Cambs County Council decides against supporting ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit
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Cambridgeshire County Council has decided against supporting the People’s Vote campaign for the public to have a say on the final Brexit deal.
The People’s Vote is a cross-party campaign, which is already supported by South Cambs MP Heidi Allen and Daniel Zeichner – MP for Cambridge – and by South Cambridgeshire District Council.
County councillor Susan van de Ven spoke at today’s full council meeting to urge councillors to back the campaign.
In a speech, Liberal Democrat county councillor Susan van de Ven – who represents Melbourn & Bassingbourn – told council members: “One of the most important occasions to take place in this chamber is the UK Citizenship Ceremony.
“To take part, you must have passed the UK Citizenship Test, which consists of multiple-choice questions drawn from the book, ‘Life in the United Kingdom.’
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“While the questions sound simple, passing the test is not easy – I invite you to try it. Can you name the nine ingredients in an Ulster Fry? How many members does a jury have in Scotland?
“Page 63 describes the British government’s invitations to people from Europe and around the world to come and help rebuild this country after the Second World War, plugging gaps in our workforce.
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“Today’s Citizenship Ceremony is testament to the fact that people from Europe and elsewhere continue to support our economy and workforce – helping us as nurses, crop pickers, teachers, cleaners and scientific inventors.
“But, with a decline in key sectors of our workforce even before Brexit, Government is now desperately spending millions on new international recruitment programmes, to fill critical gaps in health and social care – as our own Health Committee has been hearing.
“The impetus for my motion today is Government’s failure to come up with a Fit for the Future Brexit Plan that protects and supports our people, our workforce and our economy going forward – and the direct implications for Cambridgeshire and this council, whose overwhelming responsibility is social care.
“I asked our chief finance officer: Is Brexit an opportunity or a risk?
“It is absolutely a risk.
“Brexit is already impacting on our care providers, due to fluctuations in the value of the pound. It is less advantageous for migrant workers to come here.
Here is one international recruitment agency’s listing, for a night shift support worker in Cambridgeshire:
“Pay: £8.41 to £9.49 per hour. Main duties: continence management, using manual handling equipment as specified. Be flexible, adaptive, and creative.
“Perks: collection from the airport, £15 per night allowance.
“These are low-skilled jobs, not protected in any Brexit proposal so far, even though our aging population is arguably our most pressing problem.
“The chief executive of a dementia care home in my village told me:
“Our biggest challenge right now is recruitment, with agency usage at an all-time high, meaning higher staffing costs. Local Authority fees are not keeping pace with wage rises.
“We really struggle to source carers and ancillary workers. This type of work needs support from Eastern European countries to fill in the gaps.
“What about Brexit supporting the Cambridgeshire economy?
“An independent greengrocer asked me: How long can my flowers, fruit and veg sit in a port waiting for customs checks before they wilt and need to be dumped?
“A printing business owner told me: Paper cost has risen by 16 per cent since the referendum. Will I now lose my European markets?
“A local fruit farmer says: A 15 per cent drop in my workforce already has meant we need to pull back on our signature crop, the Victoria Plum.
“A big high-tech company lists the things it needs government to urgently sort out: Medicine regulation, frictionless movement of goods, maintaining UK involvement in EU life sciences, Post-Brexit rights for EU citizens.
“These examples do at least provide new possible questions for the Citizenship Test: What is the Customs Union? How does the Single Market work? True or false: The NHS will get £350 million per week extra if we leave the EU.
“Since the referendum, it has been demonstrated very painfully that extricating our workforce and economy from the EU is a damaging thing to do.
“With not long before EU exit day, Government has worked out no deal at all, let alone one that is better than the deal we’ve already got.
“Will this be this good for Cambridgeshire? It would appear not.
“Given the slow-motion wreck that government is leading us into, why shouldn’t the care home, the greengrocer, the high-tech company – and you and I – be given a say in the all-important terms of Brexit, that will shape the future for our children?
“In Cambridgeshire, MPs Heidi Allen and Daniel Zeichner have already declared their support for a People’s Vote, as has South Cambridgeshire District Council.
“Please support this motion.”
The vote – which was seconded by Labour – was lost with 32 council members voting against, and 22 voting in support of the motion.