Ambassadors from Thailand, India, The Maldives and India have all visited Southend after an MP invited them to learn about what the town can offer once the UK leaves the European Union.
Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West spoke of the visits in the House of Commons last week, telling ministers that ambassadors from Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan, the Maldives and India had all been welcomed in the town in an effort to “boost trade” after Brexit.
The visits were supported by Southend Council who helped organise introductions between the international delegations and businesses and institutions including the Hive Business Hub, the Jazz Archive and the Pier.
Sir David said: “Countries throughout the world have ambassadors or high commissioners in the United Kingdom.
“They are a rich source of opportunity for the mutual promotion of trade, culture and educational links.
“Accordingly, over the last 18 months, I have been working with whoever the Mayor of Southend is to invite Ambassadors and High Commissioners to visit Southend to learn about the town and what it has to offer with a view to not only boosting trade, culture and educational links now, but being mindful of the new opportunities which we will have once we leave the European Union.”
Councillor Ian Gilbert, leader of Southend Council, said: “Regardless of how Brexit pans out, it is important that Southend is able to forge new trade and cultural links internationally, to showcase the many opportunities Southend offers as a business destination and to build upon the strengths of the local economy.
“Organising visits for overseas delegations gives us an opportunity to give a flavour of some of our towns many assets and explore opportunities for future trade and collaboration.”
Members of the European Union have a common trade policy and once the UK leaves there will be opportunities for fresh trade deals in regions such as south east Asia. However, there are concerns that these new deals will not be enough to offset the reduction in trade with the EU, which is one of the world’s biggest exporters.
The deadline for leaving the European Union is October 31 and with turmoil continuing in Westminster it is still unclear whether this will involve leaving with or without a deal, leaving local authorities struggling to make preparations.
In September the government was forced to publish YellowHammer, a document detailing its assumptions of what may occur if the UK leaves without a deal.
This included the risk of medicine shortages, road congestion and food supply issues.
Cllr Gilbert, added: “Whilst the national picture for Brexit remains ever-changing, the ‘YellowHammer’ document released by the government shows that the potential risks are serious.
“It is important that locally we prepare appropriately and that is why we continue to work constructively with partners in the public, private and voluntary sectors across the county, and help residents and businesses access Government information about Brexit.
“Whilst we will continue to prepare where we can as part of the Essex Resilience Forum, there are limits to what we as a single local authority can do. Ultimate responsibility for these risks must rest with central Government.”