January 31, 2020 3.28 pm This story is over 22 months old

Local Democracy Weekly: A nation divided over the EU – Lincolnshire looks ahead

The UK will leave the EU today

Three years, 1,317 days and more than 31,000 hours ago, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Today, at 11pm, that referendum result will become a reality for people in Lincolnshire and across the nation.

It was in the early hours of June 24, 2016, in a leisure centre in Kettering where results from across Lincolnshire began to file in, that national news channels began to report the outcome.

Keith Vaz, the then Labour MP and remain campaigner, looked glum, while Nigel Farage was seen triumphant on television screens.

Since then, it’s been day after day of drip feeding whatever call to arms quote a reporter could grab from a Brexiteer or Remainer.

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“Brexit means Brexit”, “We need a People’s Vote” and “Take Back Control” were among the choice slogans from politicians.

The reality was there was no mandate in the House of Commons for anything and it only proved to frustrate people across Lincolnshire.

That frustration boiled over in Grantham as the now former MP, Nick Boles, left the Conservative party over disagreements on Europe.

Council leaders across Greater Lincolnshire called for more certainty on the issue of the EU, as MPs fought among themselves over the withdrawal bill.

Now that the hours are ticking away for Britain’s exit, council leaders sing a different tune for the future of the region.

Lincolnshire needs to look at the “positives” from the UK’s exit and see the benefits that will come from it, they say.

From tomorrow, the country will enter an 11 month transition period where little will change apart from the nation’s membership with the EU and its political associations with the union.

But, for county council leader Martin Hill, it is more than that. He said it is the chance to think beyond Brexit Day.

Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill

“Brexit is a momentous, historic occasion. I firmly believe that rather than it marking an end of an era, instead January 31, 2020, represents a new beginning,” said Councillor Hill.

“It will certainly be the beginning of further negotiations and a managed transition as we exit the EU, but also the beginning of new opportunities and a chance to think bigger.”

For those in Westminster and the civil servants in Whitehall, the negotiations will begin in February.

From the corridors of the leisure centre in Kettering to the morning of January 31, 2020, the result has caused friction, division and has been an education for some on Britain’s relationship with Europe.

Now, it’s time to see what that relationship looks like in the future and whether it will benefit Lincolnshire and the country as a whole.

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