It was a year ago today that the UK voted to leave the European Union.
South Tyneside saw one of the biggest ‘Out’ votes nationwide, with 49,065 people voting Leave and 30,014 Remain - a resounding 62%-38% win.
Our on-line poll suggests little has changed, with 463 voters split 61%-39% in favour of Leave.
A year on, and negotiations have only just started, with a huge range of opinion about what deal the Government should be looking for.
Coun Ed Malcolm, the borough council’s Lead Member for Resources and Innovation, said it was vital the needs of local authorities were taken into account in the Brexit process.
“The issue of Brexit is one that has far-reaching consequences for everyone in this country,” he said.
The issue of Brexit is one that has far-reaching consequences for everyone in this country.Coun Ed Malcolm
“Local government will feel the impact of the Brexit negotiations, especially as we currently work within many of the regulations set by the European Union.
“As the conduit through which local services are delivered, the views of local authorities must be taken into account to ensure we are able to continue to deliver the services the public rely on.
“We are already exploring what any Brexit deal could mean for us and are committed to seeking the best outcomes, and providing a voice, for local residents.”
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck was scathing about the Government’s handling of the Brexit process.
“One year on from Brexit and the Tory-inflicted farce continues,” she said.
“Before the General Election we had a power-hungry Prime Minister trying to convince us no deal is better than a bad deal, knowing full well this outcome would be catastrophic for the country.
“After the election, we have an enfeebled Government starting Brexit talks without the faintest idea about whether they even want to be in or out of the customs union.
“It’s hardly surprising, despite the bluster about us being able to call the shots on the parameters of the deal, that the Government had to back down on the first day of talks about settling the divorce bill before trade talks begin.
“The Tories are making a laughing stock of us, jeopardising the future prosperity of our country and are gambling with people’s jobs and living standards by continuing to peddle the fiction that they are going to get ‘their cake and eat it’.
“It’s time for a reality check and for this shambolic Government to come clean with the British public and tell them in no uncertain terms what is at stake here for their futures.”
Ukip MEP Jonathan Arnott wants to see the Government pushing for a clean break: “South Tyneside voted overwhelmingly in the referendum for Brexit, and it is important that the wishes of the people of South Tyneside are now respected,” he said.
“There must be no watering down, no attempt to redefine this democratic decision nor any failure to respect it,” he said.
“We must regain control over our borders so that we can decide who can come to the country. We must ensure that we regain the freedom to negotiate trade deals across the world. We must not pay further taxpayers’ money to the European Union.
“Within these constraints, we want to be good neighbours with the European Union and to continue to trade with Europe in the simplest way possible.
“In an ideal situation, trade with the EU would be unaffected (they need our trade every bit as much as we need theirs) but we would regain our ability to develop new links across the globe - links which would give us access to new markets and the ability to create new jobs.
“We should look to the future as a globally trading nation. Brexit will be a huge success for Sunderland, so long as our politicians do not let us down.”
The future of the UK’s relationship with Europe will be crucial to South Tyneside’s economic success, with the EU accounting for around 60 per cent of the North East’s export markets.
North East England Chamber of Commerce head of policy Jonathan Walker said the Government must put the needs of business at the heart of its negotiating position.
“The Brexit decision was obviously a shock for many of our members who hadn’t expected us to leave the EU,” he said.
“Once the decision was made, our businesses wanted progress on key decisions as soon as possible. We are now a year down the line with no significant progress.
“I appreciate it is good news the Brexit negotiations have now started. These talks will undoubtedly have major repercussions for many of our businesses.
“It is, therefore, vital that Government listens to what businesses want to avoid any unnecessary economic harm.
“As a strong exporting region, our firms must continue to enjoy trade with their biggest markets on as flexible and red-tape free basis as possible.
“The Government must be held to its promise to negotiate new trade deals around the world and provide far more resources to support businesses looking to break into new markets.
“Our future immigration policy is also of upmost importance to businesses and has to balance political needs with a recognition that our companies need to operate in a global market for talent.
“North East firms must not be hampered in their efforts to bring the brightest and best skilled workers to our region.”