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Headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, where member countries held their first meeting without UK participation on Thursday (photo: European Union, 2016).

Headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, where member countries held their first summit without UK participation in more than 40 years on Thursday (photo: European Union, 2016).

Clear majority to leave in Hastings

Along with the rest of the UK, Hastings voters gave a clear vote in favour of leaving the European Union in last week’s referendum. As a result of the vote, the council expects to be worse off, whilereports of racist actions against foreigners resident in the UK have raised concerns in town. Nick Terdre reports.

The vote in Hastings was 24,339 for leaving and 20,011 for staying. That equates to nearly a 55/45% split, greater than the 52/48% for the country as a whole. The town bucked the trend in the south-east, which saw London and most of the home counties vote to remain.

High levels of turnout – 71.6% in Hastings, about the same as the national figure and twice the turnout for May’s local elections – attested to widespread interest in the issue. In the country as a whole, this was the highest turnout for a national ballot since 1992.

The result was welcomed by UKIP (UK Independence Party). “It’s wonderful, we’re ecstatic,” Hastings and Rye chairman Bernard Rayner told HOT. “Let’s wait until the euphoria calms down and we have stability back, and then we have to move forward in a civilised manner. We’d like to see controlled immigration, that’s what the country needs. If and when people come, I think they should be evaluated to see what asset they would be to the country. There’s nothing wrong with immigration, we’ve been doing it for hundreds of years, and it’s always been a benefit.

“I’d like to see Mr Farage included in any forward government. He could be a minister without portfolio, something along the lines of [Peter] Mandelson, when they put him in. It’s only fair for him to be included as he instigated all this.”

A different message came from the Town Hall, where Peter Chowney spelt out the implications for the council. “EU grants will come to an end. The council has over £5 million in the pipeline at the moment, we’re going to try to find out whether they will now fall. I doubt that we’ll be able to apply for any more,” he told HOT.

“And the chances of the government replacing that money seem very slim, as they’ve spent the last few years cutting grants to the poorest council areas and giving the money to the richest areas. So if anyone benefits from the EU ‘savings’, it won’t be us. The government fought for two years to try to stop one of the funding streams (Community-Led Local Development) being allocated to the 10% most deprived areas. They’d just given in on that, and we were about to get an award. Clearly they won’t be putting any money into more deprived areas when they’ve gone to such lengths to prevent us getting grants from the EU.”

Local MP Amber Rudd, who was prominent in the Remain campaign, issued a short statement saying, “A momentous decision was made overnight by the electorate of the UK. The decision was against my counsel but of course I respect the outcome. I am very sorry to see the Prime Minister go.”

Elsewhere Leave’s victory when Remain seemed set to win the day aroused strong reactions. “I am devastated and I am angry,” local Liberal Democrat chair Nick Perry told HOT. “In Hastings and Rye, we wake to a deeply divided constituency and country. Nigel Farage’s vision for Britain has won this vote, but it is not a vision I share.

“Young people voted to remain by a considerable margin. They had a clear ambition for their future, yet it is being taken from them. Even though the result was close, there is no doubt that the majority of British people want us to leave.

“Liberal Democrats are proud of our positive, principled, and patriotic campaign for the UK to remain at the heart of Europe. Our fight for an open, optimistic, liberal, diverse and tolerant Britain is needed now more than ever.”

Hastings & Rye Green Party was also extremely disappointed at the outcome of the referendum, “a bitter process in which lies and myth [had] taken the place of truth,” according to spokesperson Andrea Needham. “Already we are hearing about racial attacks, in which the attackers appear to feel legitimised by the vote. This is tragic, and we must all do everything we can to stand in solidarity with people of any nationality who are being targeted.

“Our task now is twofold. Firstly, to try to bring people together, to heal some of those divisions and address the reasons for that anger: the inequalities of our society, the cuts which have impacted on the most vulnerable, the failure to have a proper discussion on immigration but to allow the debate to be conducted in a way which has simply inflamed tensions.

“Secondly, we need to unite to protect workers’ rights and environmental protections which are now at risk. We must fight to ensure that EU regulations relating to climate change are upheld and taken further. We need to ensure that the government does not scrap the Human Rights Act, and that EU rights enshrined in British law are retained.

“Whilst the anger and fear that caused people to vote for Brexit are legitimate, leaving the EU is unlikely to address those issues.”

Concern that members of the Polish community in Hastings could be exposed to racist attacks has prompted Hastings and Rye Labour Party, together with Momentum Hastings, to issue a statement. “Many Polish people have made Hastings and Rother area their home and have made a major contribution to the British economy and society. But since the EU Brexit vote, fear and division has been sown by a few racists in the UK who wish to foster hate not friendship,” they say.

“We condemn these hate crimes unequivocally.  Hastings is your home and you will always be welcome in our community. We will stand in solidarity with you against racist actions and will do all in our power to help you to feel welcome and safe, particularly in these unsettled times.”

For the benefit of the local Polish community, Hastings Labour Party has also issued its statement in Polish.

Komunikat od Hastings Labour Party

Wielu Polaków się osiedliło w Hastings i Rother, uważając to środowisko jako swoje, wnosząc również wielki wkład do brytyjskiego gospodarstwa i społeczeństwa. Po głosowaniu za wyjściem z Unii, kilka rasistów, chcąc żywić nie koleżeństwo ale nienawiść, sieje strach i niezgodę. My jednoznacznie potępiamy takie zbrodni nienaiwści. Hastings dla Was jest domem i Wy zawsze tutaj będziecie mile widziani. My solidarizujemy się z Wami przeciw wszelkim napadów i wszystko zrobimy, aby wyście czuli się bezpieczni i u Siebie, w takich niepewnych czasach.

Przyjaźnie

 

This article was amended by Nick Terdre on Friday 1 July 2016.

 

Posted 07:41 Thursday, Jun 30, 2016 In: Politics