Former Tory Chancellor and ardent “Remain” campaigner Ken Clarke QC MP is to speak in Spalding – home of the country’s second highest “Vote Leave” result in the EU referendum.
Mr Clarke hosts a night at the South Holland Centre on May 25 in the second of two South Holland meetings organised by The European Movement, which describes itself as “an independent, cross-party organisation committed to keeping the UK in the EU”.
The European Movement’s Lincolnshire branch is holding a series of events under the title “The Bexit Dialogue: Explaining the Facts, Exposing the Myths, Exploring the Options”, and another high profile speaker – Lord Adonis – is set to attend two speaking dates in the county.
Holbeach management consultant Alan Meekings, who has organised the Spalding event along with one in Holbeach on April 20, said the series is deliberately launched in the “Leave capital of the UK” but that step isn’t about inciting trouble.
“No, we definitely don’t envisage that,” he said. “We want Leavers, Remainers and Agnostics to come together to have a conversation.”
Mr Meekings continued: “We accept the outcome of the referendum but we live in a democracy – if you can’t change your mind, you don’t have a democracy.”
He says the events are designed to allow people to learn more about Brexit, as it evolves, and the likely implications for them, their families, workplaces and the country.
While the EU referendum of 2016 set the UK on a path to Brexit, Mr Meekings believes it is important for the public to follow the negotiations and understand what it will really mean.
He said: “We may have a General Election or possibly a referendum on the terms actually available.”
Speaking about his reasons for holding meetings in the Leave capital, Mr Meekings says: “This area is currently a successful centre for horticultural, agricultural and food processing, import and transport in the UK, for which the implications of Brexit, and resulting consequences for our rural communities in particular, are looking increasingly worrying.”
He says much has changed since 2016, when the Leave campaign was making promises like “£350million a week extra for the NHS”, and young people are increasingly concerned about EU citizen rights that they inherited at birth being “stolen” from them.
Mr Meekings said: “Although unmanaged migration was a prominent issue in this area in 2016, new facts and new opportunities have since emerged. These merit public discussion locally.”
Ken Clarke, president of the East Midlands European Movement, has been MP for Rushcliffe since 1970 and has held top jobs in the Government, including Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary and, from 2010-2012 Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. Names of other speakers and further details of the May 25 event will be announced soon and then free tickets can be booked from the South Holland Centre’s Box Office.
Edward Bickham, vice chairman of the Conservative Group for Europe and a leading expert in relations between the UK and EU, will speak at the April 20 event, which starts at 7.30pm in the WI Hall, Park Road, Holbeach. Free advance bookings can be made via www.euromovelincs.org.uk/events