A Liberal Democrat councillor in Lichfield says he is “devastated and angry” after the UK voted to leave the European Union.
Brexit was confirmed last week after a majority backed the decision to exit the EU.
But Cllr Paul Ray, who was a prominent member of the remain campaign in Lichfield and Burntwood, said that while the result of the referendum must be respected, he questioned where a “divided” UK would go next.
“I am devastated and angry after the result of the vote. If people voted in, then they will I’m sure be feeling the same.
“I respect the public’s decision and so do not support the campaign for a second referendum. But I cannot share the vision of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. It is divisive and wrong for our country and in particular the young people who voted to remain by a considerable margin.
“However at this stage the leave campaign have no idea what our future settlement with the EU is going to look like.
“The Lib Dems are the only party in England that is fully pro-European – and undivided. We will continue to campaign for the UK to be full member of the EU. And if there is a General Election this year, this policy will be front and centre.”
Discussions over trade deals with international partners are likely to be the focus for the UK over the coming months.
And Cllr Ray said this need to be an open process.
“We must continue to promote that the UK must be outward-looking and international and that we need a settlement with the EU that is reasoned and not driven by a dogmatic anti-European stance,” he said. “Together we cannot afford to let the vision of the UK with a close relationship with our European neighbours die.
“But for me the result says as much about our divided country where millions of people feel disengaged. The map of the England showing how the regions voted says it all. Remain for London and some other – mainly comfortable – areas of the country, and leave for the rest of the country.
“Remain’s key messages during the campaign were about needing to protect the economy, continuing to attract inward investment, applauding the multinationals who use the UK as their main base in Europe. These were right and I actively promoted them.
“But what the vote shows is that these messages had no resonance with millions and millions. They said it didn’t mean anything to them and they could see none of the benefits.
“For decades now the wealth gap in our country has been widening and people are fed up. My view is that the leave vote was as much a vote of dissatisfaction with the establishment as an anti-EU vote.
“So we have to listen to the disengaged communities and address the fundamental issue of the wealth gap in the UK.”
Although Cllr Ray says the outcome of the EU referendum must be respected he has urged people to continue making their views known.
“If you are concerned about the future of our country in particular for the children and grandchildren in your families then I urge you to make your voice heard,” he added. “Keep speaking to friends and family, write to your local media, tweet, write to your MP – do whatever you can to ensure that the in voice continues to be heard loudly and passionately and that strong pressure is kept on the Government when negotiating with the EU.
“MPs and the Government need to be in no doubt of the strength of feeling among the 48% who voted in. Or you could even join the Lib Dems. Other parties are bitterly divided but we have always been united on our pro-European stance and more than 5,000 new members have joined the Lib Dems since polling day last week.
“We now enter a very difficult period for our country and together we have to ensure that the pro-European voice of just under half of the country continues to be heard loud and clear.”