MEPs for Bucks, including Nigel Farage, share their thoughts on Brexit
Last Friday the United Kingdom officially left the European Union after 47 years of membership and with it our 73 MEPs, including the 10 representing Aylesbury Vale as part of the South-East constituency, would no longer sit in the European Parliament.
We contacted some of the MEPs who have been representing us to find out how they feel about this pivotal moment in our history.
As reported on Brexit Day itself, the architect of Brexit, Nigel Farage, leader of The Brexit Party, was one of our MEPs and we managed to catch up with him as he was on his way to celebrate in Parliament Square.
When asked how he felt about leaving the European Union his response was predictably jubilant. He said: "It's a huge moment in history, whichever way you voted in the referendum and however you feel, it's happening. The war is over and we've all got to except and understand where we are and make the absolute best of it in a spirit of unity."
When asked if there was anything he would miss, he replied: “Of course - I'll miss the drama, I'll miss being the pantomime villain, I'll miss all the people in Buckinghamshire writing to me - of course I'll miss those things. It's been a huge part of my life. I've been a representative for your county over the course of four different decades, which in itself is pretty remarkable."
Afterwards we contacted Anthony Hook, who took office for the first time in May 2019, about his reflections on this most significant of turning points in our country's political outlook.
With regards to Brexit itself, Mr Hook was somewhat less optimistic than Mr Farage. He said: "I feel it's a very sad day for our country. I think it's a mistake that will damage our country's standing and position in the world and the quality of life for the people who live here, particularly regarding opportunities for young people."
We asked what he would miss from his short time as an MEP and he replied: "I'll miss the chance to speak up for people in the south-east and to make a difference to European law and European policy. Very often a letter from an MEP would get an issue the attention that it deserved."
Clearly proud of his work, Mr Hook continued: "I co-wrote the European Parliament's resolution on the issues in Hong Kong which were that two million people were protesting on the streets, a quarter of the population, against an extradition bill that would mean the People's Republic of China could extract anyone from Hong Kong and send them to prison camps or worse in mainland China.
"That resolution became the policy of the EU and was conveyed to the Chinese Government by the EU and led to the extradition bill being withdrawn. I'm not saying it was the sole cause, it was one of perhaps a dozen things, but right from my first month I was able to have an impact.
"Regarding our region, knife-crime is a big problem. I raised the issue of knife-crime and that led to a European Parliament research report being written in every single member state including looking at how knives are sold."
Mr Hook spoke passionately about his European colleagues and how emotional last week was for him. He explained: "They felt like they were having part of their family taken away from them. We didn't want to go and they didn't want us to go. There were a lot of tears.
We also contacted Liberal Democrat Judith Bunting, who gave a rousing speech in the European Parliament last Wednesday that can be viewed on our website.
Writing to us on how she feels about the EU, Ms Bunting said:
“I am sad and worried for the future. Britain is a great, sovereign nation and, working alongside our neighbours in Europe, we did well. The fact that successive governments chose not use the powers they had, still mystifies me. I was happy with free movement, but the UK was never part of the Schengen free movement area and any government could have tightened up immigration at any time, had they wished. Where workers' rights are concerned, the working time directive was negotiated on behalf of employers. It has since become the best protection that workers have in the UK. Now, it is gone.”
With regards to her own work, Ms Bunting wrote:
“I took part in big decisions and was satisfied that - whether I agreed with the outcomes or not - through cooperation, negotiation and compromise Parliament was reflecting the will of the huge range of individuals who had elected us all.
“Last week, when I left, I was being useful and supporting our universities and businesses, halfway through setting the agenda for the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT) for the next seven years. The EIT is hardly known, here, but it puts millions into the economy and jobs in the South East every year.
“Having the chance to take a group of 30 or so UK apprentices to Brussels to show them parliament and tell them how apprentices and entrepreneurs can take part in the Erasmus scheme was wonderful. Seeing their eyes shine as they learned about the opportunities available through the EU to live and work in other countries was the very best thing.
“After Brexit, the UK can still buy into Erasmus as a third country. We all need to watch and make sure that Johnson lives up to his promise to do that.”
Ms Bunting added:
“I love the UK and I will do everything I can to make sure that the future, whatever it is, is bright and successful. I send my very best wishes to everyone in Buckinghamshire involved in business, research and education, and wish you well as you negotiate the next few years.”