So, out it is. Despite having personally felt that, with two weeks to go the momentum was all with ‘Leave’ campaign, I retained faith that Remain would win the day, albeit with a wafer thin majority.
Elsewhere people will debate what this means for Britain, for Westminster. But what about Cornwall? For me, the strongest possible two fingered salute to Brussels was shown by the two areas that have benefitted so much financially from the EU’s injections of funds via the NUTS1 region funding. Both South Wales and Cornwall voted out. In Cornwall, it was not particularly close, with 182,665 (56.5%) voting to leave, and 140,540 (43.5%) backing remain. Discussion has been had about the differences in vote from the Indigenous Cornish and the ‘Incomers’. Whilst this may go some way to explain the outcome in the Cornish constituencies at the last General Election where all six seats returned Conservative MPs, it is not so simple, or indeed easy to use the argument this time. Firstly, the term ‘Indigenous Cornish’ is not only awkward, but surrounded by all sorts of complex arguments by what makes someone Indigenous Cornish.
Strong arguments were being put forward by the Cornish fishing industry that Leave was vital for them. ITV News reported yesterday the “happy faces” in Newlyn Fish Market, and quoted a local fisherman as saying: “The outcome is really interesting now. This is an opportunity for the fisheries minister and the government to come back to the fishermen and say right, this is what we are going to do for you. We’ve said we can take back control, so lets see them do it, and the fishermen from Cornwall and the South West should benefit.” The industry had been in conflict with the EU for years, due to their view that the Common Fisheries Policy placed extensive limits on the amount of fish being caught, causing to the loss of many people’s livelihoods.
On the other side of the story is the funding that the EU has put in to the tune of tens of millions of pounds to the territory of Cornwall. Those backing Leave have stated that, regardless of this, it has had minimal impact on the relatively deprived areas around the Mining Belt, and that the huge amount of money has been poorly spent and poorly managed. However, Remain supporters will point to the positives that such large sums of money coming in bring. The Westminster government are unlikely to replicate such annual funding for the Cornish. Cornwall Council’s demands for an early meeting with London to press for funding is important as, quite simply the territory needs to know where it now stands financially. Predictably though, John Pollard’s move has been met with derision in some national newspapers, with reports running along the lines of “You voted to leave a body which has given you millions, yet you still want the same amount of money”. I can’t help but thinking if Cornwall had voted to Remain it would have a stronger argument to retain the funding, but what happens next is up in the air like so much else.
Mebyon Kernow leader Dick Cole today posted: “We all know that Cornwall is one of the poorest parts of the UK and suffers from under-investment from central government…but we have not heard much from the leadership of the Leave campaign about how Cornwall’s best interests will be safeguarded. It is my view that the people of Cornwall have a massive job to do in the coming weeks and months. We must, as far as possible, be united and we must do everything we can to pressure Westminster politicians to stand up for Cornwall and its communities as they works through the implications of leaving the EU.”
Cole is largely correct. I think it is time for those who feel hard done by the result to engage in politics more deeply and try and put some influence on it. It’s all well and good blaming this politician or that for failing to get the vote out. It’s all well and good saying “Bloody politics – I’m not bothering it doesn’t represent me.” How about trying to influence it so that it could represent you? How about getting involved with one of the parties in your constituency and working with them to ensure that the best messages get out there. Not to try and change the result – that is passed – but to make the best of what has been done. The likely new Tory government once Cameron goes is going to be pretty right wing. In order to limit their damage we need to campaign locally for the rights and policies that we do believe in.