Last month our country voted to leave the European Union. This was not the result I wanted, but one which I respect. The big question is what comes next.
The referendum result revealed a profound division in our city and our country. It also showed the very real sense of anger that many people feel.
I know that many people voted Leave because of concerns around immigration and pressures on local services. I also know that many people who voted to leave want more highly skilled jobs, decent working conditions and greater funding for the NHS. I want those things too.
We need orderly negotiations over our future relationship with the EU, not a hasty rush to the exit door. The government must secure a deal that protects our economy and doesn’t put thousands of local people out of work. There must not be a race to the bottom on workers’ rights.
Trade and exports to the EU are vital to local businesses. Those who promised we would maintain access to the single market need to make it happen.
Our region receives considerable European funding and Government ministers must guarantee continued investment to replace this lost funding. The so-called Northern Powerhouse has been little more than hot air. Time and again our region has been forgotten, and we simply cannot afford for this to get any worse.
Local NHS services are under massive strain and we were told during the campaign that there would be more money for the NHS if we left the European Union. This pledge must also be honoured.
Above all, we need to come together during this time of political and economic crisis to heal the divisions that have been laid bare during the campaign and fight for our region’s future.
This article was originally published by the Sunderland Echo on 14th July 2016. You can read the online version here.