Campaigners have called for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union to be ditched on the day the Brexit process has been triggered.
Around 100 people gathered outside Sunderland Winter Gardens and Museum with banners and placards as the NE4EU event was staged as its members oppose the decision to leave the EU.
Today, Prime Minister Theresa May handed a letter to the European Council’s president Donald Tusk, formally signalling the country’s intention to exit through Article 50.
In addition to calling for a second referendum once an agreement is drawn up, the regional campaign group has expressed fears about what the move could mean for the region.
Across the country, 52% of voters opted to back the leave campaign and in Sunderland 61% of people supported the call, with the city the first the country to announce its result.
The campaigners include Liberal Democrat and Green Party members, residents and students and academics from the union.
We believe leaving the EU will be very damaging for trade, for jobs and for society.Greg Stone
They say “the Prime Minister does not speak for us” and warns there will be “Bregret” over the decision.
The group, formed after the June 23 result, has said it has also has “sympathisers” from the Labour and Conservative parties.
Greg Stone is a Lib Dem councillor in Newcastle and helped organise the Wearside protest.
“There are increasing concerns and remainers were against the result of the referendum and a lot of people in the North East voted to remain - Newcastle voted to,” he said.
“We feel it’s very important people’s voices are still heard in a democracy as far as Article 50 is concerned and we are very worried about what this means for our region.
“We believe leaving the EU will be very damaging for trade, for jobs and for society.
“It is very important that our rights are protected and safeguarded.
“We want to show that not everyone is in support of what the Government is doing and there are a substantial number who are concerned as it makes the case going forward and we say there should be a second referendum.”
Gatherings are planned at a series of town halls across the region for 6pm today, where hands will be held between supporters as they signal their a “show of solidarity” for Britain to remain in the EU.
* UKIP Mep Jonathan Arnott said the UK had taken back control of its destiny with the triggering of Article 50.
“I am hugely encouraged that, nine months and six days after the British people spoke loud and clear in the EU referendum, Theresa May has today finally triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and we now begin the formal process of withdrawal from the European Union,” he said
“This move has the overwhelming support of the British people: in a recent YouGov poll, just 21% said that the referendum result should be ignored or overturned.
“I call on Theresa May and the British government to now deliver a deal which will secure the future of the United Kingdom as a vibrant, independent, global trading nation.
“We must regain our own sovereignty, stop payments to the EU budget, regain the power to fully control our immigration system, and most importantly of all regain the right to make trade deals on our own behalf once more.
“Our destiny will be in our own hands once more. Never again will politicians be able to hide behind our EU membership and tell us that they lack the power to deliver for the British people.
“Here in the North East we are a trading region. We want the right deal with the European Union, one which enables us to trade with them freely and without tariffs.
“But we also want to open up new markets, new trade opportunities by developing our trading links across the world. Napoleon once called us a ‘nation of shopkeepers’; today we declare that we are once again open for business.”