The following item is published in this mornings Argus Newspaper: The news that we have finally enacted Article 50 has left many Sussex residents feeling disturbed and ignored by our Government. The outcome of the referendum was far from overwhelming although no one would suggest it was unclear. As a result of the referendum and the subsequent decisions taken by Parliament our social landscape is already changing and many more changes are on the way. Some of this change is far clearer in places such as Brighton and Hove and some of the larger towns where the population is more transient and more diverse than some of our smaller villages. Already some people who have lived here for decades as European Citizens on an equal footing with those who were born here, are contemplating a departure from our nation and many more who would have arrived in the future may be prevented from doing so. This will have a major impact on our Hospitals and Universities to name two very obvious beneficiaries of immigration from Europe and further afield. However the loss of the people who have made Sussex their home will leave all of us impacted culturally as well as in terms of effective services and businesses, even if we never use the NHS and cannot see a link between our lives and the work of the various Higher education establishments in Sussex. This outcome is at complete odds with what we were promised throughout the referendum period and since. On 25th October George Bridges told the House of Lords “We have taken the conscious decision to build a national consensus to our approach to the negotiations. We are consulting a wide range of stakeholders in order to create a national picture of what people want from a deal on exiting the EU. This will allow us to deliver on what the country asked us to do through the referendum, by identifying the opportunities as well as the challenges.”
It is far from clear what Lord Bridges meant by a wide range of stakeholders. Perhaps some of the readers of this newspaper have been part of that consultation. I have yet to meet anyone or come into contact with any organisation that is aware of their views being listened to so I have my doubts. The simple fact is that our community is undergoing a relatively peaceful form of ethnic cleansing. Friends of mine who are European Nationals are feeling very nervous and even though nothing has happened to their employment or residential circumstances to make them feel unwelcome, the various speeches and background media chatter is making them consider if they can stay with any degree of confidence. I believe we need to find ways of changing this tone in our society. In a recent Opinion piece in this newspaper, Simon Kirby MP called on readers to unite as part of the UK and this is an understandable request, but it must be part of a two way process. Simon and his colleagues in the Government need to do as they promised in speeches since the referendum. They need to do as Lord Bridges promised and consult us in order to build the national consensus he referred to. It is already too late for some people who have made a decision to leave our nation, so time is of the essence. Brighton and Hove is a place which has always prided itself on being a refuge to people irrespective of their background and needs. We must make sure that the uncertainty and insecurity faced by people who have contributed so much to our city, but who were born in Europe is brought to an end. This unity needs to embrace all in our community.