Revealed: How a “no-deal” Brexit could affect health, transport and business

Camden voted overwhelmingly remain in the referendum

Camden voted overwhelmingly remain in the referendum - Credit: Archant

In just over six months, Britain will leave the European Union. As concerns about the prospect of a “no-deal” build, we speak to shop owners, councillors and business leaders to find out how it could affect the area.

Maria Higson. Picture: Maria Higson

Maria Higson. Picture: Maria Higson - Credit: Maria Higson

In the referendum two years ago, Camden as a borough overwhelmingly voted remain. However as the months creep towards March 29, the date where Britain will be out the European Union for the first time since 1973, the prospects of a “no deal” situation are increasing. This could mean tariffs on goods entering and leaving Britain, and restrictions on freedom of movement.

The area is home to an international train link with Europe, one of London’s biggest hospitals, as well as a thriving business community that’s a destination for Londoners and tourists alike.

Royal Free Hospital: NHS According to the Royal Free, around 27.5 per cent of NHS staff are from outside the UK, in line with the average for north-west London. However it’s not the only problem posed to the Royal Free Hospital by “no-deal.”

Labour Party councillor for Primrose Hill with Camden Town, Lazzaro Pietragnoli

Labour Party councillor for Primrose Hill with Camden Town, Lazzaro Pietragnoli - Credit: Archant

Concerns have been raised that the heath service could run out of drugs, and that isotopes used in chemotherapy could run short.

Councillor Maria Higson, who represents Hampstead Town and is a governor at the hospital believes it’s staffing that will be the key issue.

“I don’t think we’ll leave without a deal, but I know one of the things the NHS is good at doing is planning. They’ve got plans for if London is on fire, so they’ll have planned for it, and I don’t think we’ll run out of the medicines people need.

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“However at the moment, staffing is key. We’re missing a quarter of our critical care staff.

Maurizio Businaro, owner of Amici Delicatessen in East Finchley

Maurizio Businaro, owner of Amici Delicatessen in East Finchley - Credit: Harry Taylor

“The proposals by the government on NHS staff are welcome, but Brexit risks being a smokescreen. There is a real need for more affordable key worker housing in London as a whole.

“It’s no use getting three years down the line, thinking we’ve got the effects of Brexit sorted and having neglected things like that.

St Pancras: Eurostar

Simon Pitkeathley, chief executive of Camden Town Unlimited. Picture: Kim Jobson

Simon Pitkeathley, chief executive of Camden Town Unlimited. Picture: Kim Jobson - Credit: Archant

Camden provides one of the direct rail links into Europe through the Eurostar terminal.

At a Camden Council meeting late last year, it was detailed how St Pancras would face turmoil if a deal on freedom of movement wasn’t reached.

Chairman of the Brexit Working Group Lazzaro Pietragnoli believes the rising prospect of agreements not being reached means the threat is still real.

“It would be impossible to run the station,” he tells the Ham&High.

At the moment, due to the 2003 Le Touquet treaty, passengers theoretically pass over the UK border as soon as their passports are checked and approved.

If a deal isn’t reached on movement, it could mean the Eurostar terminal might have to move altogether and checks would have to be made in St Pancras station, in an airport-style system.

Currently security and passport check facilities only exist for outgoing services.

According to Lazzaro, it could mean the station has to move altogether.

He said: “When we had Wendy Spinks from HS1 come and talk to us, she said if a deal isn’t reached they could end up moving the terminal to accommodate having to do checks on the other side.

“The beauty of the Eurostar is that as soon as you get off the train, you can walk out into London.

“If it doesn’t change, that won’t be the case.”

Amici Delicatessen

Over the border in Barnet, Maurizio Businaro has run Amici Delicatessen in East Finchley for 23 years.

In the last twelve months, a weakening pound he has already seen the cost of importing balsamic vinegar rise sharply. Alongside the deli, he runs a company importing it, and selling it across the capital.

The 60-year-old said: “It has gone up by 25 to 30 per cent. I used to pay £2500 per pallet and it’s now over £3000. I don’t pass on the increase to my customers, as it’s a side business, but it’s costing me.”

Other products he sells in the deli have risen by 15 to 20 per cent.

He also points to more difficultly recruiting staff from overseas with the “knowledge of Italian food, and work ethic” that he says is required.

“The people I hire from Italy to work here know the food, they’ve grown up with it. You could do it here, but it would take generations for people to grow up in the culture.”

Maurizio is “hoping for the best” from the negotiations and would prefer to stay in the Single Market. He said: “Until March 29 I am not doing anything, I can’t look into my crystal ball and see.”

Camden’s Economy

Businesses are already concerned by the “uncertainty” of stalling Brexit negotiations, but could yield a revolution in automisation, according to Simon Pikeathley.

The chief executive of Camden Town Unlimited says the amount of staff from the EU and outside is also a worry for restaurants, pubs and cafés.

He said: “It’s a big problem. Despite the government’s reassurances that people living here for five years will be able to stay - it could still be an issue.

“Europe has been a big source of cheap labour, and whether that means we see more investment and a speeding up of automisation to replace some of those jobs that are lost or can’t be filled, I don’t know, but that would obviously have knock on effects for people who are put out of work by that in turn.”

He says he hasn’t heard from businesses in Camden Town whether they are concerned about the possible introduction of tariffs.

“I’ve not had that conversation, but the main issue is uncertainty. People don’t know the situation they’ll be in.”