UK vot­ers seek faster Brexit

■ Fume at MPs seek­ing to de­lay deal after ref­er­en­dum held in June 2016

The Asian Age - - World -

Sun­der­land ( UK), Jan. 13: “It just needs to be sorted,” said 23- year- old Adam Green, a frus­trated Leave voter in Brexit- back­ing Sun­der­land, whe- re pa­tience with par­lia­men­tary de­lays over Brit- ain’s de­par­ture is wear­ing thin.

The for­mer ship­build­ing city in north­east Eng­land, where the Nis­san car­maker plant is now the lifeblood, played a star­ring role in Bri­tain’s seismic de­ci­sion to leave the EU.

The city’s 61 per cent vote in favour of leav­ing in the 2016 ref­er­en­dum sig­nalled early on where the na­tion was head­ing on the night of June 23, 2016 and cel­e­bra­tions at the count were beamed world­wide.

Now, as MPs pre­pare for Tues­day’s de­ci­sion on whether or not to back the divorce deal struck be­tween Lon­don and Brus­sels, vot­ers in Sun­der­land are urg­ing them to get on with it and get Bri­tain out.

The years of wran­gling since the ref­er­en­dum over how, or even if, Bri­tain leaves have cer­tainly damp­ened the high spir­its of that 2016 June night.

“It’s be­come an ab­so­lute joke,” said Green, who is un­em­ployed for med­i­cal rea­sons, as he stood out­side the Bridges main shop­ping cen­tre.

“It’s dis­re­spect­ing my vote com­pletely. My­self and my whole fam­ily voted for us to come out,” he said. “The MPs need to get their heads down and get us out. “I just want it over and done with be­cause I’m sick of hear­ing about Brexit,” he added.

The Univer­sity of Sun­der­land cam­pus was built in the 1990s on the site of for­mer ship­yards that once dom­i­nated the banks of the River Wear in this work­ing- class city of 275,000 peo­ple.

Sun­der­land was a coal trad­ing port, had its own col­lieries, was a glass­mak­ing cen­tre and boasted a ma­jor brew­ery.

The heavy in­dus­try has largely evap­o­rated, though the docks are still go­ing and ships’ horns echo amongst the cranes.

Be­sides its cur­rent car­mak­ing prow­ess, Sun­der­land’s pride now rests on its foot­ball team.

De­spite two straight rel­e­ga­tions to the third- tier League One, the Black Cats still draw huge crowds to games at their 49,000- seater Sta­dium of Light, built on the site of a dis­used coal mine.

On match days, the sta­dium roar drifts through­out Sun­der­land’s streets.

“Sun­der­land is a city where peo­ple feel quite rooted, with a strong sense of com­mu­nity,” said Peter Hayes, the univer­sity’s se­nior lec­turer in pol­i­tics.

“That per­haps makes them feel a lit­tle bit less cos­mopoli­tan,” he said.

“There’s a kind of antielite feel­ing in Sun­der­land,” he said, ex­plain­ing the Leave vote — which went against Ja­pa­nese au­tomaker Nis­san’s pref­er­ence. “If we leave the EU on bad terms, there are very se­ri­ous eco­nomic prob­lems that Sun­der­land is go­ing to face,” he added, say­ing that if Nis­san shifted pro­duc­tion to Europe, it would be a “dis­as­ter”.

Bri­tain’s largest car fac­tory em­ploys more than 7,000 work­ers and builds 500,000 ve­hi­cles per year, in­clud­ing the Juke, Qashqai and elec­tric Leaf models. Some 55 per cent are ex­ported tar­iff- free to the EU.

Stephen O’Brien, a city coun­cil­lor for the pro- EU op­po­si­tion Lib­eral Democrats, said a no- deal Brexit’s ef­fect on the city’s man­u­fac­tur­ing would be “more dev­as­tat­ing than los­ing the pits and the boat in­dus­try”.

Strolling along Roker Beach, a sweep­ing bay where kayak­ers brave the chilly North Sea, 67- yearold Brian Halse said: “It’s just a sham­bles. I did vote for Brexit. I would like us to go out. I think we’re bet­ter off by our­selves.— AFP

Pro- Brexit pro­test­ers scuf­fle with the po­lice dur­ing a demon­stra­tion in cen­tral Lon­don on Satur­day — AFP

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