1. ITV Report

Article 50: The Brexit view from 'Leave' voting Wisbech

  • ITV Anglia reporter Malcolm Robertson discusses the Brexit view from Wisbech on the day Article 50 is triggered.
Wisbech voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU. Credit: ITV Anglia.

It was where the highest vote in our region was recorded in favour of leaving the European Union.

The Waterlees area of Wisbech, the capital of the Fens, where it's reckoned a third of the population are originally from Eastern Europe.

Here, 80 per cent of those who went to the polls in June last year voted for Brexit. Only in the Brambles and Thorntree district of Middlesbrough was there a higher percentage to leave.

Chris Stevens was one of them. She is the manager of the Oasis Community Centre in the heart of Waterlees, where many migrant workers lived.

Chris Stevens doesn't believe it was to do with Eastern Europeans. Credit: ITV Anglia.

I don't believe the numbers voting to leave were because of the Eastern Europeans.

A lot of our infrastucture isn't able to cope with the number of people we've got here. It's difficult as it is to get appointments with the doctors and dentists.

It's rumoured there are a thousand houses of multiple occupancies, so that puts a lot of strains on the resources that are available. I think everybody is suffering as a whole."

– Chris Stevens, Manager of Oasis Community Centre

Wayne Eady is one of those worried about what will happen as Britain begins the process of cutting its ties with Europe. He is the managing director of Volymary at nearby Wisbech St Mary, which produces millions of plants and shrubs.

Volymary Ltd grows plants and shrubs with a 60% Eastern European workforce. Credit: ITV Anglia.

Sixty per cent of the workforce are from Eastern Europe. An expanding company needs more labour not less, and he is hoping the Government will be aware of the needs of firms like his.

Post Brexit it will obviously be critical for us to see the Government moving to protect the free movement of people or at least some kind of deal where we can access some kind of Eastern European labour, unless there's a radical move from the Government to encourage younger people to come into industries like ours.

We have a feeling universities are soaking up a lot of our labour pool or what would have been our natural labour pool from 20 years ago.

– Wayne Eady, Volymary

For more than 200 years, Elgoods have been brewing beer in Wisbech. Managing director Belinda Sutton is the fifth generation of the family to be involved in running the firm and although disappointed the decision was to leave Europe, she is hoping the town can seize any opportunities that Brexit might offer.

There's a lot of negativity about the town...but that's often from people outside who don't really know Wisbech and what it's got going for it.

It's a beautiful market town. I hope some positivity will seep in and make people aware that we're a big part of Cambridgeshire and not just somewhere on the edge of it.

– Belinda Sutton, Managing director, Elgoods

Economically, Wisbech suffers hugely in comparison to nearby Cambridge where there was a strong vote to remain in the EU.

But are people in Wisbech really likely to benefit from Brexit? John Elworthy, editor of the Wisbech Standard is not convinced.

I'm not sure that they will because we'll have to find somebody else to blame if the education system doesn't get fixed, the health service doesn't get fixed and we don't get better housing.

What will happen if we don't get a better retail offer in the town or the general improvements people argue we desperately need here? If we don't get them post Brexit, people will say 'blimey did we hit the wrong button when we voted to come out?'

– John Elworthy, Wisbech Standard

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