Friday, 18 June 2021

We’re out, now let’s get on with it

POLITICIANS and campaigners on both sides of the Brexit debate say the country must try to

POLITICIANS and campaigners on both sides of the Brexit debate say the country must try to make the best of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

The majority of people in South Oxfordshire wanted to stay with a total of 46,245 voting for remain and 37,865 voting to leave in the referendum on Thursday last week. The turnout was 80.8 per cent.

Nationally, the Leave campaign won by 52 per cent to 48 per cent on a turnout of more than 30 million, or 71.8 per cent, the highest figure in a nationwide poll since 1992.

Henley MP John Howell, who voted to remain, said he was “disappointed” at the result.

“It could have gone either way but it went the way it did and one just has to accept that,” he said. “I’m very pleased that South Oxfordshire voted overwhelmingly to remain.”

He said David Cameron had done the right thing by resigning as Prime Minister after the result but said the Conservative party had to “pull back together” having been split by the debate.

“We have a country to run and a world to pursue,” he said.

Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “The British people have voted to take more direct control of the decisions which affect them.

“That process must not stop at the gates of Parliament. This is an opportunity to remake our democratic system and must be used to drive, not delay, the process of devolving power from Westminster and Whitehall to England’s cities and counties and from those cities and counties to the towns, villages, and neighbourhoods within them.

“The priorities of the county council will remain the same - to support economic growth, to protect the most vulnerable and to drive efficiency in public services.

“To support these priorities, our work on stripping out another level of bureaucratic decision-making by developing proposals for a new council for the whole of Oxfordshire will continue, as will our ambition to win a wide-ranging devolution deal from central government. As we go through a period of both uncertainty and opportunity, it will be more important than ever for local partners in the public sector and beyond to work collaboratively and creatively to ensure Oxfordshire has good public services fit for the future.”

Councillor John Cotton, leader of South Oxfordshire District Council and a Leave campaigner, wrote on Twitter after the district result was announced: “Slightly sad but no real surprise that a former Heseltine seat (almost) is EU-friendly.”

In another tweet, he said: “Unity is here already. Now the work to withdraw begins together.”

Henley Mayor Julian Brookes said: “At the end of the day the people have spoken.

“In terms of Henley we’ll certainly continue the twinning with Slovenia, France and Germany. I hope we don’t have to start applying for visas to get to these countries.

“I certainly don’t expect there to be an impact on Henley. It’s much more likely the impact will be at national level and perhaps at district and county.”

Councillor Brookes, whose wife Gabriele is German, voted to remain in the EU and said: “As a private citizen I felt we were better off in the EU and getting on with the essential reforms. I think there are a few unknowns ahead.” David Thomas, of Greys Hill, Henley, who campaigned for Remain, said he was sad at the overall result.

“Everybody that campaigned with me is disappointed and we’re trying to adjust to what is a new future,” he said.

“The reason I was campaigning is I have children who are 13 and 20 and the future belongs to them. They are children of the world — I’m married to a Danish woman and my children have different nationalities to me.

“If you’re 30 now you’ve grown up with freedom of travel and EasyJet and the internet and you’re exposed to people from Europe. I certainly didn’t have exchange programmes when I was a kid.”

Mr Thomas said there was now no clear vision for the future and the only way to resolve this was to have a general election.

He added: “I’m proud that I took part, I’m proud that I put my heart and soul into making my views felt in a community.”

Ken Arlett, chairman of Henley’s UKIP branch and a former mayor, said he was “absolutely elated” at the result.

“People are just fed up with the EU,” he said. “They see the money rolling in and rolling out to unelected people and they want a change.

“It just took off and it was amazing what was happening.” Mr Arlett said he now wanted to see former Henley MP Boris Johnson take over as Conservative Party leader and prime minister.

Martin Dew, of Northfield End, who was Henley’s Vote Leave co-ordinator, said: “I’m absolutely thrilled. I think we changed a lot of hearts and minds during the campaign.

“My big thing was the democratic deficiency in Brussels and that’s what I really felt Britain needed to pull away from.

“However, we realise it’s a difficult time for people who very passionately wanted it to go the other way.

“Ultimately, I think this decision will be good for Britain and in time people will come round to that.

“I think the uncertainty will continue but the dust is still settling. I think things will settle down in time and I foresee things becoming more stable.”

Mr Dew said he wanted Mr Johnson to be the next prime  minister.

Henley Town councillor Kellie Hinton, a member of Henley Residents’ Group, wrote on Twitter: “Bye bye, David Cameron. Today is a beautiful day, sunshine and winning decisions. Couldn’t be happier to wake up.”

Mr Johnson said: “This EU referendum has been the most extraordinary political event of our lifetime. Never in our history have so many people been asked to decide a big question about the nation’s future. Never have so many thought so deeply, or wrestled so hard with their consciences, in an effort to come up with the right answer.

“In the end, there was a clear result. More than 17 million people voted to leave the EU – more than have ever assented to any proposition in our democratic history.

“It is said that those who voted Leave were mainly driven by anxieties about immigration. I do not believe that is so. After meeting thousands of people in the course of the campaign, I can tell you that the number one issue was control — a sense that British democracy was being undermined by the EU system, and that we should restore to the people that vital power: to kick out their rulers at elections, and to choose new ones.”

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