Back in June, we went to the town of St. Helens in the United Kingdom to see how the initial Brexit vote affected people there. We checked back in with St. Helens council’s chief executive, Mike Palin, to see how they are faring now.
The impact Brexit has on their local economy:
As with many areas in the U.K., we’re actually waiting to understand what Brexit will mean at the local level. So obviously the U.K. has not triggered Article 50, so we’re not in the formal process of leaving the EU yet. Even when that gets triggered it takes two years. So we are almost most in a bit of a phony situation where we’re waiting to find out what Brexit will actually mean for a place like St. Helens.
How they would describe St. Helens’ economy to outsiders:
I’d argue that it’s been, we’ve suffered from de-industrialisation as many areas of the United States has. But we’ve been resilient through that period. So the manufacturing businesses we’ve got today don’t employ anywhere near as many people, but they’re still highly productive. We have new sectors emerging, like logistics. We’re beginning to see a series of digital businesses develop within the borough. So it’s a positive future in terms of our economy, primarily because of where we’re located. There’s 35 million people within a few hours drive of St. Helens, and that’s a large market that businesses will want to access.
On making sure young people want to stay in St. Helens and the U.K.:
I think the challenge for us is to promote and present a positive future to those young people. [For example], you can do a university degree in St. Helens. There are “red brick” universities, as we call them in the U.K., which are the more prestigious universities. So those opportunities, in terms of training in education, exist within the borough. Also, if you think of a modern manufacturing business or a modern logistics business, there are lots of opportunities in those industries that don’t necessarily need a university qualification, and that presents a positive future for people. So as these sectors become active within St. Helens, we do need to promote them better to young people to encourage them to stay in the town.
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