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Britain triggers Brexit: What Sunderland thinks now

Britain's Ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow delivers the Brexit letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk, in Brussels, Belgium. Credit: PA

Nine months after Sunderland delivered a stunning early win for Brexit in the referendum, Theresa May's letter to the EU will give the people of the city what they voted for.

In a moment that seemed to start the dominos tumbling, the counting officer was drowned out by delirious supporters as she announced 82,394 for Leave and 51,930 for Remain.

With six out of 10 people backing Brexit in Sunderland, the Labour heartland had clearly spoken.

But this is a city torn between its head and its heart, between what the people want but the possible consequences of what that could mean.

Campaigners in Sunderland protesting against the move to leave the EU Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

On the day Theresa May officially triggered Article 50, a handful of protestors demonstrated in the city in a demonstration organised by a group call North East for Europe.

In a Facebook post the group said it wanted to "show that Theresa May does not have 65 million people behind her" and said leaving the EU would "push the UK over the cliff edge."

Sunderland is Britain's top exporting city thanks mainly to Nissan Credit: PA

Sunderland is Britain's top exporting city, with 60% going to the EU, thanks mostly to the giant Nissan car plant that churns out half a million cars a year.

It employs around 7,000 people and tens of thousands more in the supply chain and is the most productive car plant in Europe.

But this could be thrown into jeopardy after the car giant said it may "adjust" its business in the UK depending on the Brexit negotiations, with the North East already one of the worst places for unemployment in the country.

Ominously chief executive Carlos Ghosn said the company would "re-evaluate the situation" once the final Brexit deal is concluded.

Sunderland voters cheer on Referendum night Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The city has also benefited from EU funding, which included Washington Business Centre receiving £3.4 million in European Development Funding and Sunderland Software Centre £4.4m.

But speaking just a few hours before the official triggering of Brexit, people in the city centre still seemed confident they had voted the right way.

Charles Goodacre, 62, a former taxi driver, said: "I'm glad this day has finally come, this is what the people voted for.

"I voted for Brexit and today is the day that vote starts to count. Things have been bad round here for a while and we needed a change.

"There's been a lot of arguments about what happened but we can now get on with it."

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Janet Freeman, 66, a retired secretary, said she was worried about jobs but she had been worried just the same before Brexit too.

"I voted for Brexit so it's good it's going to start," she said.

"I have become a bit concerned about what it might mean for jobs but I think we will make the best of it.

"It's not right we were controlled from Europe, we need to control our own destiny."

Stella Richards, 48, said she thought new opportunities would make up for anyshortfall Brexit brought.

"We don't need the EU, there is a big world out there for us to trade with. "We also want to control our borders and immigration," she said.

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