Winchester's Lib Dems slam Conservative decision to block local support for a 'People's Vote' on Brexit

Following the Winchester City Council Full Council meeting last Wednesday, Winchester Liberal Democrats have slammed Winchester Conservatives for blocking a vote on a motion to support a vote on the Government’s final Brexit deal.

Cllr Jane Rutter introduced the motion:

“There is no version of Brexit that makes economic or political sense. In every case we will be worse off economically, and in a worse position internationally; local businesses and jobs will be hit just as hard as everywhere else in the country. The life opportunities of our young people will be reduced, and the impact on families of EU citizens is dire.

We owe it to our local residents to call for a People’s Vote, so that we can all make a final, properly informed, decision on this issue which will impact the UK for generations to come.”

In a bizarre debate, no Conservative then spoke – leaving Liberal Democrat Councillors (including Kelsie Learney, Lynda Murphy and Lucille Thompson) to highlight the damage that Brexit was set to do to local people and families, local jobs and local public services – especially the NHS – and the need for the council to stick up for local residents on this issue.

Conservative Cllr Vicky Weston then made a short, inconclusive speech, before moving a procedural motion to ‘proceed to next business’.

In a recorded vote, the Council voted by 23 votes (all Conservative) to 22 votes (all Lib Dem) to do this instead of voting on the motion.

Cllr Lucille Thompson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Winchester City Council commented:

“As things stand, Brexit is going to have a seriously damaging effect on what the council is trying to achieve. By running away from the issue and failing to prepare for its impact - or even to think about how to support local people and local businesses when and if Brexit comes, the Conservatives are badly failing the local area.”

Cllr Martin Tod, Chair of Winchester District Liberal Democrats, added:

“The failure of the Conservatives’ local councillors to express a view on how their party is delivering Brexit – and how it will affect local residents, local businesses, local services and the council itself was pure political cowardice – presumably because they’re so badly split.  Despite the mess they’re making on Brexit, it’s pathetic that the Conservatives are so frightened of people having a vote on their botched proposals – locally or nationally.”

The full motion read:

Council notes that it is now more than two years since the Referendum and the Government still has no coherent Brexit plan that has the support of a majority in Parliament. 

Council further notes that nearly 59% of Winchester district residents voted to remain in the European Union and that since the vote:

  1. The performance of the UK economy has fallen behind. It is now the slowest growing economy in Europe with productivity slipping further and competitiveness reliant on the declining value of the Pound;
  2. Winchester residents – particularly those on lower incomes - are being hit hard by rising inflation and squeezed pay rates;
  3. Confidence among investors and established businesses is ebbing with jobs moving away from the UK;
  4. Many non-UK EU nationals resident in the district have had their lives, and those of their UK-national families, destabilised by the uncertainty of Brexit. On top of the social impacts, local businesses and, above all the NHS are losing vital staff; 
  5. New investment, which Winchester relies on for future prosperity, is being jeopardised and new job opportunities are being lost;

Council believes that a ‘hard’ or ‘no deal’ Brexit will seriously harm the long-term prosperity of all Winchester residents.  With only 20 weeks to go before the UK leaves, it is vitally important that Winchester City Council speaks up on their residents’ behalf.

Council calls on the government to abandon plans for a hard Brexit and to give the people of Winchester a vote on the final deal, along with the opportunity to vote on keeping the irreplaceable benefits Britons currently enjoy by staying in the European Union.

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