‘A Britain that chooses to remain within the European Union cannot go back to business as usual.’ That was the view of MP Alex Sobel at the Great Northern Stop Brexit Conference held in Leeds last Saturday.
The MP addressed the conference, organised by Leeds for Europe, saying ‘we must outline our bold vision for a prosperous, industrious, modern north that is self-confident and outward looking.’
Alex Sobel has consistently warned against the dangers of a hard Brexit and, as a passionate campaigner for remain in the referendum in 2016, has backed the position of his constituency in Parliament, voting consistently to remain within the Single Market and Customs Union.
However, in his speech to the conference he warned that a campaign that didn’t address the disparity between London and the South East and northern communities would risk alienating people further. He said:
“Brexit is a symptom of a simmering and long held discontent and anger amongst our deindustrialised, left-behind communities that are disproportionately situated in the north. Without addressing this and without offering a compelling alternative to these communities, we must acknowledge that we risk not only losing a second referendum but in the process of having one, disengaging these communities altogether. ”
“Unless we offer a different vision and undertake a different path that rebalances our economy, how can we expect a different result to come from these communities.”
He went on to outline the steps that he believed must be taken. He talked about the difference between the amount of money spent on transport in the north compared to London. He talked about bringing democracy closer to home with the one Yorkshire devolution model and creating a proper industrial strategy in the UK that embraces the opportunities that comes with new technology.
He said “We must work with our friends and neighbours in Europe to ensure not only that we are prepared for the fourth industrial revolution but that we are leaders in it.”
“We must not just be satisfied with reducing rates of unemployment. We must create good jobs and good opportunities within exciting new industries in the communities where they are most needed.”
Mr Sobel underlined these points in the House of Commons on Monday. During a debate on the Withdrawal Agreement he said: “How can we have a Brexit that would cause those left-behind communities to be even more left behind? Manufacturing plants would have to close, because we would have no customs arrangements to meet their requirements. Does my hon. Friend not agree that we need a deal that will keep jobs in the north?”
Note to Editors: Picture credit Leeds for Europe/Nick Singleton Photography