Brexit and industry: How the EU split affects working class towns
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In St. Helens, a town in Northern England about 50 miles inland from Liverpool, a majority of the residents voted for Britain to leave the European Union. St. Helens has a history of industry and manufacturing — it was a glass-making and coal-mining hub during the industrial revolution, and to this day, manufacturers are a big employer in the working class town.
But much of the industry is gone — and people have soured on the politicians who they feel gave up on them. Some St. Helens residents say they voted to leave — many breaking from their pro-Remain Labour Party roots — because they feel a sense of being left behind.
Mike Palin, the chief executive of the St. Helens Council, deals with that sentiment every day. He’s trained as a spatial economist, and it’s his job to negotiate budgets and planning. He’s only 35. But since he’s been in the job in St. Helens, he’s dealt with unemployment, budget cuts, and austerity measures.
Now, with the votes cast, Palin is concerned about how Brexit could impact the economy in St. Helens.
Liverpool’s new deepwater port is expected to bring a lot of business into Northern England — Palin calls it “the gateway to Western Europe” — and St. Helens was expected to become a logistics center, a place where businesses could set up shop to move imports and exports throughout the region.
With the future of European trade murky, the extent of St. Helens’ reach and its viability as a hub are unclear.
How will St. Helens and other working towns cope with the uncertainty that comes with Brexit? What inspired the Leave voters who live there to cast their votes?
Mike Palin speaks with Lizzie about the vote and the future.
Listen to the full interview in the player above.
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