Exclusive: East Anglia has few regrets about voting Brexit as PM gears up for negotiations
PUBLISHED: 07:50 13 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:46 13 March 2017
Archant Norfolk 2017
East Anglia has few regrets about leaving the European Union days before Theresa May wants to formally gives Brussels notice of Britain's departure, our major new poll reveals.
Of the people we spoke to in Norfolk, Suffolk, north Essex and east Cambridgeshire almost 56pc would currently vote to leave. While 3pc of those who voted to leave the European Union on June 23 now want to remain, 1.8pc who voted to remain on June 23 said they would now vote to leave.
The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill returns to the House of Commons this week as Brexit secretary David Davis warned Theresa May to “get on with the job” of triggering Article 50. He urged MPs to kick out measures introducing a “meaningful” parliamentary vote on the final deal with Brussels and guarantees on protections for EU nationals living in Britain.
Mrs May set herself a March 31 deadline to formally start Britain and the European Union divorce proceedings - but she could enact the Article 50 treaty as early as this week.
Every district in Suffolk and Essex voted to leave the European Union last year. In Norfolk, Norwich was the only area which had a majority of voters who wanted to remain in the political union.
Our poll, which was conducted by reporters who spoke to 1,172 people face-to-face in villages, towns and city centres across the region, found that 55.7pc of those who would vote would continue to back a departure from the European Union, while 43.1pc still want to remain in the EU. There were 1.2pc who did not fit into either category.
Felixstowe was the only place where people showed significant signs of regret with 12 out of the 51 people who we spoke to in the town saying they would switch from leave to remain.
Chris Hanretty, a lecturer at the University of East Anglia who specialises in polling, said: “I’m not surprised that you’ve not found many people who express Bregret, or Regrexit, or Bremorse.”
“In part, I’m not surprised because most of the effects of Brexit - for good or ill - haven’t happened yet.
“The one big effect - the fall in the value of the pound - has affected people who do lots of international travel, and importers, and they were likely remainers anyway. That might, however, matter for Felixstowe, given the importance of the port there.
“In part, though, I’m not surprised, because most people don’t like to admit they were wrong.”
David Campbell-Bannerman, an East of England Euro MP who was a leading voice of the official Vote Leave campaign, said our poll results showed the East of England had stayed overwhelmingly pro-leave, with no significant change. But he said the Brexit poll which counted was the “largest vote for anything in British history” on June 23.
“As we begin the process of leaving the EU, post Article 50 being triggered, it’s likely the remain vote will fall further as the focus will all be about getting the best UK-EU deal,” he predicted.
But Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, whose wants to see a second referendum on the terms of a Brexit deal, highlighted the small shift of voters from leave to remain before the consequences of a ‘hard Brexit’ had even really begun to be felt.
“East Anglia is Britain’s gateway for trade with Europe, it stands to lose out the most from Theresa May’s extreme form of Brexit. “We risk seeing a serious blow to jobs and investment, gridlock at ports like Felixstowe and a further Brexit squeeze on living standards cause by rising prices and the falling pound,” he added.
Clacton MP Douglas Carswell, the UK Independence Party’s only MP, said our poll showed that Theresa May now needed to “just get on with it”.
“We need to build a new national consensus and that means a liberal Brexit taking into account the concerns of universities and making sure it is practical and pragmatic and that it works. We might be leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe,” he added.
His leader Paul Nuttall added that it was clear the “avalanche of doom” from the disappointed remain camp had had “precious little impact” on people.
“They were not idiots when they voted, they are not idiots now. It is about time people respected the views of those who voted and accepted that it was done knowing that Brexit is never going to be perfection but a move towards a freer and happier nation.”