Worthing councillors clash over Brexit preparations: ‘We’re at the cliff edge’

Protesters gather outside Worthing town hall
Protesters gather outside Worthing town hall

Worthing councillors have clashed over Brexit as the UK prepares to leave the European Union without a deal.

The Liberal Democrats have written to the leader of the Conservative-led Worthing Borough Council, Dan Humphreys, calling for more communication over the reality of a no deal Brexit.

Dan Humphreys, leader of Worthing Borough Council

Dan Humphreys, leader of Worthing Borough Council

Deputy Lib Dem leader Martin McCabe said he wanted the council to provide more support for EU nationals living in the town,

“Leaving the EU without a deal will be catastrophic for Worthing,” he said. “As the only remain party on the council, the Liberal Democrats are standing up for our EU nationals. We’re at the cliff edge. We need to protect our residents from the harm of no deal Brexit.”

The UK heads towards the October 31 exit date without a deal after Parliament three times rejected a withdrawal agreement put forward by Theresa May.

Responding to the Lib Dems, Mr Humphreys accused both the Lib Dems and Labour of hypocrisy for being concerned about a no deal Brexit, having rejected past withdrawal agreements.

Worthing Liberal Democrats Martin McCabe and Bob Smytherman

Worthing Liberal Democrats Martin McCabe and Bob Smytherman

He said the council was working locally and countywide to ensure services run smoothly and the community was supported in a no deal Brexit.

He also pointed concerned EU nationals towards the Adur and Worthing councils website, which he said has links to government information on life after Brexit.

Parliament proroguing protest

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to leave the EU whether a deal or is struck or not, arguing it would be undemocratic to do otherwise.

Edward Crouch

Edward Crouch

His government decided to suspend Parliament for five weeks, which critics said removed vital time for MPs to debate no deal alternatives.

A Labour-led protest in Worthing last week accused the Government of stifling democracy, but Tory councillor Ed Crouch advised focusing on local issues rather than ‘rabble rousing’.

He said: “We are arguing about a national issue when we have local issues and all Labour have done is sit down on one of the busiest roads in the town.

“They don’t have anything particular to say, there’s no cohesion, no vision and the fact that they are majoring on a national issue like this means they have nothing to say about our town.

“It’s bafflingly ironic that protesters are by their own actions trying to subvert the democratic process.”

Labour’s Jim Deen countered the party was looking out for residents by challenging national decisions, which had a ‘profound effects’ on Worthing’s residents.

“I’d suggest to councillor Crouch that the reason his party has lost out so badly to Labour in Worthing over the last two years – to a point where we are just a few seats away from taking control of the council – is that he and his party have forgotten the importance of working with and for the people of Worthing,” he said.

“That’s also the answer to his criticism that we lack a vision for the town. Of course we don’t. But for us, it’s not about grandiose plans or development schemes. Our focus is on people and what they want, and how we can improve their day to day lives and that of their families and the broader communities in which they live.

“We understand that the council has limited resources. That’s why those resources have to be used wisely and to best effect. Lots of small changes and improvements won’t make big headlines, but they are going to have a much more profound impact on many more lives. That’s what Labour in Worthing is about. That’s what we’ll take into the elections next May. And that’s why we’ll be removing more Tories from the council.”