Hopes and fears of a new reality in Sheffield after EU poll

23 June 2016....Sheffield awaits the outcome as the UK takes to the polling stations to decide on its the future membership of the EU. Picture Scott Merrylees
23 June 2016....Sheffield awaits the outcome as the UK takes to the polling stations to decide on its the future membership of the EU. Picture Scott Merrylees
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A week on since more than half of referendum voters in Sheffield indicated that the UK should leave the EU, the city is still digesting the result and its huge implications both locally and nationally.

The Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, mindful of the uncertainty the vote to leave has caused, is calling for business in the city to ‘carry on as normal’, while the council’s focus on attracting investment from China has been further sharpened following the poll.

But, in the absence of a formal plan for the UK’s future relationship with the EU, the outlook for Sheffield, and the impact on its universities and economy, remains unclear.

Prime Minister David Cameron has already said he cannot guarantee Sheffield will still receive £180m of planned EU funding over the next four years following the Brexit vote.

Tamara Hervey, professor of EU law at Sheffield University, encouraged residents to lobby their MP to find out the detail of any new deal.

“In our constitutional law, Parliament represents the will of the people. And, unusually, right now London is listening to us – they have to,” said Prof Hervey.

“Civil servants are starting to work it out: the most likely outcome is ‘the Norway option’. That continues the UK’s membership of the European Economic Area. Most of EU law will still apply, but we won’t be round the table when it’s made, we will just have to accept it.

“If you voted because you’re worried about local jobs, or the steel industry, ask how that will be improved. The Norway option includes the same rules on free movement of people from the EU and on aids to national industries, as apply now.”

Prof Hervey said the same questions should be applied to the NHS, funding for universities and local services, and the nation’s sovereignty.

“We will be rule takers, not rule-makers,” she said.

Sheffield’s leave campaign won by 6,000 votes - 51 per cent of the total vote. On a turnout of 67 per cent, Sheffield mirrored the national picture, where 51 per cent of people also voted to leave.

Meanwhile Sheffield’s council leader Julie Dore, and deputy leader Leigh Bramall, were in China with a trade delegation speaking to firms.

Last year the council agreed, in principal, a major deal with a Chinese construction company.

One project already under way with Chinese backing is New Era Square, a £65m scheme of flats, offices and shops near Bramall Lane. Efforts are also being made in Sheffield to host the Horasis Business Conference in November, with the aim of pulling in more Chinese funding.