He explained that recycling was transported across Europe and was often needed to be transferred quickly; if the issues at the ports were not resolved, particularly with queuing, then there would be an impact on the planet.


He noted that there should have been a 2/3 majority to impose a major decision and that a 52% majority was not high enough. He reminded the Councillors present of the rise of the far right after the referendum and drew parallels to Germany in the 1930’s.


The Conservative Councillors present, Jason Cummings, Jason Perry, Maria Gatland, Lynne Hale, Simon Hoar, Yvette Hopley, Vidhi Mohan and Robert Ward, left the Council Chamber at 1944 hours.


The Cabinet Member for Children, Young People & Learning expressed frustration that we had not learnt from history of the impact a decision like this could cause; she noted being a decedent of slaves she was concerned that there were dark times ahead. There was not a clear position of the impact on the education system; however, a full report would be discussed at a future Cabinet meeting.


Councillor Bernadette Khan entered the Council Chamber at 1946 hours.


The Leader thanked the guest speakers, Councillor Leila Ben-Hassel and Matthew Kershaw.


The Leader of the Council delegated authority to the Cabinet to make the following decisions:




1.    Note the measures in place to mitigate the risks emerging from our exit from the EU including the Brexit Board, ongoing communications with partners and appointment of a Brexit lead; and


2.    Note that Brexit preparations have been affected by the lack of clarity over the nature of Brexit, its scale and its timing.

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