ON Monday night (Apr 15), I attended a depressing event. John Elliott of EBAC organised a Bishop Auckland Town Meeting on the subject of Brexit.

An audience of largely over-50s heard from him and the prospective Tory candidate for Bishop Auckland, Dehenna Davison-Fareham.

A token Liberal Democrat speaker was jeered and heckled all the way through his speech.

The two pro-Brexit speakers, plus Trevor Honeyman, recommended we could leave the EU with no-deal.

The audience cheered and clapped. Mr Elliott claimed that if we are reduced to trading on WTO rules, we can set differential tariffs on goods for different countries, in order to make the balance of trade with the EU favourable.

Surely, the way to improve the balance of trade is not to slam protectionist measures on imports, but to sell better goods that people want to buy.

I asked Mr Elliott how his differential tariff system would sit with the WTO’s “most favoured nation” provisions, which insist that each WTO member offers the same rate to every country.

He said WTO rules are “only guidelines” and the UK would be free to break them. Trade experts tell me this would be dangerous.

We would be in dispute with the WTO and subject to fines or retaliatory action. We would quickly become a country that nobody does business with.

Ms Davison-Fareham also thought no-deal would be acceptable, suggesting we take bigger risks with our economy than even the Prime Minister thinks reasonable. She does not appear to have been aware of the dangers of WTO trading to her potential farming constituents.

A man who asked about our Good Friday Agreement responsibilities was ignored.

It was impossible to tell whether the speakers really believed what they are saying, or whether they simply feel that other people should.

People in the North-East are right to have grievances, but those are best directed at the Westminster government, not the EU.

Brexit is being used to whip up nasty emotions, by people we ought to be able to trust.

Dr Judi Sutherland, Barnard Castle