Wigan campaigners clash on Brexit poll

An EU flag flies in the face of Parliament
An EU flag flies in the face of Parliament

Remain and Leave campaigners from the borough had very different views after a shock poll suggested Wiganers want to stay in the EU.

Residents answering a question posed on Wigan Today’s Twitter delivered a very different verdict to previous surveys on Brexit, with 54 per cent opting to Stay and 46 per cent Leave after more than 650 votes were cast.

The outcome raised some eyebrows as Wigan was a heartland for Brexit in the 2016 referendum with one of the region’s highest Leave votes.

Remain campaigner Will Patterson said there was a lot of frustration around the EU talks while Leave’s Michael Winstanley was sceptical at the result and suggested Britain should simply walk away.

Wigan and Leigh Green Party leader Mr Patterson said: “That result is quite impressive and not one I would have expected.

“I think some Remain voters have a secret hope that people who voted Leave will agree they were wrong and we were right and say sorry and admit to being foolish, and that is never going to happen.

“What I would say is Brexit campaigners make the mistake that everyone in places like Wigan is as enthusiastic about it as they are.

“People voted over issues like the economy not being as strong as it could be in Wigan, the health service, frustration with politicians and a feeling that Wigan Council, never mind Brussels, is quite remote and distant from them.

“It’s fair to say reality has bitten and people are saying the talks are giving them less than they expected. It’s a lot more complex and a lot of the promises can’t be delivered.

“On the doorstep at the general election I detected a lot of frustration about the big hopes invested in Leave, and that could be driving support for Remain now.”

Coun Winstanley, the leader of the opposition and the borough’s Conservatives, said he found the talks frustrating too but laid the blame squarely at Europe’s door.

He said:“No-one I have spoken to who voted Leave say they wish they hadn’t. Their views have been entrenched.

“People are fed up with the way EU has dealt with the whole negotiation process. They are very difficult, put every single obstacle in the way and don’t want a deal in order to prevent other countries wanting to leave.

“We’re the only ones wanting to negotiate and their bullying shows why we are right to be coming out.

“If they don’t want a deal than that’s fine but it will massively impact their access to our markets. We need to play hardball and they need to realise a deal is in their interest.

“Lots of other countries do want deals and I’m looking forward to trading with the rest of the world once we leave the single market and customs union.

“If they don’t want to negotiate then we fall back on World Trade Organisation rules. I’m relaxed about that.”

Mr Patterson and Coun Winstanley also differed over whether there should be a second referendum on the final deal struck in Brussels.

Mr Patterson said taking back control what was the public voted for but Coun Winstanley said there would be chaos if the deal was rejected and including an option to stay would fail to honour the referendum.