Lewes District Council is to give its backing to the so-called People’s Vote campaign after passing a range of motions connected to Brexit this week.
At a full council meeting on Monday (November 26), Lewes councillors called on the council’s chief executive to write to government expressing a desire for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit terms, including the option to remain within the European Union.
The call was agreed as part of a motion put forward by Green Party councillor Joanna Carter (Lewes Bridge).
Cllr Carter’s motion also called on council officers to carry out an overall assessment of the strategic risks which may face the district as a result of Brexit and to explicitly identify ‘Brexit Impacts’ in other reports.
Introducing her motion, Cllr Carter said: “I am delighted to hear that Lewes District Council has already done a risk assessment but we need to do more than this. We need to actually call for a People’s Vote, including an option to remain.
“I’m hoping that this will actually get cross-party support, because I don’t think this is something that any one party should be taking forward [alone].
“This is a very democratic way to take forward the decision on the EU. We vote on a government every four years or five years, we vote on this council every four years. Voting again on something is the best way to democratically make decisions on something in this country.
“I also think it is important to note that other councils have already called for a People’s Vote. We would be joining a range of voices from different councils, with different political makeups. I think our voice here will make a difference.”
‘We can’t keep voting until we get the result we want’
Predictably, Cllr Carter’s motion split opinion amongst councillors with members speaking both for and against the principle of a People’s Vote.
Among those to criticise the motion was Cllr Jim Sheppard (Con. – Newick), who said: “It seems that you have a referendum and if you don’t like the result you say ‘let’s have another referendum’.
“Now they are saying ‘we can’t have a referendum, let’s have a People’s Vote’ If they don’t win the People’ Vote, then what? Do we have another People’s Vote or somebody else’s vote?.
“We can’t keep voting in the referendum until we get the result we want. Put up with what you’ve got.”
Opinions, however, were not simply split along party lines, with some Conservative councillors also speaking in favour of the motion.
‘Tired of Brexit’
They included Cllr Tony Nicholson (Seaford East), who said: “I, like a lot of people are no doubt, am tired of Brexit. Every day we put the news on, and it is Brexit this and Brexit the other.
“I think it is time it was brought to an end and if we had a vote, then it would be one way or the other. It would be finality, at least for some time.
“I think a referendum – I call it a referendum at least – is a way to bring this situation to a closure and the sooner we have it the better.”
Following a debate the motion was passed by the majority of councillors present.
Councillors also resolved to pass two other Brexit-related motions at the same meeting.
Taskforce to look at impact of Brexit on Newhaven Port
The first, put forward by Liberal Democrat Vic Ient, called on the council to set up a task force for Brexit planning in Lewes district and invite a range of local partners to join. Its biggest focus would be the running of Newhaven Port after leaving, Cllr Ient said.
The second motion called on council leader Andy Smith to write to Prime Minister Theresa May, asking her to call a general election as soon as possible.
The motion, put forward by Green Party group leader Tony Rowell, was passed despite objections Cllr Smith.
Cllr Smith said: “I would also like to point out that this Prime Minister voted remain as well and she, in fact, is probably the only person I can think of who can bring about what that democratic vote was about, despite the fact that it wasn’t my choice.
“The suggestion that I should write to hear at a time of what must be the most difficult political decision ever, barring wars and trouble and strife. I’m going to have to say no.
“A lot of Conservatives did not want this. This is just the way it has worked out.”