BREXIT will hit the North-East harder than any part of the UK, the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Hexham constituency has warned.

Stephen Howse spoke out at a hustings event at Ponteland United Reformed Church, which was attended by around 100 people.

“No Brexit deal is as good as what we have now,” said Mr Howse. “In the North-East, any form of Brexit is going to hit us harder than anywhere else in the country. No deal is still very much on the table, and the Liberal Democrats have a plan for growth.”

Mr Howse highlighted the economic benefits of trading within the EU, adding: “I’m in favour of Britain leading the European Union and leading the world. We can be an immense force if we lead, rather than shrinking and hiding behind an iron curtain.”

Green Party candidate Nick Morphet said the UK was stronger as part of Europe, and by remaining, it could be improved from within.

He cited reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, and the fight against poverty, terrorism and tax avoidance, as reasons to remain.

Labour’s Penny Grennan said the 2016 Brexit referendum fractured families and communities, and called for more protection for jobs, workers’ rights and the environment.

She added: “A no deal Brexit would be financially and economically disastrous for us.”

However, Conservative candidate Guy Opperman said the result of the 2016 referendum, to leave the EU, should be respected in the interests of democracy.

He added: “We have better provision in this country already than the EU, on things like the national living wage, sick pay, and maternity leave.

“These are things which are in our domain, our control and it is absolutely right, in my view, that we see this through.”

Mr Opperman referred to a member of the public he spoke to, who told him: “If we don’t respect this referendum result, why would I ever vote again?”

The candidates also discussed other issues, including poverty and the NHS. Mr Howse claimed there was “sickening poverty across the constituency area” while Mr Opperman insisted the NHS was not for sale.