Nick Clegg on Brexit and the Humber's offshore wind industry

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 28 Mar 2017

A politician who played a key role in getting Siemens to "sign on the dotted line" says the triggering of Article 50 could mean less investment in the Humber's offshore industry.

Nick Clegg made a number of visits to Hull after becoming deputy prime minister in the Coalition government in 2010, in order to encourage manufacturing giants Siemens to build their wind turbine blade factory at Alexandra Docks.

The ex-Liberal Democrat leader says he questions whether Siemens will be willing to invest more money once Britain exits the European Union.

Theresa May is scheduled to send her letter on Wednesday, reported to be seven-pages long, to European Council President Donald Tusk, informing him that the UK wishes to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – the method for starting the divorce-proceedings between Britain and the UK.

Mr Clegg said: "I remember going up [to the Humber] when I was in government."Gosh, I remember spending months and months and months trying to get Siemens to agree [the City Deal] and sign on the dotted line.

"They are a major European and global company and they essentially invest their money where they like. It is not that complicated.

"If you are inviting them to invest in a market where it is going to go through years and years of change and turbulence and uncertainty, they could choose, nonetheless, to invest."But you would have thought that, as night follows day, they are just as likely to say, 'Well, we'll wait for a while' or, 'We'll invest our money in a safer environment somewhere else'."

It is not all bleak though, said Mr Clegg. Britain's natural conditions lends themselves to a prosperous offshore industry, he pointed out, even outside of the EU.

Mr Clegg said: "What as least we've got going for us is that we're a windy island – and, particularly off the shores of the Humber, the waters are still shallow.

"At least the weather and the shallowness of the sea are parts of the Humber that won't be affected by Brexit," he joked. "But pretty much everything else will be."

The former MEP said he knew David Davis, the East Yorkshire MP and chief Brexit negotiator, well. The pair worked together in "happier times" to "thwart" the then Labour government's attempts to introduce 90 day detention for suspected terrorists.

But Mr Clegg said he'd seen little to comfort him in knowing that the Haltemprice and Howden MP was now Brexit Secretary, declaring that he believed Brexit would be a "terrible mistake".

The Lib Dems are calling for a second referendum on the final terms of the Brexit deal.

"I like David personally – [but] I totally disagree with what's he's doing," said Mr Clegg."I don't think it makes a huge amount of difference [that Mr Davis is Brexit Secretary].

"At the end of the day, the big calls will be made by Number 10 and the Prime Minister, particularly this Prime Minister who is quite a centralising PM."

Mr Clegg said the Government would have to "get real" about the negotiations once Article 50 was invoked, arguing that it would take far longer than the allocated two years to complete.

His comments come as a negotiating handbook, written by Mr Davis after he was involved in a corporate restructure at golden syrup producers, Tate & Lyle, resurfaced.

The 1988 book, How to Turn Round a Company, contains nuggets of advice, including that "losers make the first concession on major issues". It is no longer in print.

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