With tonight marking the end of the UK’s official membership of the European Union, Sleaford area residents and businesses are preparing for what the future holds.
Although most things will initially stay the same during the following 11-month ‘transition period’ when the UK will continue to pay its contributions into the EU and most laws and trade systems will continue as before, many organisations are already gearing up for the split, while others are still wanting more certainty from the upcoming trade deal talks with the rest of Europe.
Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Dr Caroline Johnson publicly voted for Brexit, as did a majority of her constituents at the Referendum in 2016.
She has also been a public backer of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his policies in the run up to his election as Leader.
She told The Standard: “Today is a truly historic moment in our nation’s history. It has been nearly three years since the referendum - three years marked by political difficulties as some attempted to reverse or ignore the referendum result.
“I voted to leave, my constituents voted to leave and the country voted to leave - and I am immensely proud to be part of Boris Johnson’s Conservative Government which has finally got Brexit done.
“Brexit marks a huge opportunity and I look forward to being a part of the team which unleashes Britain’s potential.”
Lincolnshire County Council is flying a number of flags from its buildings in order to mark ‘Brexit Day’.
Today (Friday) marks the start of a transitional period allowing businesses and government to prepare to post-Brexit arrangements.
Lincolnshire County Council leader Coun Martin Hill said: “Brexit is a momentous, historic occasion – one which should be marked appropriately.
“We’ve been asked by government, where possible, to fly the union flag on our buildings.
“As a county which overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU, we’re pleased to do so.”
The transitional period is set to end on December 31, 2020, but can be extended for up to two years.
A number of events across the country are planned to mark the event, with a clock counting down the last hour set to be projected on to 10 Downing Street, while Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage is set to host an event in Parliament Square.
An attempt to get Big Ben to ‘bong’ for Brexit, which sparked a fund raising appeal, was refused by Parliament - but £272,000 raised will instead go to Help for Heroes.
Grunwald UK was a Sleaford engineering firm making labelling and packing equipment for the food industry, with German links, which recently moved to new premises in Blankney.
James Causebrook, Managing Director had some regrets about Brexit Day, saying: “We as a business are still very sad that we leave on Friday, most of the negative impact from Brexit we as a business faced directly in 2016, so we have adapted and grown since, so can weather any Brexit situation.
“As an engineer, being part of the EU has been fundamental to a collective effort to drive new technology forward and develop talent (it certainly helped my career). I worry that we (as a nation) could be left not giving young engineers the opportunity I had 20 years ago.”
On a more positive he said Grunwald is in the automation business and with the likelihood of less available labour in the country from economic migrants, he believe they will gain automation projects which may have previously remained a people driven process.
Mr Causebrook added: “We hope a trade deal happens in 2020 because the threat of no deal situations in 2019 caused partial paralysis in some of our industry sectors.”
Tulip is a major employer in the Sleaford, owning a pork products factory in Ruskington.
A Tulip spokesman said:“On January 31, the UK will leave the EU and enter into a transition period until the end of 2020. During this time, businesses will be able to trade with the EU on the same terms as they do now, and there are no immediate changes that will come into effect from January 31. The UK government position on many key issues, such as immigration, employment and trade are yet to be confirmed and this continued uncertainty remains a major concern for many businesses, including ours.
“A cross functional Tulip working group has been in place for more than two years, including key stakeholders for each critical function and potential risk. This has ensured that we are best prepared for the changes ahead so that we can continue to deliver great quality products to our customers.
“We are proud of our diverse and talented people and that includes migrant labour that continues to play an important role in the business and is a much-valued resource. We have had a communications and support programme in place across all of our operations to ensure that we keep our colleagues informed of Brexit developments and provide them with the necessary support.
“And we continue to invest in our business. In 2019, our site at Ruskington saw further and significant investment to ensure that it can deliver great products to its customers and to exploit opportunities to grow the business. Tulip continues to invest in its people, and offers apprenticeships, a graduate scheme, and training programmes across all functions to develop the skills of our workforce.”
Gundars, a Latvian living in Boston with his family permanently since 2009, runs two Baltic Food shops in Boston and Sleaford and he said some of the ‘damage’ had already done to his business, with negative migration caused by Brexit uncertainty impacting on his customers, however he said Sleaford people had been much more welcoming of his business than Boston.
He said it was relatively easy starting a business here compared to other parts of Europe, but fluctuations in the currency exchange rate and uncertainty harming economic growth had meant his customers were spending less in his shops which stock Latvian, Lithuanian and Polish food brands.
He had no idea what the future holds, but, naturally, his main customers were Eastern Europeans.
He said: “If you look at the figures, immigration is already negative from those countries.”
He commented: “I came here and liked it so I stayed. There are lots of jobs on farms and in factories and I serve the many Eastern Europeans working in them.
“Sleaford is much more peaceful, the locals are fine and welcoming, but we have not been too busy at the shop, which has been there for a while but was not in a good state. I took it over from someone else and improved it but some customers you never get back.”
Gundars found that he had not had many English people willing to try his foods, which he usually gets through a wholesaler rather than importing direct.
He commented: “People don’t realise how tightly aligned the UK has been with Europe over the years. I feel it is very bad propaganda which has led to the Brexit vote. There are upsides and downsides and it will be a tough time and a long road to get over it. We will all have to be patient.”
Gundars said he is planning to move out of Boston due to what he felt was a “very bad attitude from locals” and thought he may relocate to Sleaford, saying it was a nice, more accepting place.
He said that some people believe Europeans living in Boston will leave overnight and everyone will be better off, which he disputed, as he pointed to the global recession which had hit the area a decade ago was a major factor that created tension.
“I am not a supporter of the Conservatives and they have done a bad job, placing a lot of the mistakes onto Europe, but it is a about local government - Lincolnshire has been taken for granted.
“All the conversation has been about Brexit, but what that will be is uncertain, there is no easy solution. People in favour say we can get food from other countries than Europe, but it will be more expensive to get it from Canada or New Zealand or wherever. Britain cannot entirely feed itself. If my products are more expensive to buy I will have to put my prices up, but also things like energy may rise as we got a lot from Europe.