Renewed push for a say on Brexit deal as 1,399 residents sign People’s Vote petition coming to Council

Popular Green Party petition will be heard by all parties and triggers Council debate

Thousands of Brighton and Hove residents have signed a petition calling for a ‘People’s Vote’ on any Brexit deal.

The petition, started by Green Party Councillor Pete West, states:

“The government and parliament were given a mandate to negotiate a Brexit deal for Britain. However, they have no right to impose a final deal. The people must have the final say on whether or not to accept the proposals on the table.

“We, the undersigned people of Brighton & Hove, call on the Government to allow the people the chance to have our say on the final terms of the Brexit deal negotiated with the EU, including the possibility that no deal may have been reached.”

The petition is still open and is available to sign:
https://action.greenparty.org.uk/bhgp-eu-petition

The request of the petition will now be heard formally at a meeting of Full Council on 18th October, after the number of signatories received reached 1,399 – exceeding the threshold required to trigger a debate in the council chamber.

Nationwide support for a People’s Vote is estimated to have grown steadily since the EU referendum. Polling shows that more than 100 constituencies which previously backed leaving the EU would now vote to remain. A YouGov poll of trade unions GMB, Unite and Unison also found that a majority of union members are in favour of a People’s Vote. Brighton and Hove City Council became the first in England to formally endorse a call for a ‘People’s Vote’ after a proposal from the Green Group of Councillors.

 

peoples vote

Green Councillors pushed Brighton and Hove City Council to endorse a People’s Vote back in December 2017


At the next Full Council meeting (October 18th), Councillors will also vote on Green proposals demanding a thorough investigation into ‘the impact that Brexit will have on Brighton and Hove and its council services.’ Green Councillors fear that the risks posed to the city and council services by leaving the European Union have to date not been adequately assessed. Recent reports have suggested that around 250 local projects could stand to lose EU funding after Brexit. 


Councillor Pete West commented:

“The reaction to this petition on the doorsteps of Brighton and Hove has been phenomenal. People are exasperated and demand a say on the Brexit deal. With less than six months to go until ‘exit date’, residents have no sense of what the future holds. They have been frozen out of the debate – and worse still, told bare-faced lies about issues as crucial as extra funding for our NHS. The Conservative Government and Labour Opposition are equally divided over what, if any, ‘plan’ will be in place and what it should say.

“Greens have been clear from the outset that a ‘People’s Vote’ on the final deal is needed – we have led the way. We will also join the thousands expected to march in support for a People’s Vote in London on 20th October. Putting the deal – or no deal – to the people is the only way to reconcile the divisions of opinion between Parliament and the nation and prepare us for whatever future we face together.”   


Councillor Ollie Sykes, Green Group Finance Lead, added:

“The gap between national politicians’ words and reality has never seemed greater than during this damaging Brexit paralysis. The logical, moral and democratic way out of this Conservative-created morass is to hold a People’s Vote. We were the first Council in the country to call for this almost a year ago and demands for a People’s Vote are now coming from all sides.

“Of course we still don’t know what’s going to happen and Greens are very concerned about the immediate and longer term impact of any form of Brexit on the country, and on our city. We think there’s more we could do to prepare the city and the council itself for the worst scenarios. Other coastal towns have seen local acceptance of the Euro currency and we think this idea could be assessed by businesses and also by our council to see if it makes financial sense.”

The ‘People’s Vote March for the Future,’ will take place on 20th October in central London. https://www.peoples-vote.uk/march

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty also tabled a question on the subject of Brexit to a meeting of Policy, Resources and Growth Committee, 11th October:

“[…] Will the Chair of the Committee urgently write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union asking them to share with the City Council the assessments their departments have written about how the city and the region’s economy will be affected by Brexit; what assurances their departments will give to residents that everything is being done by their departments and the government to mitigate risks to jobs and livelihoods; and that in the absence of such mitigation that they will aid and compensate city residents whose income is lost through Brexit.”

Chair of the Committee, Cllr Dan Yates, agreed to the request.

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Councils mired by cuts cannot bear a Brexit double whammy

We have every right to be anxious about the impact of Brexit on our Council and its services, writes Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty following a speech on the People’s Vote

Peace sign Ppls Vote Phelim 16th Sept

Women 4 Europe and Brighton and Hove For EU organised a rally in support of a People’s Vote

Just this week further details of the Brexit mess have been unveiled:

As a Councillor here in Brighton and Hove I am especially concerned how Brexit will hit our community and I have every right to be anxious. The Local Government Association calculates that local communities face an £8.4bn funding gap from the point the UK exits the EU. Councils around the country are already beginning to fail due to cuts from the Conservative Government. Over the summer we learned that Somerset Council is likely to join Northamptonshire County Council in going bankrupt. Another 15 may join them in the next 12 months.

