View from the House: Showing friendship to our EU nationals


- Credit: Archant

Last week, the council had a brief debate about the most important decision this country will take in a generation, Brexit.

Brexit is really a divorce. It is dividing families and dividing friends.

I, along with our local MPs, and 75 per cent of Haringey’s residents, firmly believe Britain’s future is best within the European Union. These views were not shared by 51.9pc of the British electorate.

I firmly believe the austerity policy from Westminster created a hostile environment within which the referendum happened, and that there was no single issue behind why Britain voted for Brexit.

Not immigration, not taking back control of our sovereignty, not the desire to spend more on the NHS, not striving for frictionless trade across the Irish border. Because these issues were never discussed during the referendum campaign.

Whatever reasons the public voted to leave the EU, they did not vote to make Britain poorer, less equal, less free, with fewer jobs and fewer opportunities, but that is the prospect a botched Brexit brings with it.

While I personally believe all options remain on the table, the council has to plan for change, and as leader, I will take cabinet responsibility for the council’s readiness for that change.

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We have identified key areas where we need to plan for the impact of Brexit.

These are financial risks; community cohesion and contingency planning; procurement; voting and voters’ rights; communication and support for EU nationals and redressing the ways we have to work with our partners.

For example, the national government will have less money available and lower tax revenues and that will mean less money available for local government, and the possibility of interest rates rising.

There will also be workforce challenges, since a GLA-commissioned report on the potential impacts of Brexit in London shows 1,100 jobs under threat in Haringey.

It is wrong that the government is using EU nationals’ rights (and UK citizens’ rights abroad) as a bargaining chip in the Brexit negotiations. Haringey Council will do all it can to help EU nationals to understand their options, how to apply for settled status and ensure access to the support they need to understand their rights in the UK after March 2019.

I have already made a clear commitment to all the people from other EU countries that live in Haringey – they are welcome here now, and will remain welcome here in the future.

There is no doubt we want them to stay. They are our friends, neighbours, family and colleagues, and have made an enormous contribution to the cultural and economic life of our borough.

Brexit must not create a hostile environment in Haringey, because Haringey is a cohesive, yet socially, ethnically and culturally diverse borough. Long may this continue.