EU referendum: London council could become first in the UK to declare support for 'out' vote

Ukip councillors in the London Borough of Havering believed their motion would pass

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Indy Politics

A London council could become one of the first in England to announce its support for Britain leaving the European Union.

Ukip councillors have put forward a motion calling on the London Borough of Havering to declare an anti-EU position ahead of next year's referendum.

“Due to the negative impact that EU directives such as the agency working time directive and EU procurement rules have on the ability and cost of Havering Council to fulfil its obligations, this council agrees that Britain would be better off outside the European Union,” the statement said.

It was due to be considered on Wednesday evening, just days after an opposing motion was passed backing the union in Leicester.

The city council, which is all Labour bar one Conservative and one Liberal Democrat, supported a statement saying “it is in the best interests of residents, business and the whole city of Leicester for the UK to remain a member of the European Union”.  

Councillor Lawrence Webb, who leads Havering’s Ukip group and stood as the party’s London mayoral candidate in 2012, was confident his motion would have similar success.

He said that although his party has only eight out of 53 council members, a “broad coalition” of Eurosceptics exists across the local Conservatives and residents’ groups.

“The motion is about bringing the issue to people’s attention,” Mr Webb told the Independent.

“There’s all this talk but I don’t think people are being given the full information.”

He cited the EU’s Landfill Directive, which has caused councils to incur large fines for missing targets, among the “decisions made in Brussels and rubber-stamped in Westminster” that he believes are negatively affecting local authorities.

An amendment by Havering’s Independent Residents’ Group had been filed broadly in support of the Ukip motion ahead of the meeting, adding a call to “restore the sovereignty of Parliament and strengthen our borders… and protect the NHS”.

But opposition was already coming from the larger, and completely separate, East Havering Residents’ Group, which submitted its own amendment urging the council to take no position ahead of next year’s in-out referendum.

“As representatives of the whole borough, this Council notes that it is for individuals to decide for themselves, rather than as a Council, as to whether or not Britain would be better off outside the European Union,” it said.

Mr Webb dismissed it as an “amendment to stifle debate” and said other councillors were supporting the formation of a campaign group pushing for an “out” vote in Havering.

But the criticism was echoed by Labour London Assembly candidate Ivana Bartoletti, who told the Telegraph: “Although the UK's place in Europe touches all our lives, I'd encourage Havering Council to focus its mind on Havering's own crises.”

The Outer London borough, which borders Essex, has previously seen British National Party councillors elected and has no representation from Labour, the Liberal Democrats or Greens.

Nigel Farage’s party has made gains in recent local and general elections, with Romford’s Conservative and Eurosceptic MP, Andrew Rosindell, seeing his margin slip in the last general election as a Ukip candidate won almost a quarter of the vote. 

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