South Shields Question Time audience puts Brexit at heart of debate as concerns over future of Nissan and zero-hours contracts are shared
The next stages of Brexit and its wider implications on jobs in the North East was at the centre of the debate as Question Time was hosted in South Shields.
The BBC One politics programme was filmed at the Customs House in the town last night, with thousands of viewers watching as audience members put their queries to the panel and shared their own experiences and concerns.
Conservative Norman Lamont, Lord Lamont of Lerwick, leader of the Scottish Labour Party Richard Leonard MSP, Lib Dem MEP for South West and Gibraltar Caroline Voaden, Kate Andrews, an associate director for the Institute of Economic Affairs and British film director Ken Loach, who has just released Sorry We Missed You, a follow up to I, Daniel Blake made up the panel.
Residents expressed their exasperation with the Brexit process, along with the potential for a People’s Vote, questioned whether a general election in the lead up to Christmas would be good for the country.
One woman, whose son works for Nissan, also told of how a no-deal Brexit, could be a “repeat" of the decimation caused by the closure of the collieries in the region during Margaret Thatcher’s time in office.
She said he could be one of 7,000 people and tens of thousands more in the supply chain would could face the same fate if no agreement is made, adding: “We’ve been through this, we don’t want to do it again.”
Former Chancellor Lord Lamont, who held office at that time, was asked by broadcaster Fiona Bruce whether in hindsight he had made the right choices.
He said: “I had to make – this is perhaps not the wisest thing to say to the audience, but I must be honest about it – some difficult decisions relating to industries such as shipbuilding and steel.
“I think they were inevitable decisions and I think they were ones which similar decisions were made in other European countries who saw there were certain industries that Europe could not be competitive in.
“I take in entirely the point that Ken made, that areas like this have suffered, that areas like this need help, that areas like this need support for their industry.
“Outside the EU, we will be able to have greater freedom to give help to particular regions, that is something the EU has forced countries to cut back on.
“If leaving the EU resulted in tariffs between ourselves and Europe, that would be probably to our disadvantage and would also be at a disadvantage to Europe, particularly the motor car industry and hugely to the disadvantage of Germany, so we have to have a free trade agreement with Europe and that's what the Government is working for and the deal is designed to bring about.”
The issue over zero-hours contracts was also put in the limelight, with Mr Loach calling for a deal which would protect jobs, with audience members giving arguments for and against their use.
The relocation of services from South Tyneside District Hospital to Sunderland Royal Hospital was also mentioned in the context of Brexit, with calls for progress to allow the focus to be put back on the future and investment of NHS.
Questions were also raised in the aftermath of the discovery of 39 bodies in a lorry in Essex earlier this week, leading to a discussion about how trailers arrive in the UK and what checks are carried out by border officials.