It’s over 100 days since the Euro referendum and we are no clearer on what the government’s plans are – and they seem unwilling to tell us.
The Prime Minister has stated that “Brexit means Brexit” – which is about as helpful as “the sky is blue”. But it is the detail that matters. And there is still no detail.
In Chester constituency, 54% of voters wanted to remain, but more widely in Cheshire West, the result was similar to the national figure – just about 51% to leave.
Despite the lies that were told about the extra money going to the NHS, we must unfortunately respect the result. But there is a real danger of major damage to the economy if we get it wrong. Businesses I talk to regularly in Chester are extremely worried about how they will be able to run their operations here if we exit the single market. And with the value of the Pound at a thirty year low, the Bank of England may decide to put up interest rates, which means our mortgages become more expensive.
I always recognised a problem with completely unregulated free movement of labour, because it meant the free movement of unemployment and free movement of exploitation. Unscrupulous employers would pay migrant workers less, because they could get away with it. That meant that good employers felt forced to drop their wages just to stay competitive – it was a race to the bottom, with ordinary people suffering the most.
But there are ways to tackle that without leaving the single market, and I fear now our economy could take a major hit as the uncertainty continues.
But it is the wider social effects that bother me the most.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd suggested there should be a register of all foreigners in each business. Although another minister later contradicted her, the sinister, anti-immigrant tones (as opposed to anti-immigration) sent a destructive and nasty message.
There are primary schools in Chester with young children speaking over 20 first languages that aren’t English. Yet they all play along together. The university, The Countess of Chester hospital, Airbus, companies on the business park – all employ foreign workers who make a real contribution to the city – for which I am grateful.
We voted to leave the EU, but we did not vote to become a small-minded, inward looking and anti-foreigner nation. We’re better than that and I know that people in Chester are better than that. We must resist the nasty, divisive rhetoric and remember that we have more in common than that which divides us.