A fractious debate over on Brexit ended with Calderdale Council’s official position being to urge the Government to abide by the Act of Parliament recently passed which would prevent the United Kingdom from leaving the European Union without a deal.
It was proposed by the council’s ruling Labour group in response to the original motion proposed by the Conservative group that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s position of the UK leaving on October 31 whether it has a deal or not, considering 55.7 per cent of people who voted in Calderdale in the 2016 Referendum voted to leave, should be supported.
The motion was rejected by a majority, as was a late Liberal Democrat motion that simply said “This council says bollocks to Brexit.”
Mayor of Calderdale Coun Dot Foster (Lab, Sowerby Bridge) allowed debate despite entreaties from Coun Colin Raistrick (Ind, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe), who said positions were already entrenched.
“Why are we wasting our time on this? I propose we move to the vote,” he said.
When exchanges became more heated later he said: “I did warn you, madam Mayor!”
Coun Peter Caffrey (Con, Northowram and Shelf) introduced the Conservative motion, arguing Calderdale people were fully aware of a no deal scenario and he believed “Jeremy Corbyn’s surrender bill” would make the situation worse rather than better.
Calderdale residents had been bombarded with “unsubstantiated doom and gloom,” he said.
Labour group leader Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) hit back: “Let’s make it absolutely clear what a disaster leaving with no deal will be for Calderdale.”
Coun Swift said the Government had been forced to release the Operation Yellowhammer documents, which showed possible impacts echoed by the council’s own planning, particularly in terms of Calderdale businesses who exported, and risks to fresh food and medicine supplies.
Government’s own documents on export in event of no deal, for example, were complex and a lot would need to be sorted if that was the scenario.
“Anyone thinking we can complete that by October 31 is living in cloud cuckoo land,” said Coun Swift.
Wearing a Stop Brexit Betrayal sign, Coun Roger Taylor (Con, Northowram and Shelf), said: “We’re the fifth largest economy – do we really need these unelected people in Brussels telling us what to do?”
Coun Geraldine Carter (Con, Ryburn) said the issue was democracy and supporting what 58 per cent of Calderdale Referendum voters wanted – not to do so would be wrong.
Coun Steve Sweeney (Lab, Todmorden) countered: “This is a representative democracy. What you are referring to is some sort of plebiscite government, which we don’t have.”
Coun Josh Fenton-Glynn (Lab, Calder) the council had to consider things that would directly affect the people of Calderdale and the risks of no deal had to be thought about.
Conservative group leader Coun Scott Benton (Brighouse) said Labour’s amendment echoed Parliament two weeks ago, “where we saw the coalition against the people,” he said.
He said Operation Yellowhammer was a worst case scenario and was playing on people’s fears.
Coun Susan Press (Lab, Todmorden) said it was a base case scenario – worst case was apparently named “Black Swan” but people had not seen it.
She also criticised the Liberal Democrat amendment.
“It shows a disrespect for the people of Calderdale,” she said.
Liberal Democrat group leader Coun James Baker (Warley) defended his group’s amendment, unveiled his “Bollocks To Brexit” t-shirt and said his party’s position was clear.
Democracy changed over time and if his party leader Jo Swinson won a majority in a General Election Liberal Democrats would revoke Article 50, which is the method of leaving the EU, he said.
“The last three years have shown us Brexit is a load of bollocks,” he said.
Coun Colin Peel (Change UK, Brighouse) agreed with Coun Swift that the UK needed to get a deal and as Parliament could not deal with the matter it made sense to put the matter out to a people’s vote.