‘We need a soft Brexit – or the impact on York could be devastating’

A demonstration by York For Europe in front of Clifford's Tower. Photographs: Richard McDougall
29 Mar 2017 @ 8.05 pm
| News, Politics

Unless we negotiate a ‘soft Brexit’, York will suffer job losses and lose business.

That was the message from pro-European campaigners who hit the city streets today (March 29), the day when the Prime Minister triggered Article 50 and started the process of Britain exiting the EU.

York For Europe, a group who believe that a ‘hard’ Brexit will damage both the UK and York, took protest banners around the city to voice their fears about the way the process is being handled.

The risks to York

What next? Answers on a postcard

“For places like the university, one of York’s biggest employers, it will probably be devastating,” said Kate Ravilious of York for Europe.

Brexit may not have an immediate negative impact, she admits. However, she fears the impact of Brexit on EU nationals currently living and working in the UK.

“Staff who are EU nationals have a really uncertain future and they may not want to stay,” says Kate, an award-winning science writer, suggesting that the university, the hospital, and many hotels and shops in York will feel the squeeze if EU nationals begin to leave.

She also believes that the way in which the government has treated EU nationals since the vote is inhumane, and has fostered an especially “unwelcome atmosphere” in the country.

‘More divided’

York For Europe held a simultaneous banner protest on the evening Article 50 was triggered – at the station…
Kate hopes that the government will pursue a softer kind of Brexit as the process begins, having thus far “pursued a very hard form of Brexit”, and failing to take into account “the views of the 48 per cent of people who voted to remain”.

“We are more divided than we were six months ago,” she told YorkMix.

Not happy with the road to a hard Brexit? Keep fighting, she says. Kate suggests that since the referendum itself, many have changed their minds.

“It’s not about being undemocratic or overturning the result, it’s about saying I’m concerned about the direction in which our country is heading.”

…at Monk Bar…

Result stands

In spite of Theresa May’s insistence that Brexit is the “will of the people”, Ravilious says that “there’s no way of knowing what the country actually does feel”.

York For Europe is not about trying to overturn the result, but is for anyone, regardless of how they voted, who feels concerned about the effect a hard Brexit might have on the country.

…and at Bootham Bar. Photographs: Jamie Wood

She encourages anyone who feels this way to write to be proactive in writing to their MPs, MEPs, and attending protests where they can.

York For Europe are preparing themselves to respond to more specific aspects of Brexit once negotiations begin.