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View from the chamber: Why I am backing a second Brexit vote

PUBLISHED: 12:30 28 February 2019

Archant

Next month we will supposedly leave the European Union - and the government has no plan, the public has no certainty and the country has no voice.

It’s a depressing set of circumstances, made worse by the fact that both we as a council and you as residents have little influence over what happens next.

Some would say that councils should not be getting involved, that this is not a local issue. I fundamentally disagree. The future of the UK’s relationship with the EU affects every one us, our democracy, our economy, our public services, our cohesion and how we feel about our country.

In a diverse borough like Camden, where we celebrate the multinational and multicultural fabric of our community, where we make reducing inequality our priority so that no one gets left behind and everyone has a voice, this is not an issue we can remain silent on and simply do nothing.

Seventy-five per cent of Camden residents voted to remain in the EU referendum. We don’t deserve this woeful lack of national leadership.

This is why Camden Labour put forward a motion to full council last week to set out what we expect the government to do next.

We request an immediate extension of Article 50 in order to stop a disastrous no-deal exit and to extend the period for negotiations. While we may all be sick of Brexit dominating the news and want to focus on the many pressing issues we face – street homelessness, the wider housing crisis, youth safety and our public services and welfare system savaged by austerity to name a few – it would be an abdication of responsibility to leave in this way.

There is of course a risk that an extension will just prolong the current deadlock. That’s why our motion calls for a second referendum with “remain” as an option, or a wider public collaboration such as a national citizen’s assembly on the country’s future relationship with the EU, to overcome the current impasse.

I strongly believe people should have the opportunity to cancel the decision to leave the EU if this is no longer what they want or if the reality of Brexit is not at all what they were promised in the first place.

In the meantime, we are taking practical steps to support our residents. We will make council officers available to help any Camden EU citizen or Camden Council staff member who has to apply to continue to live in the UK, with the document validation and verification process – and waive the associated £14 administration fee.

But we can’t stop there. We want to collect your concerns and present these to the government. We are holding a Brexit Advice Summit for residents and key organisations on March 11 at Swiss Cottage Library at 6.30pm and, in the coming weeks, will also be hosting our We Make Camden Together event, which will help develop new ideas and proposals that will be funded by the council to strengthen cohesion and resilience in Camden.

We are clear our EU citizens help make Camden what it is. I’m determined Camden’s positive, welcoming approach acts as an alternative to the divisive rhetoric surrounding Brexit.

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