Brexit means Brexit whatever that means for Hollingbourne!

Around 60 constituents of Faversham and Mid Kent MP Mrs Helen Whately attended a consultation on Brexit in Lenham Community Centre this evening. All of her constituents who had contacted her following the June Referendum were invited and the audience appeared to be roughly equally divided between Brexit supporters and Remainers. Mrs Whately said that she would be supporting the Government in any Brexit vote despite appearing to support the EU at the time of the 2015 General Election.

Members of the audience including some from Hollingbourne were invited to make points using a roving microphone and one of the first speakers was a Polish emigre from Swale who had lived in the UK for 27 years and who was a a naturalised Briton. She reported that she and some of her Polish friends had suffered discrimination since the Referendum and a local Headmaster from Headcorn stated that the Referendum vote had put back good relations in a Kent school with a large number of EU born children by about 10 years. Mrs Whately reported that she had visited a number of fruit farms in the area who rely on EU labour and had been to a packing station which had closed after the EU vote because the workers were so uncertain about their future.

Addionally members of the audience expressed concern about the future of British ex-patriates in Europe and there was some support for the view that both the EU immigrants and British ex-patriates should not be used as “bargaining chips” in EU negotiations.

A number of the Leavers said that it was important to bring back “control” although it was noted that the Leave supporters had a number of different objectives although most wanted to rebalance the economy towards manufacturing with British owned companies and to restrict immigration. A prison officer stated that he voted to Leave because of the number of sex offenders from the EU who were jailed in Kent. The spirit of Winston Churchill and Britain standing alone in Europe in WW2 was evoked by one speaker who complained about the number of laws and legal decisions made in Europe which affect Britain. No details of specific laws of court cases were given. A number of Leave supporters wanted Article 50 to be triggered as a matter of urgency while the Remainers cautioned against doing this until such time as the Government has a clear onjective and is organised to handle the required negotiations. Many Remainers wanted a second vote once the terms are clear.

Remain supporters included those who were concerned about the future of scientific cooperation, the fact that most British manufacturing which accounts to 10% of the economy is foreign owned and could be easily transferred overseas if the owners did not like the outcome of Brexit negotiations, the logistics of rewriting 40 years thousands of EU laws and treaties plus trade agreements, the fact that the NHS and other service areas including IT rely on immigrant staff, the potential loss of trade, and the lack of a clear objective if the UK left the EU. It was suggested that the Leave supporters voted with their hearts while the Remainers voted with their heads. There was also concern that the final outcome of negotiations to leave the EU would be the legacy for the younger generation who mainly voted to stay and that the result would not probably affect the age group of most of those who attended the meeting as well as those who voted to Leave.

One of the last speakers who was well supported was a lady who made the point that many of the Leave supporters voted Leave as a protest vote as they are dissatisfied with their place in British Society where the difference between the rich and poor has grown over the last few decades. She indicated that there would be trouble ahead if their lot does not improve as promised by the Leave campaigners including Dr Liam Fox, David Davis, and Boris Johnson. General concern was expressed about the ability of these three politicians who reported have large egos to cooperate for the general good. Another speaker suggested that by concentrating on Brexit for possibly a number of years the British Government would ignore other problems such as the environment, global warming, and the refugee crisis.

Nobody mentioned the fact that £350 million a week extra was promised for the NHS if the Leave campaign won although the report of the Electroral reform Society was noted which said that lies had been told on both sides in the Referendum battle.  No mention was  made of the possible losses of the E111 card which gives British people the right to have free medical treatment in the EU and the Erasmus Project which arranges student exchanges between universities. Despite the average age of the audience nobody mentioned the reduction in savings deposit rates  caused by the reduction of the bank base rate to ,25% which has also reduced annuity payments to new pensioners and which will significantly worsen pension deficits in final salary pension schemes.    The meeting ended at 9pm.

Mrs Helen Whately MP can be contacted at helen.whately.mp@parliament.uk

Pictured below is Mrs Helen Whately at the front of the meeting during one of her frequent summings up between speeches from the floor.