Romford MP Andrew Rosindell on life after Brexit
- Credit: Adriana Elgueta
Today, three years after the UK voted to leave the European Union, we can finally say goodbye to our European passports as Brexit finally comes into being.Or can we?
You'd be forgiven for not giving any significance to Friday January 31's departure, after so many Brexit extensions, negotiations and press conferences.
Conservative MP for Romford and long-standing Leave campaigner Andrew Rosindell spoke to the Recorder in an exclusive interview to clarify what's going on and what he believes lies in store for Havering in a post-Brexit world.
"You're now sitting in what is the Havering Vote Leave headquarters, this is also the Conservative headquarters, this became cross-party and we had all kinds of people from different backgrounds came to this building and this where it all started," he told a Recorder reporter at Margaret Thatcher House in Western Road, Romford.
Since the Brexit campaign started, having one of the highest Leave votes in the country, with 69.7 per cent voting for Leave, it was named as one of the Brexit heartlands. The world's media descended on Havering, with TV crews from Austria, Norway and beyond coming to this corner of Romford.
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In fact, in January 2016, more than five months before the UK-wide referendum, Havering Council became the first local authority in the country to pass a motion - by 30 votes to 15 - declaring the UK would be better off outside the EU.
Mr Rosindell said: "Havering led the way on this, we were one of the parts of the country that was seen as the impetus behind this and it was clear that there was much greater scepticism about the EU than anyone had ever thought, around here especially."
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But what exactly is going to change from one day to the next on Friday January 31?
Well, not a lot. The "transition period" begins on January 31 and ends on December 31 2020, as Mr Rosindell explained.
"What we have agreed to do is to use the next 11 months not to radically change anything, so we're not suddenly going different directions, we're going to stick within the bounds of EU laws as a transition whilst we negotiate what we hope will be able to get good free trade agreements.
"After December, we're no longer bound to EU institutions and laws."
What's the main difference between Boris' deal and Theresa's deal?
"Theresa's deal was that if at the end of the transition period, if we haven't got a free trade agreement then we fall into what they called the backstop," he explained.
"So if at the end of this year, if we hadn't agreed a free trade agreement then we would be locked into the backstop permanently until the EU decide that we can be released from it. The backstop meant that the transition period continues, so we're still locked into all the rules regulations and we pay for being in it.
"Boris' is that we are out December 31 deal or no deal on the free trade."
What does Brexit mean for Havering's local economy?
"I don't think being in the EU was of any benefit in the first place. If you've got a local bookshop, for instance, in or out the EU, it's not going to make a big difference - it's more like the bigger businesses that trade globally.
"However, if there are niche businesses that produce things -I know of one in Romford, they will benefit because they won't be bound by all these EU rules regulations, so a lot of small businesses can be less regulated, this company in North street, they trade with the far east mostly, they don't trade with the EU and yet they have to abide by all these EU rules."
"If you do trade with Europe, we will want to have that free trade agreement with Europe, to have that free flow of their products and not have any barriers."
Could there be any improvement for car parking charges or high street shops closing?
Following various protests over the last six months in Havering over the closing of high street shops linked to rising car park charges, Mr Rosindell, rather than car parking charges, puts the demise of the high street shops down to online competitors as well as increasing business rates.
He puts the rise in car parking charges down to less local government funding received over the last 10 years"It depends on the local government, on what services they're providing but I think we've got a great example of a council that has actually managed that transition with having less money but still running good services, this is why I just find it bizarre, these people protesting.
"I think people in wealthy parts of the borough like Upminster, complaining about these things, I think they need to get real.
"They should go to Barking and Dagenham and Newham and tell me if they'd rather be in a borough like that."
What would be your advice to any EU nationals in Havering?
"Any EU citizen here currently can apply for settled status, it doesn't cost anything, they have the right to remain here and they can expect to be treated the same.
"It's only new people who want to come, and then they'd have the same rules that apply to an American or an Australian."
Do you think there's any feeling of animosity towards EU nationals?
"I've never come across anyone that has any animosity unless people have behaved badly.
"I do think there's generally a feeling that mass immigration is not a good thing, it should be gentle and those people should integrate within the community and become part of society.
"You don't want huge numbers coming over and changing the nature of an area and I think it was getting to a stage where the whole area was changing and that's not a good thing."
Andrew and other Leave campaigners will be celebrating the departure on Friday at Romford's Conservative headquarters at Margaret Thatcher House, where they will be serving exclusively English sparkling wine and pie and mash.