Period of ‘incredible instability’ ahead after Brexit vote, Chesterfield MP says

Toby Perkins MP
Toby Perkins MP
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Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins has spoken of his sadness after Britain voted to leave the EU.

Mr Perkins said he voted to stay in the EU for three main reasons, but will now play his part in making Britain a country to be proud of.

He said: “In arguably the most significant development in the UK economy since the war, Britain (and Chesterfield) voted to leave the EU last night. I wanted to let people know a little about my approach as their elected representative to the tumultuous events of the last few days.

“I was re-­elected in 2015, on a manifesto that supported Britain’s membership of the EU, and made it clear I supported that policy. People could legitimately have questioned me if having been elected on that programme, I had changed my mind and campaigned on the other side when the referendum came around.

“Nonetheless, I was conscious that this was a question that really divided opinions both in the constituency and the country. I set out to make the case for Britain to remain in the EU, both because I believed in it, and because I thought I had a duty to fulfil the manifesto commitment that I had been elected on.

“I voted to stay in the EU for three main reasons. Firstly, I am British to my core and I would hate to see Britain broken up; I believed that a Brexit vote

would increase the likelihood of Scotland seeking another independence referendum, a fear that hasn’t been reduced by today’s events.

“Secondly, I know how much people in Chesterfield were affected by the recession caused by the global banking crisis. I feared that we would have years of uncertainty that would discourage investment and could push us into another recession­ at a time when we things are just starting to improve.

“Finally, I believe that we will be affected by Europe whether we are in it or not, and that Europe is a stronger continent with us leading not leaving the

EU. I fear that Europe will also struggle in our absence and that international trade was fundamental to building a successful economy.

“I have been asked if, given that Chesterfield voted out, I should have argued the case for Leave. But public opinion was swinging around wildly during the

referendum. For me to have followed the polls would have meant changing my mind several times over the course of the campaign. Whilst some Brexit supporters in the pub told me ‘everyone in Chesterfield is for out’ in the final analysis 4 out of 10 of us voted Remain, and 6 out of 10 voted Leave.

“Throughout the campaign many people were very uncertain, all I could offer was my judgement, as candidly as I could.

“However the final outcome was decisive in Chesterfield, and it should be respected by all of us entrusted with the affairs of the nation. Speaking to

people during the campaign, I heard a number of messages again and again:

• People were unconvinced that we got value for money from that which was sent to Europe and wanted all resources available to be spent here at home. Whilst I remain sceptical about whether there actually will be extra money available now, it is clear that the EU and Government were distrusted to spend money wisely. People will rightly be watching that promises made on this are kept.

• People felt that our country should end free movement of people from within the EU. It was clear to me that regardless of whether people felt that immigration was good for the nation’s finances or not, they thought it impacted negatively on their finances and opportunities and that the scale of immigration posed threats to services, housing and security that we should reduce. A failure to end free movement of labour would be a betrayal of that vote.

• Finally the referendum became so embroiled in claim and counter claim that many used it as an opportunity to kick back against a politics, a government and an establishment that they felt had let them down. I fear that the basis on which we ultimately co­exist with our European neighbours can never satisfy everyone, as so many people had a different view of what it was we wanted, but I hope that those who voted for it, feel that the path we find is a better one.

“I now have a responsibility to try and prevent any of the fears that I had, in advance of a Brexit vote, becoming reality, and to attempt to better understand how we deliver on the benefits that ‘Leave’ voters hope for. We have a period of incredible instability ahead, and it will require skilful

leadership and collective endeavour to ensure that the Britain that emerges can be open and inclusive as it establishes its new role in the World.

“I am sad at the outcome, but determined to respect the result, and to play my part in Britain being a country of which we can all be proud whatever the ‘bumps in the road’ are that we face in the coming years and months, and hope that the country can re­unite in finding a new purpose and way of operating, not lose itself in further debates about the arguments of the past.”