 

Councils need a further £8bn by 2025 just to stand still, never mind pay for the rising cost of adult social care. We can not withstand a Brexit double whammy too. We have repeatedly raised concerns about the impact on local councils. With such Brexit uncertainty who can plan for the future of local services, never mind make wise decisions?

Last year the EU invested £17m to support 600 farmers around Brighton; it has invested over £100m to support research projects and £1m to create jobs. Our city and this country still has had absolutely no clarity about where any of the EU funds will come from in the future.

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Green Councillors, MPs and members from across the city campaigning for EU membership

This was the biggest decision in a lifetime and so much of it was built on lies, half truths, conjecture and so little of it on accountability, the truth, democracy. On a self-interested gamble from the Bullingdon Club we have redirected the entire fate of the nation. While a key ‘Leave’ argument focused on how the UK public could ‘take back control’, on core issues like human rights, or our trading relationship with the world post-Brexit, the public are being frozen out of the debate. While the lies are now coming out daily in the wash, have we had anything other than the hubris of government ministers about the lies and corruption at work?

Twenty years on from when fences and borders were being pulled down by communities in Northern Ireland on their brave steps towards peace, it is a disgrace that the European Research Group and their far right friends are leading the charge on ending this legacy. There are hundreds of jobs in Northern Ireland- and so much of its infrastructure- that relies on EU funding. Over the summer I talked to dozens of people in Northern Ireland about how they feel- many sadly are now openly talking about the return to war. We should be very clear: that if there is war in Northern Ireland there will be war here too. So we must do everything we can to revive the Northern Irish peace process and give functioning, thriving democratic institutions back to the people.

border in ireland

A sign protesting the imposition of an EU border between Ireland and Northern Ireland

A Pandora’s box of resentment and suspicion has been opened up by the fanciful claims that ‘we’ could somehow get ‘our’ country back through a Brexit vote. The xenophobic genie is out of the bottle – but what do you expect against a backdrop of 8 years of Tory cuts, of nasty scapegoating. We must be clear: we will oppose the growth of the far-right and will not allow the current climate of fear to go unchallenged. That’s because not just Brighton and Hove- but this country- is better than this.

It is time to drag Brexit back to the drawing board so that councils like Brighton and Hove and the people we serve have our say and stand a chance in the future. Last year Brighton and Hove City Council became the first English Council to back a ‘People’s Vote’ when Green Councillors brought a proposal forward. It has now been joined by dozens of other councils. We have already asked the Government to reveal the truth about the impact that leaving the EU will have on the city. But I won’t be holding my breath for a response.


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A Green proposal on the People’s Vote made Brighton and Hove City Council the first in England to back a ‘ratification referendum’ on Brexit. A split in the Labour party and Conservative opposition meant the proposal passed by one vote.

The times are uncertain but we must be focused and vocal as our city and our country stands to be drastically affected. There is a way out of the dreadful mess. Defiance is the only reasonable response in the face of such political incompetence. Repeatedly polls are showing a slim majority support for a second vote on Brexit. Now the shambolic ‘deal’ is coming to light, people deserve a genuine say over the future of the country through a people’s vote. We can still stop Brexit. We can still repair our relationship with Europe. But we can’t stop there, we have to fundamentally change how the European Union works so it works for the very communities who have felt so alienated by it and our precious environment.

Phelim Brexit peoples vote speech

At the People’s Vote march in Brighton, September 16th

 

Brexit: What it truly means to ‘Let the People Decide.’

Brighton and Hove City Council has become the first to support a Green proposal for a public say on the terms of any Brexit deal (a so-called ‘Ratification referendum’).
Green Councillor Leo Littman questions whether a ‘hard Brexit’ really is ‘the will of the people.’ 

Who said: “In a 52-48 Referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way,”?

The answer – Nigel Farage.

Farage has now said “maybe – just maybe – I’m reaching the point of thinking that we should have a second referendum on EU membership.”

It’s ironic that just as the ex-UKIP Leader concedes that the British people may deserve to be consulted on their future, the Leader of the official opposition who campaigned (albeit half-heartedly) for the UK to remain in the EU, has set his face squarely against both such a Ratification Referendum and against an amendment supported by the other Opposition Party leaders (e.g the Greens’ own Caroline Lucas MP) to ensure Parliament would have to be consulted before the UK could leave the Single Market or Customs Union.

What this means in effect is that the core of the Labour leadership is refusing to oppose the will of the Tory Brexiteers.

Meanwhile, some of his Labour Party colleagues are highlighting the dangers of Brexit. The Mayor of London, on discovering that the Tory Government has no idea how damaging Brexit would be, commissioned a report showing the billions of pounds that it would cost the British economy.

