WHEN people self-harm, a civilised society does everything possible to deter them. And so it should be with a hard Brexit – we need to expose the fallacies behind a no-deal exit to prevent us from harming our own nation.

It is not in anybody’s interests that we continue to dismiss facts and truth as “fake news” or “Project Fear”.

Not one of those who now advocates a hard Brexit – Farage, Gove, Johnson, Cummings, Raab – advocated a no-deal exit during the vote. They told leave supporters, a deal would be struck. Indeed, both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have spoken against a no-deal, with both supporting May’s half-baked deal and then changing their minds.

All Government-commissioned Brexit impact assessments have shown that a hard Brexit in particular will cause huge damage to the UK and especially to our region. Why, then, are they hell-bent on self-harming?

In the referendum, people did not vote to become poorer, and yet poorer we have all become, although this is less noticed by the super wealthy.

Sterling has devalued by some 25 per cent since 2016, meaning sharp price rises as the UK is a net importer. A local veterinary receptionist was overheard on Saturday explaining to an irate customer that product costs had gone up because of Brexit. That is common across industry and most of us will have experienced it on our precious holidays.

The NHS employs some 130,000 EU nationals, whom we cannot do without. Brexit has deterred many, with a top cancer specialist in Newcastle announcing his departure.

It is the same in our universities, with world-leading academic collaboration in jeopardy and leading academics departing our shores or declining invitations to relocate here. These are facts. We all lose.

Our official trade stats confirm the EU is by far our biggest and closest trading partner.

The UK has been the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in the EU because we are a great place to locate for companies to access the largest single market in the world hassle-free. Nissan and others are here because of the EU.

It defies logic that we are seeking to rupture our EU bond and seek utopian free trade deals with Trump’s America, or India, China, South Africa or Australia – none of which can ever come close to the huge advantages enjoyed now with the EU.

We export some $225.8bn to the EU, $64.4bn to the US, $27.5bn to China and so on... These stats matter because they are facts and many people’s jobs and livelihoods depend on this reality.

It beggars belief that there are those who argue we as a marginalised nation of 65 million will be in a better position to negotiate better deals than if we were still part of the EU negotiating on behalf of 500 million.

Through the EU, we have hugely advantageous free trade deals with scores of countries around the world. They have driven us forward, not driven us back. Why now rip these up and start again, with new deals taking as long as eight years to complete?

A hard Brexit means World Trade Organisation tariffs – 10 per cent on the automotive sector, 65 per cent on some agricultural products – resulting in margin erosion, delays at ports and significant damage to competitiveness in a global market. This is hugely damaging to current and future investment, and the damage is evident now.

In our North-East, we have lost coal-mining, shipbuilding and much of our steel-making. The human cost was enormous.

New industry has been attracted, including Nissan, and the automotive supply cluster and other big names are responsible for more than 100,000 jobs

It has taken Nissan in Sunderland more than 30 years to get established as a truly global facility. It, and others, are now at real risk. Do we really want to wait another 30 years for them to be replaced?

It is the ordinary people who will suffer not the wealthy industry chiefs of this world. The EU exists partly to keep the peace in Europe, including distributing wealth from richer countries to poorer countries/regions. Our region has been one of the top beneficiaries of funding, in the absence of adequate support from central government. This is no guarantee from government now that this support will be replaced.

The net cost of our EU membership is far surpassed by the huge advantages we as a nation and region have derived.

There is no Brexit deal that can come close to what we have now.

We in the North-East are a passionate people, passionate about our region. And so as we care about region, we should embrace the facts rather than the populist soundbites.

We should reject the damage a hard Brexit would inflict on our wonderful country and region. There is no advantage in self-harming, however proud we may be.

Johnson, Gove and Farage have changed their minds several times since 2016. We, the public, have the right to do so too.

Richard Swart is the global sales director of the Peterlee-based Berger Group, which is a metal processing company specialising in the production of clamping rings. He is one of the North-East organisers of the Business for A People’s Vote campaign