Devon for Europe

Our NHS is at risk from Theresa May’s chaotic, economically damaging, intolerant Brexit – why I’m marching with Devon for Europe in Exeter on 24th March

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680x340-sw_march_rally_final_1000-editMost 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.

Devon’s Conservative leader blocks pro-Europe rally being held in County Hall grounds – Tory councillor says protest is not the way to do things

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Whether or not you agree with Devon for Europe (D4E) it is worrying that Devon County Council leader, Cllr John Hart, refused a request for the campaign group to hold a rally in the County Hall grounds because he didn’t think it was appropriate for a political rally to be held there.

County officers had told the D4E there were all sorts of practical reasons why the rally would cause difficulties for the Council. D4E had approached me to help and I was surprised that the Council hadn’t discussed the reasons with them – I thought the issues should be possible to negotiate.

However at yesterday’s Council, after I put the decision on the agenda, Cllr Hart gave the game away, and fellow-Conservative Cllr Christine Channon backed him up by saying protest wasn’t the way do things. Cllr Channon – who voted Remain but thinks now that we should let the Government get on with its negotiations without making our views known to them – may not want to protest, but many do and it is their right to do so. WATCH THE DEBATE – FORWARD TO 2:45 FOR THIS EXCHANGE.

Councils control most of the public space where a fairly large number of people could assemble. So they should go out of their way to facilitate peaceful protest even at the cost of a bit of inconvenience. It is essential for democracy that peaceful protest and assembly – including by people we disagree with – should be able to take place!