Amid growing frustration with British prime minister Theresa May’s ability to handle the UK’s departure from the EU, cities across the country are taking matters into their own hands. The latest one is the Plymouth, which is holding its own Brexit summit.
Tomorrow, Luke Pollard, the MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport will hold a summit setting out Plymouth’s position on Brexit.
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Pollard told Verdict:
I get very frustrated by Theresa May’s Brexit soundbites and the lack of detail on the EU withdrawal process from the government. In the South West, we get ignored by the government — even our main train breaks every time there’s a storm and it still hasn’t been repaired. That is why I’m convening the Plymouth Brexit Summit to come up with a very clear set of between 50 and 100 cross-party asks to lobby parliament.
Clare Moody, the MEP for the South West and Gibraltar who will be speaking at the event in Plymouth also expressed concerns about May’s handling of the Brexit negotiations thus far and what she calls the ongoing “Tory party civil war” over the UK’s relationship with the EU.
She told Verdict:
I’m very worried because from the start of her leadership Theresa May as been more focused on holding the Tory party together than she has been on the interests of our country. We have our national interest at stake here. If David Davis [the Brexit secretary] delays a decision on a financial settlement when he meets with Michel Barnier [the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator] next week, it will delay further talks. We may only have 10 months, if we are lucky, to strike a phenomenally complex deal with the EU.
What will be discussed at the Plymouth summit?
Sir Keir Starmer MP, the shadow secretary of state for exiting the EU, will take part in a panel discussion entitled Negotiating Brexit while Moody will address what the formal process of the UK’s departure from the bloc entails.
Local business representatives and city leaders will also make a series of presentations detailing their priorities for Plymouth in light of the Brexit vote.
Plymouth’s economy is diverse but reliant on the EU for funding and workers.
The city boasts the largest teaching hospital in the south west, is a key exporter of aeronautical gear and remains at the forefront of research into the marine environment.
Known for having a very large naval base, the city is also home to the largest fishing port in the country landing cuttle fish, 90 percent of which is exported to the EU.
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The South West of the country “should not be neglected”
Despite what Plymouth has to offer, Pollard is concerned that the government will strike a Brexit deal that “doesn’t really think about us in the south west”.
We have been ignored for so long and put on the periphery, but the government should be paying more attention to us here. The government can no longer take the South West for granted as an area they always win or always lose. We have more marginal seats than ever before in the South West. Labour has replaced the Liberal Democrats as the second-biggest party in the region, which means there are now seats up for grabs that could be taken by Labour or the Conservatives.
Pollard therefore emphasised the importance of the government hearing from a variety of individuals and groups in Plymouth affected by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Plymouth needs to hear from businesses, trade bodies, trade unions, industry, fishing, universities.
Many people are keen to have their voices heard, Pollard insists, because Brexit has engendered a higher level of interest in politics from members of the public.
There will be two further Plymouth Brexit summits allowing members of the public and young people to voice their concerns in the coming months.
Since the Brexit vote in June 2016, a number of cities across the UK have launched similar summits.
Last month, Dublin city council hosted a one-day conference on the opportunities and challenges facing the Irish capital in the aftermath of Brexit.
The second reading of the EU withdrawal bill will take place in the House of Commons on 7 September.