Brexit protesters pack Sunderland rally to campaign for People's Vote

Hundreds of Brexit protesters packed a rally calling for a People’s Vote to decide whether the country should leave the European Union or not.

By Gavin Ledwith
Monday, 08 July, 2019, 13:22
The People's Vote rally to end the Brexit impasse at the Beacon of Light, Sunderland, on Sunday.

They listened to a host of speakers discuss why they fear both the North-East and United Kingdom as a whole will suffer if we leave the European Union – with or without a deal – on October 31.

Those taking the stage at Sunderland’s Beacon of Light included members of parties across the political divide as well as entrepreneurs, comedians and campaign group representatives.

Opening the rally, Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson feared the country will end up with an “undemocratic” no deal regardless of who wins the ongoing Conservative Party battle to become Prime Minister.

Ms Phillipson added: “The kind of crash that Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson accept as a price worth paying for Brexit is one where working people in the North East pick up the bill.

“So today we say to them: you have no majority in Parliament for no deal. You have no mandate in the country for no deal. And we will not stand by and let a tiny minority impose it on us.“

Sunderland entrepreneur Paul Callaghan, co-founder of the Leighton Group of companies, highlighted the price he felt the North East was already paying for the Brexit impasse.

Dr Aidan King speaking at the rally.

He added: “All economic analysis carried out on the future prospect for the North East economy shows that the region will be worse off. The harder the Brexit the worse off we become.

“Of course, this means our jobs, here in the North East. Jobs that provide the livelihood of tens of thousands of people both directly and indirectly.”

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Addressing the issue of Sunderland becoming the first place to vote Leave in 2016, city resident and Green Party activist Rachel Featherstone told the audience: “Brexit was sold to them as a way to address their problems. That was a lie.

“Three years on it is increasingly clear that it would actually make things worse.

Paul Callaghan talks to the rally.

“That jobs will be lost, that the NHS is at risk, that food safety and environmental protections will be swept away as ministers scramble to make trade deals with the likes of Trump.”

Newcastle Liberal Democrat councillor and doctor Aidan King feared that leaving the European Union would trigger the rise of an American-style system in which people pay more for their health care.

He said: “The future I want to see for my children is open, tolerant, unified and trusting. I do not see those values embodied in Brexit.”

Closing the rally, David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham and a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said: “This is bigger than day to day politics. We are fighting for the heart and soul of our country.

“There are lots and lots of families beyond this room that need us to fight hard to get us this People’s Vote.”

Sunday’s Let Us Be Heard rally is one of a series being held throughout the summer across the UK by the People’s Vote movement.