I would like to begin by thanking Express readers for their condolences that I received in the wake of the murder of my friend and parliamentary colleague Jo Cox MP. I have been in touch with Jo’s family to pass on our thoughts and support.
The referendum result for Brexit is the most significant political decision in 50 years. Express readers will know I campaigned tirelessly for Britain to remain in Europe. But I accept that the majority of people in the country chose another path. 63% of people in Wakefield constituency voted Leave, compared with 66% in the district. I will continue to work for everyone in Wakefield – however you voted in the referendum and whichever party you support. My priority now is to minimise the negative consequences for people in Wakefield.
After the result, the Prime Minister announced he was stepping down. Michael Gove then stabbed Boris Johnson in the back in the Tory leadership race, Nigel Farage resigned as leader of UKIP and Andrea Leadsom pulled out of the Tory leadership race. The Leavers have shown themselves to be quitters. It turns out there is no £350 million pounds a week for the NHS. Theresa May emerged as the only candidate left standing and is now Prime Minister.
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn refused to stand aside in the wake of a vote of no confidence by 80% of Labour MPs. A leadership challenge from Angela Eagle has now begun.
We have seen worrying economic turbulence, with the pound falling to a 35-year low, and the Bank of England set reduce interest rates to restore confidence. Here in Yorkshire, European researchers have pulled out of a number of Sheffield Hallam University's project bids, citing the uncertainty of the UK’s future outside the EU. Last week, Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee, which I chair, heard from Siemens’ Business Development Director that they are concerned about the “unanswered questions” arising from Brexit, freezing investment in their facility in Hull. With a huge number of unanswered questions from Brexit, the stability we need for our businesses and universities just isn’t there.
The constitutional fabric of our country is also being called into question. Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has discussed the possibility of holding a second Scottish independence referendum. Northern Ireland has an uncertain future as the prospect of the UK leaving the EU raises the possibility of reinstating border controls with Ireland, and Sinn Fein have called for a referendum on a united Ireland.
Britain’s new Prime Minister Theresa May sparked controversy by saying the right to remain for EU nationals in the UK was not guaranteed, prompting an urgent debate in Parliament. This raises questions over the rights of over a million Brits living elsewhere in the EU who would have to come back if we deported EU nationals living here.
We are seeing a worrying increase in race hate crimes in Wakefield. There is no place for hate crime in Wakefield’s diverse, tolerant communities. The referendum result should not change that. I urge anybody who witnesses or is a victim of hate crime to report it. I have been in touch with Wakefield’s police commander, Mabs Hussain, to see what steps he can take to reassure communities and ensure victims have confidence to come forward.
It is more important than ever that people of all faiths and none in our community unite around our shared British values of peace, tolerance and respect for others. Finally can I wish Eid Mubarak to all Muslims in Wakefield.
This article was first published by the Wakefield Express on 15 July 2016.