‘Brexit is a profoundly local issue, so we should have say on EU deal’

Cambridgeshire county councillor and Liberal Democrat, Susan van de Ven.

Cambridgeshire county councillor and Liberal Democrat, Susan van de Ven. - Credit: Archant

In the wake of Cambridgeshire County Council deciding against supporting a ‘people’s vote’ on the final Brexit deal last week, councillor Susan van de Ven has reflected on why she believes it is something that we should all be backing.

The big red bus parked next to a Cambridgeshire village hall on EU referendum day made Brexit a very local issue.

It was right about the importance of the NHS to the voter heading to the polling station. But it knowingly deceived people by promising that leaving the EU would bring our health service an extra £350 million every week.

We’ve since discovered that leaving the EU is damaging to our health system. Already it’s undermining shortages of nurses, GPs and care workers. It’s hurting our general economy at a moment when more funding is needed for mental and physical health, and social care.

It threatens to disrupt supply chains that keep our pharmacy shelves properly stocked, and life sciences research for which this part of the country is a world leader.

The extreme views and deception of a few politicians holding too much power has vital implications for everyone: small business, the supermarket, schools – whether you run the place or just depend on it.

When I proposed to Cambridgeshire County Council that we should support a People’s Vote, in which everyone has a say on the final Brexit deal, council leader Steve Count dismissed Brexit as having nothing to do with us.

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I should think he’d be concerned, given that his council is known for potholes it can’t afford to fill, buses it can’t afford to run, and a path to bankruptcy that he himself reckons is just two years away. His chief finance officer says Brexit is a risk to the care industry workforce that delivers the council’s overwhelming area of responsibility.

Brexit is a profoundly local issue. It’s for precisely that reason, given all we now know, that the people whose lives and wellbeing will be shaped by it should have a say on the deal we are to live with – including an option to stay in the EU if the Brexit deal on offer is undesirable.

Many good opportunities have been taken for granted in our EU relationship, not just for our economy but for the future of Cambridgeshire’s young people – if only to freely live and work in 27 other countries. They’ve had no say. Would it be undemocratic to give them a chance?