Has Wearside changed its mind on Brexit, a year on?
Sunderland’s result sent shock waves across the country 12 months ago, with a total of 82,394 people voting Leave and 51,930 backing Remain - a split of 61.3% to 38.7%.
But our on-line poll now shows 63% of our 3,114 votes backing Remain, against just 37% voting Leave.
Although Sunderland was not Leave’s biggest win, it was the first indication of how the night was going and the city has since become synonymous with the result.
So what is the take from our politicians a year on from the momentous night?
Sunderland City Council leader Coun Paul Watson said there was still a great deal of uncertainty about what the future would hold: “It’s a year on since the EU referendum vote and we’ve just started the talks,” he said.
There’s a whole plethora of people, from Brexiters and Remainers, with opinions and many experts and so many things to think about as we all want to understand the effects of whether there is a hard or soft Brexit.Coun Paul Watson
“There’s all sorts of questions over our imports, our exports, small businesses, large businesses, immigration and social issues, or what can be planned for, and what can’t be planned for.
“There’s a whole plethora of people, from Brexiters and Remainers, with opinions and many experts and so many things to think about as we all want to understand the effects of whether there is a hard or soft Brexit.
“These effects and questions about Brexit are going to become manifestly clearer as the negotiations continue over the next two years.”
Tory group leader Robert Oliver is more bullish.
“There is an acceptance that Brexit has to happen given the referendum result so the debate now moves on to how to get the best deal for the UK with respect to the decision to leave the EU,” he said.
“Over the last year, there has been a lot of speculation about the impact of Brexit on the UK in terms of economic growth and citizens’ rights but it is too early to tell what the effect will be.
“It is a difficult task for the UK negotiators to deliver a Brexit deal that pleases everyone, but certain principles have to be respected, such as withdrawal from the single market and the regaining of sovereignty.
“Without clear withdrawal from EU rules and institutions, the referendum result can’t be fully respected and the Conservative Government has just been re-elected on that basis.
“As to the future, there is no reason why the UK cannot prosper outside the EU whilst negotiating benefits for its citizens from the position of one of the most important European states.”
But Lib Dem leader Niall Hodson said membership of the single market was crucial, with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, manufacturers’ organisation EEF and the Chemical Industries Association all concerned about the potential consequences for business.
“Three major industrial bodies are all now warning of the consequences of disrupting our trading arrangements with the EU by leaving the single market and customs union,” he said.
“This could be incredibly damaging for Sunderland, which relies on its exports to the EU more than any other UK city.
“The economic risk of an extreme Brexit is very real and its consequences would be felt by us all, from higher prices to less funding for our NHS and schools.
“Even the Bank of England has admitted that it cannot prevent Brexit from making us all poorer.
“The best way to protect the pound, lift people’s incomes and secure funding for our public services is to stay in the single market and customs union.
“The Liberal Democrats will work with other parties to protect our economy from a damaging Brexit and fight for the best possible deal.”
Sunderland’s three MPs are all putting the emphasis on protecting jobs across Wearside.
Sunderland Central’s Julie Elliott said: “We have entered negotiations to leave the EU this week at the same time as the first anniversary of the historic referendum result.
“At this time, it is imperative that the security of the jobs dependent on our trading relationship with the EU is at the top of the agenda.
“My focus over the next two years of negotiations is to ensure the Government understand the needs of Sunderland and the people who live here.
“I will do everything I can to get the best deal possible for our city.”
Her Washington and Sunderland West colleague Sharon Hodgson said the priority would be delivering the kind of Brexit her constituents wanted to see: “Getting the best Brexit deal possible for Sunderland and the North East is at the top of my long list of priorities in the coming months and years ahead – as it has been since the result was announced and I made this commitment publicly during the public consultation meetings I held earlier this year, and heard it clearly from the questionnaires I received from many hundreds of constituents as part of that consultation,” she said.
“The opinions of my constituents during the consultation, and the many conversations I had during the General Election, will help to inform my work in Parliament when it comes to Brexit.
“For me, Brexit will happen but it is about shaping it so we protect jobs and livelihoods and I will continue to listen and engage with the people of Washington and Sunderland West to ensure that their voices are heard during the negotiations.”
Houghton and Sunderland South’s Bridget Phillipson said: “I will be fighting hard to ensure the best possible Brexit deal for our area, our region, and the country as a whole.
“I promised if I was re-elected that I would stand up for local people and put their interests first. That’s why I will do everything in my power to protect local jobs and local people during the forthcoming negotiations.”
Ukip MEP Jonathan Arnott wants to see the Government pushing for a clean break: “Sunderland voted overwhelmingly in the referendum for Brexit, and it is important that the wishes of the people of Sunderland are now respected. There must be no watering down, no attempt to redefine this democratic decision nor any failure to respect it,” he said.
“We must regain control over our borders so that we can decide who can come to the country. We must ensure that we regain the freedom to negotiate trade deals across the world. We must not pay further taxpayers’ money to the European Union.
“Within these constraints, we want to be good neighbours with the European Union and to continue to trade with Europe in the simplest way possible.
“In an ideal situation, trade with the EU would be unaffected (they need our trade every bit as much as we need theirs) but we would regain our ability to develop new links across the globe - links which would give us access to new markets and the ability to create new jobs.
“We should look to the future as a globally trading nation. Brexit will be a huge success for Sunderland, so long as our politicians do not let us down.”
The future of the UK’s relationship with Europe will be crucial to Wearside’s economic success, with the EU accounting for around 60 per cent of the North East’s export markets.
North East England Chamber of Commerce head of policy Jonathan Walker said the Government must put the needs of business at the haert of its negotiating position.
“The Brexit decision was obviously a shock for many of our members who hadn’t expected us to leave the EU,” he said.
“Once the decision was made, our businesses wanted progress on key decisions as soon as possible. We are now a year down the line with no significant progress.
“I appreciate it is good news the Brexit negotiations have now started. These talks will undoubtedly have major repercussions for many of our businesses.
“It is, therefore, vital that Government listens to what businesses want to avoid any unnecessary economic harm.
“As a strong exporting region, our firms must continue to enjoy trade with their biggest markets on as flexible and red-tape free basis as possible.
“The Government must be held to its promise to negotiate new trade deals around the world and provide far more resources to support businesses looking to break into new markets.
“Our future immigration policy is also of upmost importance to businesses and has to balance political needs with a recognition that our companies need to operate in a global market for talent.
“North East firms must not be hampered in their efforts to bring the brightest and best skilled workers to our region.”
The number of hate crimes in the UK spiked in the months after Brexit, sparking fears the vote had driven communities apart.
The Rev Chris Howson is co-chairman of Sunderland Interfaith Forum and Associate Priest at Sunderland Minster.
“Brexit certainly has divided communities and opinions here in the North East and this sense of division worries many of us in the Sunderland community,” he said.
“The local economy, Higher Education and NHS are dependent on good relationships with the EU economy and workforce, and we need to ensure that we keep attracting international investment.
“The Impact of Brexit has already meant that higher inflation and lack of economic certainty has made vulnerable communities poorer in our area, and we expect the national government to step in and support local government in safeguarding investment in education, business and our local infrastructure.
“Most of all we need to heal divisions caused by the Brexit vote and learn to listen to each other more.
“Sunderland needs to be a forward looking, international city that attracts migrant workers and trains local young people to compete in the global market.
“If Sunderland is to grow, we need to remain a welcoming city, a place of vibrant international optimism that is open for business.”