Brexit: Campaigners for fresh referendum launch new campaign to dispel 'lazy caricature' of northern voters

Celebrities and MPs to help kick off People's Vote North campaign in Leeds 

Jeremy Corbyn is off the fence on Brexit and backing a second referendum

Campaigners demanding another Brexit referendum are to turn their focus to northern areas in a bid to put pressure on Jeremy Corbyn and step up efforts to secure a Final Say vote.

They will launch the People’s Vote North campaign in Leeds on Saturday as part of an attempt to put an end to the "lazy caricature" of voters in the north as people who "all think and act the same" and support Brexit.

The initiative is being backed by Labour MPs in northern areas including Hillary Benn, chair of the Commons Brexit committee, Phil Wilson, who was the architect of a plan to secure a parliamentary support for another referendum, and Bridget Phillipson.

Around 1,000 people are expected to attend the launch, where celebrities including former footballers John Barnes and Peter Reid, athletics world champion Steve Cram and ex-Coronation Street Star Denise Welch will address the crowd.

It will be the first in a series of "Let Us Be Heard" rallies taking place across the country throughout the summer.

Insiders said the People's Vote North campaign was an attempt to give voters in northern areas more of a voice in the Brexit debate, rather than having their perceived views presented and debated by politicians and campaign groups in London.

It will try to shift perceptions of people in the north, dispelling "lazy caricatures" of a homogenous mass of voters, while trumpeting the successes of the northern economy and trying to shift outdated ideas of industry based what one person involved called "mills and mines".

The latest move is also likely to be seen as a fresh bid to put pressure on Jeremy Corbyn and his team to fully commit to a Final Say vote, by demonstrating support for another poll in heavily Labour areas.

Labour figures who oppose another referendum have frequently cited hostility among voters in the party’s northern headlands as a key reason why the party should not support one.

Sources suggested that a major part of the campaign will involve emphasising the risks of a no-deal Brexit to the northern economy.

According to government analysis, the northeast would be 16 per cent poorer if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the northwest would be 12 per cent worse off and Yorkshire and the Humber 7 per cent poorer.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Mr Wilson, the MP for Sedgefield, said: "People in favour of a confirmatory ballot get a bit tired of the north just being seen as Brexitland. That's not the case - there were more people who voted Leave in the south east and south west than in the north east of England

"The majority of people in the north east of England voted to leave but three years on we're facing a no-deal Brexit that wasn't part of the campaign three years ago - Boris Johnson didn't talk about it, Nigel Farage didn't talk about it, Jacob Rees-Mogg didn't talk about it. They said a deal would be the easiest thing in the world to negotiate.

"The consequences for the north of a hard deal or no deal will be catastrophic - even the government's own assessments say that."

He added: "People in the north risk being ignored in this stereotype that they just want Brexit, as if they haven't got the right to change their minds. It's not as simplistic as people pretend or portray."

A People's Vote North spokesperson said: “The idea for a People's Vote North comes from MPs, campaigners and grassroots groups who are sick and tired of being caricatured a single mass of people who all think and act the same, who want to define their region as an outward looking place and not stuck in the past, and who want to reduce the gap between decisions being taken in Westminster and London and communities in the North who feel the greatest impact.”

They added: “Too often both the media and the leadership of political parties have fallen for a lazy caricature of the North that bears little relation to either polling numbers, votes in recent elections or detailed assessment of what Brexit means for jobs, public services and communities.

"Indeed, if a destructive Brexit is forced upon the North, it will be our region that will be hit first and worst - a £40bn hit to our economy that will see our families suffer, our jobs go, our schools and hospitals damaged."

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