We are delighted that a majority of people in Exeter voted to support our continued membership of the EU. This was a victory for hope over hate. The debate in the weeks leading up to the referendum and the Leave result has undoubtedly encouraged xenophobia and victimisation of minorities. As Greens, we say people from the EU and other countries across the world will always be welcome in Exeter.
The results of the referendum exposed the huge divisions that have opened up in UK society – Scotland taking a different stand to England; rural areas voting differently to urban ones; young people being more positive about EU membership than older generations. There was also the irony that poorer regions of the UK, who have benefitted most from EU funds, also received a strong Leave vote.
Our Green MEP, Molly Scott Cato, has pointed out the deep dissatisfaction and anger evident in our communities. This has been directed at the EU but it is actually our own broken system that is in desperate need of a fix. We urgently need to reform our electoral system to make it more representative. Uniting around a campaign for putting our own house in order can help heal the divisions created by the referendum itself. We will also need to work hard at local level to build community cohesion.
Greens fought a strong and united campaign to remain in the EU, drawing attention to important issues that were widely ignored throughout the campaign. In particular we highlighted the hugely important contribution of EU regulations to protecting our precious environmental sites in the South West and safeguarding workers’ rights. Many leading Leave campaigners are climate sceptics and dismiss laws and regulations that safeguard our precious environment as ‘red tape’ hindering business competitiveness.
Leaving the EU is a ‘red alert’ for the environment. We will need to mobilise alongside Unions, environmental groups and others who want a fair and just society to defend our hard-won environmental protections and workers’ rights.