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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Bye Bye Brussels - hello Beijing

Media attention remains focussed on the fallout from the UK majority vote to leave the EU with interminable debate and discourse at all levels and from all sides. The shock of the UK Referendum outcome reverberates across Europe and manifested itself in the EU Leaders private conclave in Bratislava this past weekend where Member State's rifts and discord could not be contained.

The entire edifice so carefully constructed over the past decades, of myriad self-important European Union institutions and paraphernalia concocted by Brussels is in danger of eventual implosion. It was not the UK's decision to leave this self-important 'club' which alone now threatens its very existence. Economic stagnation across Europe, imposes unimaginable levels of unemployment especially in younger generations in many regions. The rigidity of the Euro which Britain (and some other countries) wisely opted out of; forced fiscal policies suiting Germany and a handful of north european states, on to vastly different economies and cultures elsewhere with subsequent distress among entire populations. More recent turbulence created by the influx of peoples from the middle east and africa - are also manifestly fatal threats to the 'European project'. It was in Athens that popular unrest against Brussels and financial elites, first made its way into headlines across the world - with band aid solutions cobbled together in hasty 'summits' and still unravelling. The fragmentation of the EU goes far beyond the UK's response of two fingers. Catalunya espousing a fervent desire for nationhood or at the least a break with Madrid, is poised to bid for its independence; if not in this decade, then certainly during the next. Scotland of course has its own nationalist movement - being more of an anti-English sentiment.

In practical terms freeing the UK from the control of bureaucratic forces in Brussels means that UK procurement policies need no longer adhere to the strictures of the EU. British railways and tramways can, and indeed must, favour as an automatic priority, domestic produced infrastructure and material, starting with steel track and rolling stock. Questions in Parliament this last week to the Government's Transport Ministers honed in on the absolute need for British taxpayer supported capital projects to focus on home - produced steel. Blackpool North MP, Paul Maynard, now sits on the Government Front Bench, having been appointed to the Department of Transport's ministerial team with responsibility for railway matters. How appropriate this is, given his constituency and proximity to the Fylde coast's light rail operation and pending electrification of the Blackpool to Preston rail link.

Blackpool trams and buses have been manufactured in Preston, Blackburn, Leicestershire; and importantly, in Scotland (and Northern Ireland). There is little commonsense in seeing tax payer funded capital being further expended for the benefit of well endowed businesses elsewhere in the European Union.

On the horizon looms China. Blackpool delegations have most recently visited this enormous economic force and seen firsthand the potential engagement which the UK can now bring about with the world's second largest economy; now that the UK is freeing itself from the redundant mantra of EU institutions and blinkered European political elites (plus some of our own). The impact China can have on the UK over the next decades is incalculable, given the investment (and technology) which awaits formal invitation. Hinckley is just a small tip of a large iceberg in this respect. Preston exported trams to Manchuria, Hong Kong, and a host of Asian cities at the turn of the 20th century - Hong Kong's iconic tramway continues with its traditional British double deck designs as practical testimony to this epoch in urban transport development. Ironically Blackpool Transport at one time was contracted through Wirral Council to operate the short heritage tramway in Birkenhead which came complete with two purpose built Hong Kong double deck trams. Numbers 69 and 70 came first to Rigby Road Works straight from Hong Kong for testing and approvals before taking up service on the short line in Birkenhead. With some remarkable restorations completed of local trams by the local tramway group, the Hong Kong trams are now infrequently seen.

Hong Kong built tramcar for the Birkenhead heritage line then operated by Wirral Council in those far off days before austerity kicked in. The two trams were first tested in Blackpool before official approvals were granted for tourist service on the short Wirral heritage line. The design reflects Hong Kong's iconic double deck trams of the 1960s and 70s' - which have since been further redesigned in the current fleet. Bye Bye Brussels, Hello Beijing (and Hong Kong).

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