A renewed call for the Tees Valley to have more power has been sounded after the EU referendum result.
Millions of pounds have been poured into Tees Valley’s businesses in recent years and regeneration chiefs are calling for reassurances that the area which includes Hartlepool will have control over its own destiny in the future.
That way, it could compete on an equal footing, campaigners have indicated.
Dave Budd, Chair of the Tees Valley Combined Authority, said: “We now need to continue to move forward with regional devolution and give Tees Valley the control over its own destiny that will strengthen its ability to compete on equal terms with other regions both at home and abroad.”
He said Tees Valley has secured hundreds of millions of pounds of European investment funding and added: “We must ensure that this important support is not lost to our businesses.”
Last year, plans for a devolution deal linked to the creation of a new Tees Valley combined authority were revealed.
Tees Valley has secured hundreds of millions of pounds of European investment funding and we must ensure that this important support is not lost to our businesses.Dave Budd, Chair of the Tees Valley Combined Authority
It would see an extra £15 million a year given to the new authority over 30 years to support economic growth and create jobs.
Pam Hargreaves, the chairman of the Hartlepool branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, called for patience after the EU referendum result.
She said: “From within our membership, there are businesses who supported the decision to leave and the decision to remain.
“What is important for Hartlepool businesses is what happens next.
“Whilst it is too early to tell, it is important that we maintain a bit of patience and we watch and wait, and we make sure that businesses in Hartlepool get the best deal.”
North East Chamber of Commerce chief executive James Ramsbotham said: “A significant number of our members are worried about the impact of leaving.
“The focus for us now is to ensure these business concerns are addressed. It is vital the Government ensures minimal disruption to trade and investment as the process of change begins.
“We also need to see measures to reassure businesses on issues such as access to overseas talent and the future of regional funding streams.
“We have an export record which is the strongest in the whole country and this must not be compromised as the decision to leave becomes a reality.”
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “The British people’s vote to leave the EU is a momentous turning point in our history. The country has spoken and it’s for us all to listen.
“Many businesses will be concerned and need time to assess the implications. But they are used to dealing with challenge and change and we should be confident they will adapt.”
Nissan has refused to comment on what the EU referendum means for the future of its Sunderland plant.
The car giant - which employs 8,000 people in the UK across its Sunderland factory, Cranfield engineering centre and Paddington design base, and supports a further 32,000 jobs nationwide indirectly through dealerships and its supply chain - has made no secret of the fact it favoured an ‘In’ vote, even though it did not actively campaign for one.
A spokeswoman said this morning: “We will not be commenting at this time.”
But Nissan said in February it believed it made ‘the most sense for jobs, trade and costs’ for the UK to stay within Europe.
Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn said: “We are a global business with a strong presence in Europe.
“We have a rich heritage in the UK, with 30 years of manufacturing and engineering presence, and remain committed to building and engineering cars in the country. Last year we produced more than 475,000 vehicles in the UK – 80 per cent of which are exported.
“Our preference as a business is, of course, that the UK stays within Europe - it makes the most sense for jobs, trade and costs. For us, a position of stability is more positive than a collection of unknowns.
“While we remain committed to our existing investment decisions, we will not speculate on the outcome nor what would happen in either scenario.”