A very British betrayal: how the promise to ‘take back control’ was captured by a hard-line elite

In a week when Parliament is making an attempt to widen and deepen the discussion around Brexit and the conditions of our departure from the EU, a new report  from the New Weather Institute – Brexit – The Blackbird Leys Memo – warns that the government is now taking the British people for granted, denying them a voice and the very control over their lives promised by the campaign to leave the EU.

The memo is the report of an open, community conversation in an area where a majority voted to leave the EU. Its purpose was to listen to residents discuss what they wanted from Brexit with no pre-set agenda. The resulting conversation makes clear that the British people have still not been given the time or space to shape the kind of country we want.

Brexit: the Blackbird Leys Memo summarises the hugely diverse concerns of residents gathered at the community centre in Blackbird Leys, a community on the light industrial rim of Oxford. They discussed education, jobs, housing, immigration, social relationships and how to get along as a community. Blackbird Leys voted 53 percent in favour of Brexit, in the city of Oxford which voted 83 percent to Remain.

Communities with a majority who voted to leave the EU contain many questions, worries and thoughts about our country, which cannot be contained by simple labels like Leave or Remain. The strongest message from the meeting was that, with huge irony, people were not being listened to or even asked ‘how’ they would like to ‘take back control’, and are unable to get into the discussion about their future in Blackbird Leys, and in Britain more broadly.

The New Weather Institute organised this meeting because we believe there is a right and duty for society to be involved in its own future.This is among the few times in the UK such an event has been held, but, we hope, not the last. This report shows why.  We still urgently need a Great Conversation across Britain – and one which will effectively shape our future.

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