Politicians, business leaders and universities on ‘Brexit’

Sheffield University Firth Court
Sheffield University Firth Court

Politicians, business leaders and city universities have spoken out after Sheffield and England backed ‘Brexit’.

Almost two-thirds of people in South Yorkshire voted to leave the European Union – in line with the national outcome.

Andrea Cropley, partner and head of corporate at Irwin Mitchell in the north.

Andrea Cropley, partner and head of corporate at Irwin Mitchell in the north.

Despite a narrow ‘leave’ vote in Sheffield, where 49 per cent opposed Brexit, the campaign to withdraw from the EU found huge support in Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham.

In the wake of the results, city leaders have spoken out.

Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, said he campaigned strongly to remain in the EU because he believed it was in ‘Britain’s best interests’, and said he was pleased his view was ‘overwhelmingly backed by voters in my constituency’.

Mr Blomfield said: “I’m obviously disappointed that, by the narrowest of margins, the country decided to end our 43-year old relationship with the rest of Europe.

Professor Chris Husbands.

Professor Chris Husbands.

“I think those who voted to leave will also be disappointed to see the leaders of that campaign already backtracking on the promises that they made to secure the result, like more money for the NHS.

“I’ll be pressing them on their promises, on how we overcome the economic damage we’re already seeing, and on how we heal the deep divisions their campaign provoked.”

Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East, said the result will create ‘enormous uncertainty’. He said: “Everyone knew what staying in the EU looked like, no-one has really explained what coming out of it looks like.

“The clear message is people do want to trade with the rest of the EU, but they don’t want whoever chooses to come and live and work in this country.”

Clive Betts MP

Clive Betts MP

Mr Betts said he was surprised at the national ‘out’ vote, but not as much by the local one due to concerns about the impact of immigration in traditional Labour strongholds like Sheffield.

He said: “A lot of people have concerns about people coming to take jobs, claiming benefits – all those arguments.”

Mr Betts said he didn’t think Labour’s voice was ‘heard enough’ during the campaign.

“At times, it felt like a private internal battle within the Conservative party.”

He said he was unsure what the impact of the UK’s departure on the local economy.

“Big international players like Rolls-Royce and Boeing are developing relationships with Sheffield. It would be really bad for the city if those companies pull back, even in the short term.”

Professor Chris Husbands, vice-chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, said he thought the result would have deep implications.

He said: “While we await clarity on some key specific issues, it is very clear that the implications of this result will be profound: extending beyond the market, economic and political turbulence of the next days and weeks.

“The vote to leave the EU does not mean there will be any immediate material change to the UK university sector’s participation in EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+, nor to the immigration status of current and prospective EU students and staff.

“Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty foresees a two-year negotiation process between the UK and other member states, during which time the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU will be decided. Until that process completes, the UK remains a member of the EU, and we expect the university’s academic collaborations across the EU to continue.

“Therefore, I can confirm that Sheffield Hallam will not change tuition fees for EU students that have already been published for 2016/17.

“There will be other impacts on the university, but it will take us some time to work them through. As policy develops, it will be vital for the university to act in a consistent and measured way.

“Our engagement with the world remains as strong and important as ever.”

A Sheffield University spokesperson said: “The university is carefully considering the implications of the result of the EU referendum to the university and to our staff and students. Our university is a Top 100 university globally and home to staff and students from around the world, including many from other EU nations. Scholars from these countries are central to the teaching of students and research in everything from medicine and science to engineering, social sciences and the arts and humanities.

“Naturally, a vote to leave the EU raises many important questions that require urgent answers - for universities, staff, students, prospective students, our research partners and other stakeholders. We will be working closely with other universities across the UK to seek answers to these questions as quickly and completely as possible.

“However, we should remember that leaving the EU will not happen overnight. The Lisbon Treaty foresees a two-year negotiation process between the UK and other member states, during which time the terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union will be decided. For this reason there will not be any immediate material change to the immigration status of current and prospective EU students and staff or to the UK university sector’s participation in EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+.

“Our primary concern at this time is for those staff and students who may be affected by the outcome of the referendum, and we will continue to offer advice and support to them over the coming weeks and months.”

Andrea Cropley, corporate partner at Sheffield law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: “The uncertainty in the run up to the EU referendum vote has dragged levels of M&A activity down compared to last year and although the outcome of the vote is now known, I think it is fair to say the market will remain jittery in the short to medium-term.

“It will however be interesting to see what happens as the year progresses. There is currently uncertainty about future trading opportunities for UK companies, but ambitious businesses will need to review their strategic options and this could drive a wave of transactions as businesses look to bolster their domestic and international sales channels.”