On Sunday I marched in London with 700,000 other people to call for a chance to end the nightmare which Brexit has become – a mess which is sucking the lifeblood out of our country, draining resources from the NHS and public services and driving away many of the doctors and nurses we so desperately need in Devon.
I know many people in Seaton and Colyton supported Brexit in 2016, but surely you didn’t vote for the chaos which it is causing. Johnson, Gove and Farage didn’t tell you how difficult it was going to be – maybe they didn’t even understand themselves. It is time now for us to vote on whether we like the outcome.
Voters in the South West are demanding a People’s Vote by a clear margin, a YouGov poll on behalf of the People’s Vote campaign, revealed on August 9th. It is the first significant test of public opinion in the region since the Brexit referendum in 2016.
Some key findings from the poll of over 1,000 people living in the South West include:
Voters wanting a say on any final Brexit deal negotiated by the government by a clear margin of 42% to 35%.
If talks break down and the choice is between staying in the EU or no deal, that margin widens to 47% to 27%.
Having voted to Leave in 2016, the South West now backs staying in the EU by 51% to 49%.
76% of Labour voters in the region now want to stay in the EU, versus just 24% who still want to leave.
Young people in the South West overwhelmingly want to stay in the EU, by a margin of 86% to 14%.
The Heart of the South West Local Economic Partnership (LEP) has belatedly published a report(dated May 2018) on local businesses’ views of Brexit.
This table shows answers to the question, ‘What is your overall assessment at this stage of the likely impact of Brexit on your business?’
Don’t know (6)
The LEP summarises this table as ‘Businesses’ assessment of the overall impact of Brexit at this stage is quite varied.‘
VARIED? ONE BUSINESS OUT OF 29 THINKS ITS IMPACT WILL BE POSITIVE, COMPARED TO 9 WHO THINK NEGATIVE, AND THAT IS VARIED?
two-thirds of businesses have done no formal planning for Brexit
uncertainty is a big concern
the biggest specific concerns are about are changes to regulatory alignment [i.e. departure from the Single Market] and the speed of customs arrangements [i.e. departure from the Customs Union]
only 1 out of 29 expects it to be positive for their sector; 9 out of 29 expect it to be negative (the rest expect it to be ‘neutral’ or ‘mixed’, or don’t know)
This report (How firms across HotSW are preparing for Brexit, Report to HotSW LEP, Devon County Council and Partners) was prepared in March and April 2018, drawing on interviews conducted in February and March 2018, so it is already seriously out of date.
In the spring, businesses could reasonably have hoped for a deal:
What do businesses think now that May’s government has caved in to Rees-Mogg and ditched plans for a customs union with the EU?
What do they think of the ‘no deal’ scenario?
How are they going to cope if they still haven’t done the formal planning?
It isn’t difficult to guess. And why has this report been so delayed? Why wasn’t it reported earlier to DCC?
‘I am doing my bit by campaigning with Devon For Europe, which is getting support all over the county for a People’s Vote on a final deal (or not as the case may be). Either way, we must have another vote, especially now it has emerged that the Leave campaigns broke electoral law, plus their links with American Trump associate fascist, Steve Bannon and Arron Banks, who bankrolled the campaigns with money obtained from highly dubious sources, mean that the whole shady business needs a laser light sweeping the entire operation. If it brings Gove and Johnson down, I will be delighted. Their naked ambition, selfishness and ruthlessness has plunged this country into chaos, from which it will take many many years to recover. Sign up to a People’s Vote and Devon for Europe here – https://www.devonforeurope.org/‘
Following the chaos in Westminster over the UK’s customs relationship with the EU, and the Government’s cave-in to extreme Brexiteers who want the country to crash out – even if that means turning Kent into a giant lorry park, risking our food and medicine supplies and renewed violence in Northern Ireland – Devon County Council discussed the customs union last Thursday.
To a man and woman, the Tories opposed the Council expressing a view. While the Leader, John Hart, recognised the mess in London, he said it was not our job to try to influence Government. ‘We know we’ve got to make whatever comes down work. That’s the important bit for us’, he said. At that moment I realised that the local Tories’ complacency towards Brexit is exactly the same as their attitude to the austerity of the last 8 years. However bad it is for the Council’s services and the people of Devon, for our Conservative councillors, Brexit is another just another stage in our inexorable decline which they have to manage.
Cllr Hart reminded the Council that 6 Devon districts voted for Brexit, and only 2 against. True – but no one voted to leave the Customs Union, since it wasn’t on the ballot paper, wasn’t part of the Leave campaign, and no one knew what it was when they voted!
Photo: me at the anti-Trump demonstration in Exeter ten days ago. Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg want a Trump trade deal, but that it is likely to involve US healthcare and pharmaceutical firms taking getting their hands on our NHS.
Most Seaton & Colyton voters supported Brexit in 2016. Across East Devon, 56 per cent backed Leave, 44 per cent Remain. But people didn’t vote to make the country poorer, or to damage the NHS.
Yet that’s where we’re heading, and as County Councillor I have to speak out, even if many voters and some of my own supporters may disagree. I am not going to follow the example of Neil Parish MP, who knows that Brexit is bad for Devon and Britain but refuses to come out publicly.
There is now no doubt that – especially since Theresa May has chosen to the Single Market and Customs Union as well as the EU itself – Brexit will seriously damage the UK’s economy. Devon, with its reliance on sectors like farming, tourism and universities, and with more of its cities’ exports going to Europe than anywhere else in the UK, will be badly hit.
I was elected because people were concerned about our local NHS – I can tell you that, far from there being more money for the NHS when we leave, there will be much less, as the slowing of the economy is already cutting tax receipts which means less money all round. The NHS locally and nationally is suffering from chronic staff shortages – yet the intolerant image presented by Brexit to the outside world has already cut off the flow of European nurses which helps keep it going. The fall in the value of the pound is even seeing care workers from non-EU countries heading home. Withdrawing from the European Medicines Agency threatens our access to the newest medicines.
Therefore I will be proud to march with the thousands of people from all over the South West, young and old, in Exeter on 24th March, to give a wake-up call to people before this looming disaster for our country becomes irreversible. Set off at noon, Belmont Park, Exeter, EX1 2HG and march to Bedford Street, Princesshay, Exeter, EX1 1LR for the rally. Event finishes at approximately 3pm.