Today we face 80 days before the 31st October which according to the Government is the current and third date on which we will depart from the EU. Clearly some people are very unhappy that the departure has not already happened but many more of us would like the Government or the MPs in Parliament from all parties to use these 80 days to return to the people who will pay a huge price for this departure and determine if they still want us to leave? Although 80 days is only sufficient to go around the world if you are Phileas Fogg, it is certainly long enough for the 16 MPs across Sussex and indeed the other 29 across Surrey and Kent to reach out to their constituents in a more meaningful approach to ‘door step contacts’. In doing so they will no doubt also increase the level of confidence with which they are employed as our representatives. It is not always easy to detect how much contact an individual MP is having within their constituency, but the extent to which MPs are reaching out to the businesses in their communities through agencies such as the Chamber of Commerce is easy to measure and unfortunately there is very little indication that this is happening. By the same token the mechanisms for contacting the community and voluntary sector in locations is relatively easy to identify and one would hope that in the next 80 days all of the 45 MPs across our region will take the time and the trouble to go to meetings with the voluntary and the business sector and try to determine how people feel about our departure and the proposed departure date. Of course amongst the businesses and the community groups there are some that will be more sensitive than others. As Boris Johnson pointed out a few weeks ago, the North East is the only region which is a net exporter across the whole of our nation and so there are many businesses here in in our region whose work depends on importing products. Clearly these businesses will be ones that will have high levels of awareness regarding the impact of our departure and the cost of our diminishing currency, and the ones that import food and medical materials will be at least two of those very conscious agencies. Amongst the community and voluntary sector agencies such as foodbanks would be very useful ones for MPs to visit as the 80 days proceed as again there is genuine concerns regarding what would happen if jobs are lost as a result of our departure. Of course the businesses and charities in our area will not be the only ones preparing for our departure or at least anticipating it. Another group will be the public sector such as Police and the NHS and it seems worthwhile meeting with these agencies too, unless of course the MPs have already planned to do so. I am sure some of them will have not done so for a while and over the next three weeks the MPs have time away from Westminster to choose to do so. Clearly the Ministers may be less flexible, but even they need to ensure that their communities are being listened to.
Perhaps over the next few weeks the MPs from Sussex could contact this newspaper and any weekly papers to ask the residents and people who work in their constituency what their views are regarding the next 80 days and the period beyond that. It would be useful for them to also check up on the numbers of people who have signed the petition to revoke Article 50. The chance to sign this ends a week tomorrow but the petition which was started by Margaret Anne Georgiadou when I wrote this piece was a mere 4,382 signatures short of 6.1m which is a very significant number. Apart from Brighton Pavilion and Hove, the rest of Sussex has less than 20% signatories and five of our 16 constituencies are below 10%. However there are a total of 207,336 people in Sussex who signed to call for Article 50 to be revoked. This is surely a sizeable enough number of residents to persuade our 16 MPs to focus on the next 80 days as their parties attempt to make sense of what is about to happen. After all in the next 80 days, unless Parliament is recalled, they will be spending just over a quarter of that time up at Westminster so that gives them well over 50 days to visit and speak to businesses, charities and the public sector!