Last week, the country overall voted to leave the European Union (EU). However, in Bristol West, about 80 per cent of people voted to remain – that's four out of five. In some wards the ‘Remain’ vote was higher – it was 85.6 per cent in Ashley, the ward where I live. I campaigned hard for a vote for ‘Remain’, speaking to hundreds of constituents and appearing in the media whenever I could.
Today I received an open letter from the English Department of the University of Bristol, one of the two great universities we are lucky to have in this city. Their concerns mirror my own.
- The ugly language of some, not all, of the 'Leave' campaign promoted fear and suspicion of foreigners and people of colour, and has led to intolerance in general. This is already manifesting itself in the rise in reported hate crimes.
- We will see a loss of EU funding for projects which work with and help the city's citizens in many ways. These include the partnership work between University of Bristol and Single Parents Action Network, with IDEAL in Barton Hill and with the Bristol Libraries, among others. This work has helped and empowered so many people in my constituency and there is no sign that it will be replaced.
- Restrictions are likely to be imposed on staff and students from the EU who come and study here. International cooperation enriches the quality of teaching and learning for others as well as the diversity of city life.
- EU funding for research in the UK will end. Research grants have helped develop knowledge in so many areas, from medicine to social policy.
I also have other concerns.
- So many young people in particular voted to remain and feel ignored by the whole process. It leaves them with hugely restricted opportunities. Leaving the EU means they, and all of us, will no longer have the freedom to study, live, work and travel easily within the EU, without visas or complicated processes. There is a perceived generational divide.
- Leaving the EU will have an impact on local businesses of all sizes, who trade with the 500 million customers in the EU. Local jobs are at risk.
- The government now has the opportunity to remove the EU regulations on nature, habitats and air pollution, which have done so much to clean up our air, beaches and rivers. The current government has shown only contempt for the air pollution regulations – for example, a recent court case found it guilty of breaking the EU’s rules.
So this is what I am doing, and will do.
- I’m listening to the views and concerns of all constituents, whether they voted leave or remain, with respect.
- I am working to identify the specific impacts on local organisations in the voluntary and arts sectors, on local businesses and on the universities.
- I will campaign to delay invoking Article 50, which would start the process of separation, for as long as possible in order to work out how to get the best possible deal for Bristolians and their jobs and lives.
- I will do all I can to ensure that workers' rights and environmental protection are brought into UK law wherever they are not already.
I will be standing up in Parliament to argue for all this, and for Brexit negotiations to include environmental organisations, trade unions and others. We need to work together to mitigate against any negative effects if at all possible.
I will also offer my support to individual constituents who are affected by, or have concerns about, the potential of UK exit from the EU.
Any individuals or organisations in Bristol West who are affected are welcome to get in touch, as the University of Bristol English department so kindly has. I need as much information as possible about what the effects are and what impact they will have, particularly on local people.
I am grateful to the University of Bristol English Department for their letter and will contact them next week to arrange to discuss this further.