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How East Anglia can lead the Brexit fightback

PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 October 2019

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hoping to get his Brexit deal through parliament - and East Anglia must be ready to benefit if he succeeds

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hoping to get his Brexit deal through parliament - and East Anglia must be ready to benefit if he succeeds

PA Wire/PA Images

East Anglia must be ready to seize opportunities in the wake of Brexit - and begin to help the whole country to heal.

Fracture. Discord. Chaos. And, above all, a distinctly nasty atmosphere.

That is what Britain has endured now for the best part of four years. Yes, I am talking about Brexit - but I'm not going to bore you with trade negotiations or the reasons why we should or should not have voted this way or that.

We are at a point of high political drama. Television news correspondents are camped outside Westminster and in Brussels waiting for the slightest suggestion of some politicians actually being able to agree.

MORE: Norfolk MP welcomes Brexit breakthrough and predicts 'brilliant' trade deal

Whether a deal gets through parliament or not, whether the country is forced to vote again on EU membership or not - there is something Britain needs even more desperately.

And very sadly I doubt it is on the horizon.

Let's take some hypothetical situations. Imagine the deal struck with the EU is agree by MPs but with a push in parliament for a second referendum to be attached. And when the country goes to the polls there is a small majority - as there was in June 2016 - but this time to remain in Europe.

Is that the end of the argument? Back to life as it was four years ago? Of course not.

The rows that have driven many of us to distraction for too long now would just go on. Another campaign for another referendum would be launched. Can anyone take it?

Here in East Anglia the vote to leave was pretty clear - with several notable exceptions. But whether leave or remain the majority of people do harbour some trepidation about what the future holds.

There are two main reasons for this: Humans fear change and the utter mess our elected members have made since June 2016.

The truth is that for Norfolk and Suffolk Brexit should hold fewer fears than for much of the rest of the country. Great swathes of the North and Midlands stand to be hit harder than this region. That is no cause for celebration of course.

Here we are on the brink of an offshore energy boom. And only this week a report has outlined the potential benefits to our fisheries once Britain leaves the EU.

And there will be opportunities beyond those. But the question remains "is East Anglia ready to seize the initiative?"

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We are blessed with a growing number of innovative companies here in the East. We are the home to some hugely successful, global companies. And yet there remains a generally feeling of plodding on.

My belief is that comes from being a little bit out on a limb. People in Norfolk and Suffolk are fiercely protective over their beautiful counties - and rightly so. But change is coming and East Anglia needs to be ready and willing to grasp it.

A Brexit boost might seems a long way off and all the experts suggest the UK will have to go through some hard times first. But even an miracle upturn in the fortunes of the pound in the days after we leave or a killer trade deal with Donald Trump won't stop the rot that has taken root in Britain's soul.

We need some calm. We need a rest. And we need to come back together.

Remember London 2012 when our sportsmen and women took on the world in our capital city? The eyes of the globe were on Britain and we were rightly proud. Britain was the home of great music, the NHS and a progressive, tolerant society.

The Brexit debate has scrubbed some of that sheen off revealing something rather murky underneath.

And coupled with the ability for anyone to publish anything at any moment via social media a perfect storm of anger and bile is eating away at our nation.

Without wanting to sound like a quack self-help manual Britain needs some healing.

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