Fighting for a final vote on Brexit may yet reverse the UK’s slow reverse out of Europe – a public meeting in Dorchester heard.

The West Dorset for Europe meeting was told that campaigning was up to individuals – not leaving others to make the argument for them.

Chairman Kay Wilcox said: “We value our EU citizenship and the things we value we have to fight for. It’s down to us to do that…there has been a change in the public mood and if the facts change we should be allowed to change our mind.”

Both local MPs, Oliver Letwin and Richard Drax, are being petitioned by the group to support a final public vote once the details of the exit deal are known in the autumn.

The Dorford Centre audience was told that rural areas like Dorset might suffer disproportionately from the loss of EU membership – with less support for food and farming, rural transport and the environment after leaving.

Local landowner James Selby Bennett said he feared that without EU legislation and finance to protect rural areas there would be a fundamental shift in the countryside with a trend to mass-scale agri-businesses which would change the landscape forever.

He said: “We have nothing to fear from rules imposed by the EU, they’ve been pretty good for the environment and countryside…as a rural county we should broadly support what has served us so well in the past.”

He said that many family-owned farms, which cared for nature, would be forced to sell up without support.

South West MEP Julie Girling left people in no doubt why she has been suspended from the Tory whip with attacks on her own party for the Brexit debate and subsequent negotiations.

“There is no guarantee that any future UK Government will put the same amount of support into the rural economy and farming that the EU has forced our Government to do,” she said, accusing most UK MPs of following ‘urban-centric’ policies.

“There are arguments about whether we can use Brexit to make the countryside a better place. We are going to have to work really, really hard to turn a tragedy into an opportunity.”

The other platform speaker, Richard Hebditch, Government Affairs Director for the National Trust, said that a ‘Green Alliance’ had emerged which was lobbying for a new Environment Bill because of the fear about what Brexit would mean for the environment.