Now what? Welwyn Hatfield politicians and businesses react to Brexit turmoil
PUBLISHED: 14:02 16 January 2019 | UPDATED: 14:37 16 January 2019
After yesterday’s catastrophic defeat on the Brexit deal and a no confidence vote on the table, here’s what Welwyn Hatfield’s politicians and businesses think. Guess what? Nobody agrees.
At 7pm yesterday, the government rejected Theresa May’s withdrawal bill by a margin of 230 votes in the largest ever government defeat.
Welwyn Hatfield’s Grant Shapps was one of the Tory rebels who voted against the Brexit deal, saying that the Irish backstop “potentially locks the UK into a never ending customs arrangement”.
After the vote, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn laid down the gauntlet and called for a vote of no confidence in the government.
This is different to the no confidence vote of December 6, which was a Conservative party ballot on Mrs May’s leadership.
Today, however, MPs from all parties will vote on whether they think the current government is worth its salt.
If the government is voted down, a new government must form within 14 days, or a general election should be called.
Mr Shapps said: “I’ll be there and will vote in favour of the government.
“The last thing Britain needs now is the government falling and a Marxist in Downing Street, so I will vote with enthusiasm!”
Rosie Newbigging, prospective parliamentary candidate for Welwyn Hatfield, slammed the Conservatives and called for a general election. “The scale of the catastrophic defeat for May’s botched Brexit deal is unprecedented in British politics for a sitting government.
“This is ... a broken government which has presided over not just a disastrous set of negotiations on Brexit but rapidly growing levels of poverty, inequality and homelessness and a sustained and vicious attack on public services including our once glorious NHS, social care and education.”
Ms Newbigging said she would not have signed the open letter currently circulating, in which 71 Labour MPs call on Jeremy Corbyn to back a people’s vote.
“I support Labour party policy agreed overwhelmingly at our party conference last September,” she said.
“Labour has a clear strategy for a Brexit which respects the outcome of the referendum in 2016 and sets clear tests which will guarantee security for jobs and the economy; worker, consumer, environmental and human rights and ensures the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland remains secure.
“Let’s call time on this callous, cruel and downright incompetent Tory government. I am ready to play my part in a Labour government and represent the people of Welwyn Hatfield to build a kinder, fairer and more just society.”
The Liberal Democrats have taken an unequivocal stance against Brexit and Welwyn Hatfield’s prospective parliamentary candidate Cllr Barbara Gibson called for a people’s vote.
“Whatever anyone originally wanted, it is clear that what Brexit has turned into is a complete mess,” she said.
“Theresa May’s deal was rightly voted down, but we now know that any Brexit is bad for the NHS, bad for British jobs and bad for our economy. Leaving with no deal cannot be an option.
“The Conservatives have had two and a half years, and they’ve proven that there is no deal that will be as good as what we have now, as full members of the European Union,” she added.
On Saturday, January 12, Liberal Democrat councillors took to the streets of Welwyn Garden City with a Brexitometer and an open letter calling on Mr Shapps to reject the deal in the vote - which he did.
The Brexitometer - an informal polling tool of passers-by - found that most people would like a people’s vote and that most would like to remain in the EU.
“Liberal Democrats demand better, and so do the people of Welwyn Hatfield,” said Cllr Gibson. “We want a people’s pote, and we want to stay in the EU.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Helen Quenet, a firm remainer, joined the carnival of protesters outside Parliament for the vote.
“An odd day in many ways because for once the Leavers and Remainers were united in a desire for May’s deal to be voted down,” she said. “The square just erupted with joy when the result was announced,” she added.
In between the political chatter, fears have grown for the impact of Brexit on UK business.
A report from business advisors Grant Thornton published in late 2018 said that Hertfordshire’s larger businesses were so far doing well amongst the uncertainty.
Today, however, the company urged businesses across the county to begin contingency plans for crashing out of the EU with no deal.
“Business should not wait for the politicians to reach an agreement,” said a spokesperson. “By the time this political deadlock breaks, it will be too late to make contingency plans for March 29.
“Organisations should make business continuity plans for a No Deal Brexit (as the most immediate and most disruptive scenario); look for opportunities that this may create; and get match fit, focusing on business basics like cashflow, retaining and attracting talent, sweating your assets to meet customer need, and removing unnecessary costs.
“That is what we are already working with our clients on and many are now implementing their contingency plans; it’s not too late to start.”
“Above all else, businesses should keep calm, carry on and be ready for change.”