After months of debate, Britain has voted to leave the EU and now we all have a job to do to make sure we get the best deal for the UK and for the Wakefield district.
Whatever our views before the referendum, it’s time now for us to roll up our sleeves, pull together and put the national interest first because a lot is at stake. I am worried that the government doesn’t seem to have any kind of plan for what happens next. Yet there is so much work to do.
Most immediately the government needs a plan to steady the economy to stop foreign investment being pulled out. I’ve contacted major employers in the Five Towns to ask what the referendum means for them and what they need now. We also need a careful timetable to negotiate new arrangements outside the EU so we don’t get forced into a bad deal.
The Leave campaign made four key promises:
- To get the best possible trade deal for Britain, so jobs aren’t at risk; an Australian points based system to control immigration; to increase funding for the NHS by £350m a week; and not to cut workers’ rights. People round here voted for those promises in good faith and the government needs to make sure that they are answered. In particular, we cannot let the Tory government get away with cutting funding for the NHS now, or slashing employment protection once we are outside the EU because they think that will boost business.
We also need a serious debate about getting local exporters access to the single market, what kind of sensible new immigration rules we need, and how we ensure we have a positive way to work together with our closest neighbours from outside the EU.
We need to bring everyone back together again. Some people told me they felt the debate became too bad tempered and left them feeling uncomfortable and confused. Others have said they feel the country is divided. We can’t let our country turn in on itself. Decent people on all sides of the referendum debate have been appalled at the way some extremists are trying to exploit it with racist attacks and abuse or calling on people who have been settled here for years to ‘go home’.
None of us want to see that kind of hatred in our communities and on our streets. It’s just not British. We need a decent, fair plan that brings everyone together, that works for Britain and for our area. That’s what I’ll be pushing ministers to come up with now.