Connect the North to save Britain from Brexit

During the Industrial Revolution, the production and economy of Lancashire helped energise Britain’s ascent into superpower status.

Connected by innovative and modern transport links, the engine of the North drove the world forwards.

Now, with Brexit on the horizon and a digital revolution at play, the region and country’s economy faces tremendous challenges. Lancashire and the North West need to become again the engine of the UK to save Britain from Brexit.

The economy must be rebalanced. It cannot continue to be so London-centric if we are to stay afloat and navigate these uncharted territories.

Northern England has almost 15 million inhabitants, with a population density only matched by the capital. The key to waking this sleeping giant is connectivity - physical and digital.

As anybody in the North who tried to take a train in the past month will tell you, the current infrastructure system is not fit for purpose.

Despite commitment to the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ that included increased road capacity, a trans-Pennine rail route and better access to Manchester airport, the network is still outdated, overburdened and under-resourced.

It took only the slightest nudge earlier this month for the whole system to collapse.The regional infrastructure is catastrophically insufficient.

To travel the 190 miles from Liverpool to Newcastle it takes nearly three hours by train. Comparatively, the same distance from Berlin to Hamburg takes one hour and forty-five minutes. Indeed, one can travel double the distance from Madrid to Barcelona and gain 30 minutes.

At a local level, travelling the 28 miles from Blackburn to Manchester Airport will set you back almost two hours.

These journey times are hindering growth in Lancashire and the North.

We are currently committed to leaving the EU Digital Single Market. Our need for world leading domestic digital connectivity therefore becomes even more acute for our existing pioneering research and development sector, and our ability to attract new cutting-edge tech developers.

The rebalancing of the UK economy really has become a defining issue for our future prospects if we are to have any fighting chance to stay at the economic top table after Brexit. To look upwards you have to look North. Our prosperity depends upon it.