Welcome to the Conversation: County Durham knows so many questions remain unanswered on eve of Brexit

  • Video report and words by ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman

The political dramas of the last few years have provided plenty of ‘watercooler moments.’

By contrast, Brexit day itself feels like something of a damp squib.

In a County Durham factory where they make the machines, you will struggle to find many people who didn’t vote to Leave.

But the conversation around the watercooler development lab is about the anti-climax of 11pm tomorrow night: a moment of historic change… When nothing really changes.

“At least we’ll have a new 50p coin,” jokes Clyde.

County Durham voted in favour of Leave at the 2016 referendum. Credit: ITV News

But there is a recognition too that entering a transition period is at least a smoother way to leave.

Either way, most people here are just relieved it is happening, more than three and a half years since 58% of people in County Durham voted Leave.

On the production line, workers lament the many months of waking up to the ‘Brexit Show’ on the TV and radio.

They are enjoying the commercial break in a process they know is far from over. They helped it along by backing Boris Johnson last month, electing a Conservative in Tony’s Blair’s old seat, Sedgefield, for the first time in 80 years.

John Elliott said he will continue selling washing machines whatever the outcome of Brexit. Credit: ITV News

It’s only surprising that no one quotes ‘Get Brexit Done’ as we wander round.

For the boss, John Elliott, who began making dehumidifiers here before Britain even joined the EU, it’s a significant moment.

He was a vocal campaigner to leave, and would gladly have walked away without a deal.

For him, it’s the next 11 months of negotiations that will determine the ‘real’ Brexit.

But he is also adamant he will continue selling washing machines whatever the outcome.

People in the county recognise entering a transition period is a smoother way to leave the EU. Credit: ITV News

“Life pretty much goes on,” he says.

For at least one of his staff, things aren’t quite that simple. Alex, a team leader from Poland, questions whether she and her family will still be able to travel freely in the future.

“Isn’t that what it was all about?” She asks her colleague, who tries to reassure her.

But so many of her questions remain unanswered, on the eve of Brexit itself.

In a factory proud of its British-made products, few are celebrating a job that is far from finished.