A year ago today Britain voted to leave the European Union. What that means is still unclear. Exit negotiations began in Brussels only four days ago.

Hard Brexit or soft? Will the UK prioritise immigration control or will it compromise in an effort to avoid hefty trade tariffs? How much power does the UK have, as its weakened government negotiates with 27 countries?

Amid the uncertainty, what happened 12 months ago is clear. On June 23, 2016, 51.9 per cent of those who took part in the referendum voted to leave the EU.

In Cumbria the figure was 56.4 per cent. South Lakeland was the only district in the county that voted to stay. In Carlisle 60.1 per cent wanted out.

Daniel Chamier believes the UK made a bad decision based on claims – such as an extra £350m a week for the NHS – which were misleading at best.

Daniel is chief executive of John Chapman, which makes hand-crafted bags in its factory at Harraby Green, Carlisle. About 20 per cent of the company’s products are sold to EU countries.

“Referendums are not particularly democratic,” he says. “They’re unaccountable. If a government told you something in its manifesto and it turned out to not be true, you could vote them out next time. With a referendum, you can’t.

“The benefits of Brexit we were promised were saving money, less immigration, getting a good trade deal. We haven’t heard a lot about those kinds of things in the last few months. We’re not going to know until the end of negotiations. My sense is the people who championed those causes are not shouting so loudly now.

Daniel Chamier “Losing the single market would be damaging. If we had to whack 10 per cent tariffs on our goods, that’s damaging.”

Daniel thinks the case for a ‘hard Brexit’, with no compromise on issues like immigration, has weakened since this month’s General Election produced a hung parliament.

“A few months ago I’d have said things are heading towards a potentially difficult outcome. The election has changed that a bit.

“Theresa May, having gone to the electorate on a hard Brexit platform and lost her majority on that basis, it’s difficult for her now to turn around and say, ‘This is what everyone wants’ because clearly it isn’t.

“Calling how things are going to turn out in advance of negotiations is anyone’s guess. I think it’s more likely now that there will be compromise, which is potentially better for businesses.”

Even businesses which do not trade directly with the EU have already been affected by Brexit. The pound’s slump in value since the referendum has made exports more lucrative and imports more expensive.

Bell’s of Lazonby, which employs about 250 people, does not sell directly to the EU.

It has been impacted by a higher cost of ingredients. Managing director Michael Bell says: “We buy lots of things that don’t grow in this country, like nuts and dried fruit. A weak currency means ingredients that are traded in euros and dollars cost a lot more.

“The instability is worrying. Theresa May’s mantra of ‘strong and stable’ was good. But we haven’t got that. There’s going to be two years of real uncertainty during negotiations.”

Michael Bell Michael believes that businesses will adapt to whatever conditions are created by politicians. “I think people get themselves far too wrapped up in trade agreements.

"Business is very dynamic. Business will ultimately sort out the business of trade. We’ve got Mercedes vans and Volvo cars in our car park. They want to continue to sell to us just as we want to continue to sell to them.”

In the arguments over immigration control – can we have free trade without free movement of EU citizens? – Michael is concerned about immigrants being demonised.

“A lot of my colleagues are from eastern Europe. They’re a vital part of the UK economy. I hope that will continue. Try going to any city, or a hotel in the Lake District, and ordering a pint of beer, a coffee or a meal. Without eastern Europeans the whole service economy would grind to a halt.”

About three-million EU nationals live in Britain. The Government has refused to guarantee their post-Brexit status as it waits to see if British citizens will be allowed to stay in EU countries.

EU nationals in Cumbria include Slawek and Monika Pawlak, who run JW Polish Shop on West Tower Street, Carlisle. They moved to the city in 2006.

Monika and Slawek Pawlak Slawek says: “A lot of people are going back to Poland because they’re not sure what’s happened after Brexit. We want to stay. We’ve lived here 11 years. My children are born here. My son is six. My daughter is eight.”

Are they Polish or British? “Both. They speak Polish at home and English at school.”

He adds: “It’s strange that Britain wants to stand alone. In business, when you join with a big company you can grow. Get a better price. When you try to work by yourself your costs go up.”

Karol Pietruszka is another Pole in Carlisle. He and his wife Ewelina have two sons. Karol has been in the UK for 12 years and owns KP Joinery, which has employed British and Polish workers.

He says: “Nothing has changed yet. We don’t know what’s going to happen next. Nobody knows. I have been here long enough [to be allowed to stay]. It might affect those people who came here more recently. The people who just came here a few years ago, they might have to go.”

Karol says most immigrants come to work rather than claim benefits. “Not many English people want to do the factory work or pick vegetables.”

A year ago he heard reports of some eastern Europeans, including children, being taunted in the wake of the Leave vote.

Karol Pietruszka

“I’ve got some friends who work in factories. After the referendum there were a few comments: ‘Are you still here? You’re not supposed to be here anymore. Go home’. There were a few comments in schools for kids: ‘Go back home. You’re not welcome here anymore’.

"That was just after the vote. I haven’t heard anything in the last few months.”

Fiona Mills is chairman of UKIP Cumbria. She remains committed to seeing the UK sever its ties with the European Union.

“I have faith in [Brexit negotiators] David Davis and Steve Baker. They are solid Brexiteers and should deliver what the electorate voted for – a complete withdrawal from the European Union and all its constructs, including the single market.

“The General Election result should have no impact on our negotiating position – Conservative, Labour and UKIP voters all voted for manifestos committed to Brexit.

“The UK holds all the cards in the discussions and I’m optimistic we will get a free trade deal and will regain control of our laws and borders. Anything less would be unacceptable.

"Watch this country prosper once we negotiate our own trade deals. The doubters will eat their words. The UK economy continues to grow in spite of the ‘uncertainty’. The Leave arguments will be shown to be true, unlike the ‘project fear’ claims of the Remain camp.”

Fiona Mills Fiona says the ‘£350m a week for the NHS’ claim was made by Boris Johnson rather than UKIP. She insists that the party has a future despite its main aim having been achieved last summer, and its share of the vote slumping to two per cent at the General Election, down from 12.6 per cent in 2015.

Fiona stood for the party in Carlisle, where its vote share fell by nine per cent.

She said: “UKIP is a bona fide party with an excellent, properly costed manifesto. We fully expected our vote share to drop as we only stood in 377 seats, leaving the way clear for incumbent Labour or Tory MPs committed to Brexit. We put country before party. We will surge again.”

As with all things Brexit, time will tell. Is Michael Bell optimistic about the future for his business and his country?

He says: “I’m a baker – I’ve got to be optimistic. I’ve got to believe the bread is going to rise overnight.”