This report echoes that of Green Party MEP for London, Jean Lambert, which shows the amount London would lose through Brexit.

It’s not only in Parliament or in London that Labour are split on their approach to Brexit. Just before Christmas, Brighton and Hove’s Green Group of Councillors secured a hugely significant victory for democracy, pushing our Council to become the first in the country to formally request a Ratification Referendum. (You can read the terms of what was agreed below).

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Following proposals from the Green Party, Brighton and Hove City Council has become one of the first in the country to back ratification referendum calls

Unsurprisingly, as with all things Brexit, the vote itself was met with confusion and division. Despite an overwhelming majority of Brighton and Hove’s electorate voting to ‘remain’ in the European Union back in June 2016, their local Labour and Conservative representatives still struggle to take on the responsibility of presenting any serious scrutiny or opposition to the Conservative Government’s Brexit farce. Our proposals, called ‘Brighton and Hove and Brexit’ passed 26-25. All the Greens and the Independent voted for; all the Tories voted against; Labour voted 16-5 in favour.

Somewhat bafflingly, one of the Labour Group in the vote ‘leave’ camp called the idea of a referendum on the terms of any Brexit deal negotiated by the Conservative Government ‘anti-democratic.’ He argued during the meeting that those opting to Remain were ‘ruled by fear.’ As I said at the time:

Whilst I agree that we shouldn’t we ruled by fear, fear can also be an intelligent response. That’s why most people don’t run into burning buildings. More and more, as time goes by, we come up against the fact that the vote of 37% of the eligible electorate at last summer’s EU ballot is being taken as Holy Writ by the Conservative Party and, to a very slightly lesser extent, the Labour Party.

The statistics on how damaging our current perilous position is are becoming ever firmer, and, somewhere in the bowels of Whitehall there may exist ‘Impact Assessment Studies’ which show how much worse it would get were we ever to be foolhardy enough to press the ejector-seat button and fire ourselves out of Europe, without so much as a parachute. Or maybe they don’t exist. Or maybe, they do and David Davis is just calling them something different this week. Perhaps, like Humpty Dumpty in Alice Through the Looking Glass: ‘When he uses a word, it means just what he chooses it to mean — neither more nor less’. Who knows? What is certain is that either the Government knows how bad Brexit would be and won’t tell us, or they haven’t even bothered to find out just how much damage it would do. Either way, it makes the work of those of us struggling to cope in the world of Local Government, along with everyone else in the country, increasingly difficult.

Brighton and Hove for Europe outside town hall

Residents form a circle around Hove Town Hall to highlight ‘Brighton and Hove For Europe.’

Clearly, on this issue, neither of the current major political Parties in this country can be trusted with deciding what is in the Nation’s best interests. So, once whichever of them is in charge by March 2019 has cobbled together whatever sort of ‘deal or no deal’ they can; the decision on whether to press that button must lie with the British People.

A ratification referendum is essential once the present lack of clarity and downright obfuscation is over and we know the full impact Brexit would have on Brighton and Hove and the country as a whole.

Even if we, as a Nation, are torn out of the EU; we as a city have made it abundantly clear that we wish to remain part of the European project. We need clarity of our position within the sorority of European cities (known as the Eurocities network) so, we are also asking that our Chief Executive makes this clear to our sister cities in mainland Europe.

Regardless of whether you think Brexit would be good, bad, or indifferent, we all need to recognise that it should only happen if the form it takes reflects the will of the British People.

Democracy doesn’t stop with a vote, it starts with one. Regardless of party position we should be voting to allow the people of this city and this country to determine their own future. Let’s give back control. Let’s let the people decide.

Leo Littman is a Green Party Councillor for Preston Park ward in Brighton and Hove
@prestonparkgrns 

 

Brighton and Hove City Council adopted the following proposals (Notice of Motion) put forward by the Green Group of Councillors::

This Council notes the mounting evidence of damage that ‘Brexit’ would cause to the national economy and trans-European relationships, and the mismanagement of Brexit by the Government.

Council also notes with concern the potential impact of Brexit both on our local economy and on established mutually beneficial partnerships and links with European cities such the Eurocities network.

The Council requests:

  • That the Chief Executive write to the President of the Eurocities Network, Mayor of Ghent Daniel Termont, expressing our desire to continue working with sister cities at this time of uncertainty for the UK, and exploring the status of Brighton and Hove’s membership of Eurocities following any ‘Brexit’;
  • That the Chief Executive writes to Sajid David, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, expressing this Council’s and this city’s strong desire for a referendum on the final terms of a Brexit deal, including the option to maintain full EU membership;
  • That the Chief Executive writes to Hilary Benn MP, chair of the Brexit Select Committee, requesting that he share the full Brexit Impact Assessment Studies with particular relevance to the economy of our city.