SHARON HODGSON: We must work to get best deal out of the exit talks

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Last Thursday, saw months of campaigning culminate in the result of the EU Referendum being declared for the UK to leave the EU.

This was one of the most important decisions our country has had to make in recent decades, and it was welcome to see so many people in our City take part and vote; many for the very first time.

The vote across the country was close, showing just how divided we are on the issue of the membership of the EU.

However, here in Sunderland, voters turned out in unprecedented and came to the decision that we should leave the EU.

As politicians we must listen, learn and move forward accordingly. Though many voters are facing leavers remorse, we must accept that the vote has now been cast and our focus must be on negotiations.

I am not in favour of invoking Article 50 immediately - which will begin the official negotiations of our divorce from the EU - instead believing that economic stability must be ensured by having a blueprint of what our plans going into these negotiations will be. Our economy, especially here in the North-East, is already fragile and we cannot risk weakening it any further.

That is why it is time for leadership which sees us getting the best deal possible out of the EU exit negotiations, which will detrimentally hit our communities and businesses who relied upon support from the EU and access to the single market.

We also need leadership that addresses the reported increases in hate crime towards ethnic minorities and migrants over the weekend and into this week. I appeal to the better judgements of the people of Sunderland to not allow such a divisive campaign and outcome to rip our communities apart.

In the coming months ahead, I will be keeping a close eye on the developments of the negotiations and will ensure that after listening clearly to the decision of our City that I will work to get the best outcome for us here in Sunderland and those people up and down the country who need it most.