It’s a month since the EU referendum result, and we’ve all had time to reflect on the result. The UK will be leaving the European Union, and we will make a success of it.
Of the hundreds of people who have been in touch since the referendum result, most of them voted ‘remain’ and are understandably concerned about what the future holds.
Norwich voted by a majority to remain. That refers to the Norwich City Council area. But my own constituency is not the same: it is made up of Catton Grove, Sewell, Mile Cross and Crome, in addition to Hellesdon, Old Catton, Sprowston and Thorpe St Andrew. It’s never a simple job to speak for all 67,000 constituents, on this issue or any other. Before the poll, most constituents that got in touch wanted to persuade me to vote out. After the poll, I am hearing most from people wanting to persuade me to vote against going out!
Many constituents will never get in touch with their MP, even if I answered a thousand emails a week for a year. So I welcome any tool – like a referendum – that encourages so many more to be heard. I thank people for voting, whatever way they've voted. A healthy democratic society means people taking part, both sides accepting the result, recognising the concerns the other side has, and working together to unite the country.
We can all see this in Norwich. Whilst some are celebrating, others who have been in touch are unhappy. But what we can’t do is deny the result or denigrate our fellow citizens. Every person’s vote in a democracy is worth the same as every other’s. That is why I am proud to live in a democracy. It does remind us that the privilege of voting actually means something.
I am concerned by the generational rift exposed by the referendum – readers know I speak up often for young people. In this election, a large majority of younger voters opted In and a large majority of older voters opted Out. The difference pivots somewhere around the age of 40. It appears that younger voters were outvoted, in part because fewer got involved than did older voters. Democracy works thanks to those who take part, and your vote or your failure to vote really does mean something after all. I want the new Prime Minister to reach out to worried younger people now, and offer them a future. For Britain’s sake, let us now bring generations together.
As an MP, firstly it is my job to support the best outcome for Britain after this clear instruction, and secondly it continues to be my job to work for everyone I represent in Norwich North, however they voted on this issue or any other. I remain of the view that the great constitutional questions should be put directly to the people, but the detail and practical implementation is now the job of the Government, scrutinised by MPs.
I’d like to reassure EU nationals who already live and work in Norwich – in other words several thousands of constituents’ friends, colleagues, and family. There has been no change to the rights and status of EU nationals living in the UK, and when we do leave the EU the Government wants the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK to be protected.
I was concerned like many in Norwich at the arson attack on Magdalen Street, on the shop and home of a Romanian. It’s still too early to rush to any conclusions about motives of the attack, but whether it was racist or just plain criminal, it’s hateful behaviour. The community’s response reminds us that Norwich does not tolerate racism or any form of aggression, and we are a friendly city.
What do we need now in Norwich for the hard work ahead?
The referendum result provides a clear ask to change the way Britain handles immigration from Europe. To leave the EU means to leave the existing arrangements for free movement. However, to leave the EU must not mean leaving behind a strong economy or a strong cultural exchange.
Thousands of jobs in Norwich depend on the longstanding sector of financial services, the exciting sectors of digital and tech, the ambitious science sector, the thriving cultural scene, and a strong tourism industry. I want a deal on leaving the EU that supports these sectors. Britain must remain a successful economy and an outward-looking country, and jobs and livelihoods in my constituency depend upon it.
I have already spoken up for Norwich North in Parliament as the detailed work gets underway. I will keep constituents as updated as possible via blogs on my website. There are challenges ahead but, united, we will get the best for Norwich and for Britain.
Finally, I’d like to wish everyone a peaceful summer break – I’ll be back with community news in August.