This time last year those in favour of leaving the European Union and those who wanted to remain part of it were getting their campaigns into full swing. Since the decision was revealed on June 23 that 51.9% of the British population were in favour of departing the EU, despite Tunbridge Wells voting to Remain, we have had a change in Prime Minister and the triggering of Article 50. The Times talks to the key Tunbridge Wells campaigners on both sides of the Brexit debate, to reflect on the fall out so far from the historic vote and give their predictions for the upcoming negotiations

 

I’m still full of optimism after Britain’s momentous decision

Thomas Pritchard

ON Thursday June 23 2016, the United Kingdom made the decision to leave a failing, undemocratic and bureaucratic political union. It was a momentous day that presented our nation with an opportunity to finally make her own way in the world and determine her own future.

I’m optimistic for the future. The amount of countries that have already expressed wishes of having trade deals is astronomical. Liam Fox has his work cut out communicating with the US, New Zealand, Iceland, Canada, India and many more. Theresa May’s leadership is much welcomed. She is sensible and she is setting out exactly how the UK should make its way in the world.

In terms of how we’ve reacted to the vote, to say that I despair of various politicians would be an understatement. We in the Conservative Party accept and celebrate the outcomes of referendums in Scotland in 2014 and the EU referendum last year. It would appear that the SNP accept the result of neither.

Additionally, Labour’s Lord Faulkes has also rejected the sensible verdict of the people. He argues that the government should ignore what the people have said as it was technically only an advisory referendum.

“If I had a pound for every time I heard someone complain about EU regulation, my suits would be from Savile Row not M&S.”

It’s rather hypocritical that Nicola Sturgeon wants powers in Holyrood over fishing and farming, when the SNP’s aim is to re-join the EU and give those powers back to Brussels anyway. I simply don’t think they can be trusted.

On the prospect of a second referendum, the Prime Minister is quite right to say ‘now is not the time’. I am confident that the Scottish people will vote sensibly and remain part of the United Kingdom if there were a second independence referendum.

Since the 1980s, various industries have felt the burden of excessive regulation. VAT MOSS, coupled with many other regulations, increases the time taken dealing with unnecessary paperwork and less time with actually dealing with the business.

Indeed, over the election campaign, if I had a pound for every time I heard someone complain about EU regulations, my suits would be from Savile Row and not M&S.

As a result of such excessive regulation, many businesses are forced to focus on dealing with administration rather than their trade. This drives down profit. For big businesses, they think all of their Christmases have come at once with this onslaught of regulations. Large corporations can of course afford to employ plenty of administrative staff. The small businesses cannot. This means that the small traders go out of business, reducing competition for the big dominant players.

Finally, I think the government should take on board what I and the rest of the Leave campaign have said. Have a good deal with Europe, leave the single market and customs union, control immigration and abolish pointless and burdensome regulations.

 

May’s reckless determination for a ‘Hard Brexit’ will set our country backwards

Husnara Begum

SADLY many Remain supporters have reluctantly resigned themselves to the inevitable. Article 50 was triggered by Prime Minister Theresa May on March 29 2017 and the divorce proceedings, feared by so many, are now well and truly underway. For me personally, the moment Tim Barrow (Britain’s ambassador to the EU) hand delivered Mrs May’s formal notice of the UK’s intention to leave the bloc was a devastating blow.

As I entered a period of ‘mourning’ I couldn’t help but feel a horrid sense that as Mrs May goes in with reckless determination for a hard Brexit, our country is going backwards and rejecting ideas of togetherness and unity at a time of huge global unrest.

I also feel sickened that so much money and political time is being needlessly diverted towards undoing 60 years of hard work. And for what? The UK is sleep walking into the unknown because the last time I looked there was still no plan.  So almost anything can happen. At best we will emerge from this mess, which could have easily been avoided if the Tories (by the way – I tore up my membership renewal form shortly after Mrs May picked her cabinet) kept their own house in order by shutting up Eurosceptics within their ranks, with a deal that is not too dissimilar to what we currently have.

“I tore up my Tory membership renewal form after Mrs May picked her cabinet”

At worst, the UK will be torn into separate nations again, war will be declared against Spain over Gibraltar. Meanwhile, the EU will play hardball and refuse to do a deal meaning we have no choice but to get into bed with certain regimes that have poor track records in protecting human rights. And just in case you think I’m scaremongering I’d like to remind you that European politicians rejected almost everything the UK has asked for. Consequently, the UK can’t negotiate its divorce deal at the same time as setting up fresh relationships with individual European countries.

I don’t want to dedicate too much time to the economic consequences of Brexit because with hindsight I believe the Remain side’s heavy focus on this cost us dearly. But I do want to highlight that a failure to strike a trade deal will have catastrophic effects on everyone’s standard of living – not just the middle classes and City fat cats.

I do, however, want to talk about immigration and the resurgence of racism. Thankfully, wondering around the streets of Tunbridge Wells as someone who is visibly non-white I don’t feel unwelcome. But I doubt that will be the case in many other parts of the UK, including dare I say it certain quarters of Kent. Indeed, we don’t need to look far to see the effects of Brexit on hate crime. Days after Article 50 was triggered an Iraqi Kurd who had found refuge in the UK was violently attacked in Croydon. Granted, there was no direct connection to Brexit but it follows a horrifying run of racist incidents.

Finally, I can’t help but bring up the NHS. Remember the red Brexit bus with the infamous slogan promising more than £350m per week to the NHS?  Do those of you who have succumbed to Brexit seriously believe that our separation from the EU will result in proper funding for our precious health service? I thought not. So rather than throwing money away (for those of you who don’t know an eye watering £500m will need to be spent on new passports alone) let’s spend it on areas that will make a real difference. Only then will we have a truly Great Britain.