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Brexit cafe to heal referendum wounds

Sophie Clausen (on left) and Manuela Perteghella
Sophie Clausen (on left) and Manuela Perteghella

A radical initiative to help heal the wounds inflicted by last year’s EU referendum will be launched today (Friday).

If there’s one thing that can build bridges between leavers and remainers, it’s a cup of tea, at least that’s the belief of the organisers of Stratford’s Brexit Café, which will run at the Townhouse in Stratford from 10.30am.

The aim is to bring both sides together to engage in constrictive dialogue, listening and reaching an understanding of each other’s point of view.

The idea has been developed by Stratford residents Sophie Clausen and Manuela Perteghella, both originally from Europe, but have settled in Stratford to bring up their families.

The Brexit Café will provide an unthreatening environment where people can open up about their fears and put forward their views without the risk of being misunderstood or shouted down.

Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi, who campaigned for Britain to leave the EU last year, is expected to attend the event.

Entrance to the first Brexit Café is by invitation early, though Sophie and Manuela are hoping it will pop up on a regular basis around the town in the New Year, when everyone can attend.

Sophie said: “Brexit has been very hurtful and frightening for me personally, so the Brexit Cafe is a way to reach out and talk to people who have different views to me.

“I want to try and understand why people voted Leave by talking to them face to face in a friendly way, and not by reading the news, which fills me with fear and perplexity. From all my years of living in this country, I know that British people are caring and kind, and this is what I want to hold on to. I don't want to be swayed by anxiety and uncertainty.”

Manuela added: “Both leavers and remainers still have two very important things in common: their love for this beautiful country, and their wish to secure the best future for the United Kingdom."

The event is being supported by Stratford4Europe, a local, cross-party, grass-roots organisation campaigning for Britain to play a leading role within a strong and united European Union.

Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi said: "The decision on whether or not the UK should remain a part of the EU has of course already been taken.

"Nonetheless I remain happy to engage with and talk to those on all sides of the Brexit debate and Friday’s café will provide a good opportunity to do this in a relaxed and friendly setting. I am very much looking forward to it."

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