Not tackling the domestic problems that led to 2016 Brexit vote would be a "betrayal", academic Anand Menon tells University of Leeds students

Professor Anand Menon of the UK in a Changing Europe research initiative
Professor Anand Menon of the UK in a Changing Europe research initiative
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Politicians need to address the causes of the Brexit vote once the UK leaves the European Union amid rising levels of inequality and declining faith in politics, according to a leading academic.

Giving a lecture at the University of Leeds, Professor Anand Menon tonight said it would be a “betrayal” if the issues that caused 17.4 million people to vote to leave the EU were not addressed as soon as possible.

The director of the UK in a Changing Europe research initiative, who was brought up in Wakefield, highlighted the high numbers of children in poverty and the glaring disparities in spending between London and the regions as among the problems not being tackled because of the focus on Brexit.

He said: “Parliament stopped at 3pm today, they had nothing to do so they stopped. Brexit has crowded everything else out. The Civil Service has been sent to do Brexit-related jobs. There is not the resource or the bandwidth to do anything else.”

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He added: “Ultimately the proof in the Brexit pudding will have next to nothing to do with the relationship we create between ourselves and the EU. It will be about what we do with our country after we leave.”

Prof Menon’s talk – Brexit; what happened and what happens next? – was delivered at the university’s Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre in Leeds.

He told the audience that all outcomes were still possible on Brexit, though it was “still highly conceivable” but not certain the May deal will go through.

And describing the alternatives, he said there was “nowhere near enough Parliamentary support” for a second referendum and despite some polls suggesting support, it is unclear if the public support it.

On the prospect of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, he said: “In the short-term it is going to be dreadful. It is not something any government wants to be in charge of.”

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He added that a good analogy for Brexit was a “slow puncture”, as the impact will be felt over a long period which blurs the political impact.

Organised by the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds, the event last night was chaired by Professor Jeremy Higham, Executive Dean for Education, Social Sciences and Law.

In Yorkshire, only three local authority areas, Leeds, Harrogate and York, voted in favour of staying in the EU.