Letter: English regions are being ignored in the Brexit debate

PUBLISHED: 12:00 05 May 2018

Brexit Secretary David Davis, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson listen as Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in Florence, Italy. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/PA.

Brexit Secretary David Davis, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson listen as Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in Florence, Italy. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

The post-referendum debate is centred around the rapatriation of powers to Westminster and London. Tom Parkin says the regions are being ignored.

I live in Evesham, a rural town in Worcestershire that voted by 58% to leave the European Union in June 2016. Evesham’s heritage is agricultural, but its economy less so. Like much of the West Midlands, residents are concerned with the state of the labour market, wage stagnation and the future of investment into the hundreds of small businesses that fuel local growth.

For many rural communities, Brexit was not a protest vote or a knee-jerk reaction. Instead, locals genuinely believed that the EU was the source of their financial woes. Even though the town’s agricultural sector has only survived thanks to free movement of labour from Europe, the message was clear – locals wanted control for themselves. But here lies the problem.

The post-referendum debate is centred only around the repatriation of powers to Westminster and London. Both sides of the political divide remain silent about the economic effects of Brexit in the regions. We hear talk of protecting the City’s financial sector, but nothing about industrial regeneration. There is a political consensus that if London’s interests are secured, then the rest of the country will prosper. But empowering Westminster will not empower my town. Protecting London’s financial markets will not save small to medium-sized businesses in Worcestershire.

If Britain does leave the EU, then central government must prepare for the most extensive devolution of powers to councils and the regional mayoralties in England and Wales. I am not asking for another ‘Northern Powerhouse’. My town needs a plan that works.

Shifting powers from a parliament 350 miles away to another 120 miles away is not a solution. The West Midlands requires effective powers that will enable local government to better protect our vulnerable regional economy in these troubled times.

Tom Parkin, Evesham

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