Are you backing Brexit? – As the Prime Minister triggers Britain’s exit from the EU, would you still vote the same way nine months after the referendum?
- Credit: Archant
After all the months of debates about Brexit and Britain leaving the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May has finally started the process by sending a formal letter to European Council president Donald Tusk today. It follows the UK’s vote to leave the EU by 52 per cent to 48 per cent in the referendum on 23 June last year.
Whether you voted for Remain or Leave – and by all accounts many of your views may have changed since then – there is no doubt this will prove to be a historic day with far-reaching consequences for us all.
There will now be a drawn-out, two-year period of negotiations, leading to Britain’s formal exit from the EU in 2019 and the difficult process of renegotiating Britain’s trade deals with Europe and the rest of the world.
But what does this mean for us all here in Hertfordshire?
In short it means division and uncertainty about the future.
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As voters, you showed on referendum day that North Herts is as divided over the issue as any other part of the UK – if not more so.
In Stevenage you voted overwhelmingly in favour of leaving – so much so the town was dubbed ‘Leavenage’ by our quick-witted Comet reporter Layth Yousif.
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In the North Herts district you opted to remain in the EU by quite a narrow margin, but in Bedfordshire you voted out.
This was hardly the unified picture that campaigners on either side had hoped for.
Most businesses in the area we spoke to after the referendum said it was too early – broadly speaking – to measure the impact of Brexit on the economy, and it’s still difficult to tell how it will affect our standards of living.
But there have been some concerning signs in regard to hikes in food prices as supermarkets struggle to find the best deals, and some rumblings from major firms about the difficulties of doing business in Brexit Britain.
Just how divisive the issue has been is shown by the fact that some of your MPs voted with you and some went against.
And where you may have changed your minds on the issue in the months since, your MPs seem to have stuck to their guns.
Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland had sensed the mood and voted in line with ‘Leavenage’. Speaking to the Comet today, he asks you to bury your differences and move forward.
“Today is a momentous occasion as we begin the process to leave the institutions of the European Union,” he says.
“We are not leaving our allies in Europe behind, we are just leaving the bureaucratic institutions of Brussels that have held our great country back.
“Whatever side you voted for in the referendum, it is now time to unite and make a success of Brexit. Britain is a global trading nation and must develop new partnerships as we forge a new way in the world.”
Despite the confidence here, do we detect an underlying fear about what might happen if people can’t bury their difference or if our European allies don’t want to play nicely in future?
In North Herts your ‘Remain’ view was supported by your MP for North East Herts, Sir Oliver Heald.
He, along with many others, now has little choice but to back a policy he doesn’t like.
He told the Comet today: “I respect the result of the referendum and think we should make the best of the opportunities that Brexit provides.
“Personally I campaigned for Remain, and I’m sad that our membership of the EU has come to an end, but I respect the democratic will of the people.”
This is not a ringing endorsement of the Leave vote.
Hitchin and Harpenden MP Peter Lilley will be happier, having gone against the popular view in his constituency and voted to leave. But many Hitchin electors must now feel their views have not been represented.
In Bedfordshire, too, you voted to leave – but while Mid Bedfordshire MP Nadine Dorries was on your side, North East Beds’ Alistair Burt backed Remain.
He said today: “March 29 is a sad day for me. Like millions of others I am proud of what the EU has achieved, and the UK’s part in it over the years. But I know that this is not everyone’s view, the country has chosen a different path and we will not re-run the arguments of last year.”
The picture that emerges is a region divided.
We all now have to come to terms with the new Brexit realty, and those who opposed it must now somehow bury the hatchet.
How easily we can put aside our divisions and move forward, only time will tell.
Whether the 52 per cent is really a strong enough force to outweigh the 48 is a question that will be tested time and again in the coming years and decades – and what’s the betting the next general election will see it played out once again?
Take a moment to take part in our poll to let us know how you voted in the referendum, and whether you have changed your mind since it took place.
Meanwhile, here’s a reminder of how you voted.
Remain 18,659, leave 27,126. Turnout: 73.7 per cent
Remain 42,234, leave 35,438. Turnout: 78.3 per cent
Remain 69,670, leave 89,134. Turnout: 78 per cent