Monday, November 14, 2016

Ebbw Vale and the European Union.

What are we to make of the way Ebbw Vale voted in the EU Referendum debate. 62% voted Leave. The highest Leave vote in Wales. Ebbw Vale in a town with a population of 18,000, and is reckoned to have received the highest level per capita EU funding in the UK. Ebbw Vale is an old ironworks/steelworks/coal mining, valleys town. While one might have expected the good folk of Ebbw Vale to be grateful for the massive sums of money the European Commission has invested in their area over recent years, the reality is the opposite.

Along with 3 other members of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, I joined around 40 Ebbw Vale citizens at their local Institute to consider the way ahead. While it was an articulate engaging audience, I'm not sure it reflected local opinion. Almost all those who attended were 'Remain' voters. I think the Chair of the Committee, David Davies MP walked down the street to discuss the issue with people just going about their business, and found not a single Remain voter. There's a hugely important message there for those of us involved in 'government' at all levels. 

The purpose of our meeting was to allow the attendees to tell us what the Gov't should be focusing on during Brexit negotiations. The general areas we were hoping to cover were 'Arts', 'Jobs and Industry', 'EU Funding for Wales', and the 'Welsh Language. In reality, I did not find it a structured discussion at all - and none the worse for that. Inevitably it was not easy to move on from the debate about Remain/Leave, but it was lots better than a similar debate would have been at Westminster. My conclusion was that it's too early to have a meaningful debate on Brexit negotiations yet. But I enjoyed my meeting with the opinions of Ebbw Vale. Maybe repeat the exercise in two years time. 

No comments: