The European Union – Leave or Stay? Vote in our poll!

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Sheffield will host the launch of a new democratic project to ‘open up’ the EU referendum next week [1], as campaigners seek to move the referendum debate ‘away from personalities and to policies instead’.

Sir Greg Knight and Melanie Onn provide their views on the EU Referendum with reasons why we should stay or leave. What is your view?

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Why I am backing the ‘Leave’ Campaign by the Rt Hon Sir Greg Knight MP. Member of Parliament for East Yorkshire.

Sir Greg Knight MP

When listening to supporters of the European Union (EU), even for just a few minutes, one cannot help being reminded of the career high point of the late actor John Laurie, who, as Private Frazer in the TV series “Dad’s Army”, was wont to regularly declaim “We’re all doomed….doomed.” ‘Doomed’ is what EU apologists would have you believe we all will be, if we should vote ‘Leave’ in the referendum on 23rd June this year.

The ‘remain’ manifesto is a farrago of fear, smear and downright garbage. They present our EU membership as a benign economic scheme but it is nothing of the sort. It is a political enterprise which is seeking the creation of full political union. As no British politician is publicly arguing that our country should be part of a United States of Europe, remaining part of this political project-whose objective we do not want, does not make sense.

I know that Pro-EU Ministers claim that we have secured a British ‘opt-out’ from political union but this is meaningless because if we stay Britain would remain subject to the ever-growing body of EU legislation and regulation all aimed at full political union. To then suggest that the world’s fifth largest economy would struggle to make its way in the world without being part of the EU insults the intelligence of the whole electorate who deserve better from the ‘remain’ camp.

If we leave the EU we would no longer have to pay our annual subscription of some £20bn a year, of which we get back less than half and our business and industry would no longer have to carry the burden of excessive European regulations.

Of course, we would have to conform to EU regulation when exporting to the EU, just as we have to conform to US regulations when exporting to the USA. But exports to the EU represent only some 13% of UK Gross Domestic Product, and this proportion is declining. The liberation of the remaining 87% of the UK economy from Brussels red tape would enable us to chase new overseas markets, free from unnecessary EU regulation.

At this point in the argument, those who want the UK to remain raise the spectre of the EU imposing punitive tariffs against a Britain that is outside the EU but why should they? Britain currently exports goods and services to the EU to the value of £228 billion, but their exports to us amount to over £290 billion. We have a trade deficit with the EU of £61.7 billion, so why would the EU throw this away?

Remember too that there is no such thing as ‘EU money’. There is only taxpayers’ money and the UK is the second largest contributor to the EU budget. Some of Britain’s poorest and most deprived regions are subsidizing other EU member states. We would be better off not giving our money away to the EU and instead deciding how to spend British tax-payers’ money ourselves, in our own country. Whilst we remain in the EU we cannot even control our own borders, with European courts being in charge of who we let in and who we can remove.

Then there is the ridiculous assertion from the remain camp that the EU has “kept the peace in Europe”. This is nonsense as credit for this should go to NATO -and no-one is suggesting that Britain quits NATO. The question we need to decide on 23rd June is do we want to claim our country back or are we content remaining the second largest contributor to a flawed ‘political unity project’, which we have never, ever aspired to being part of?

‘Doomed’ if we leave? Don’t be ridiculous. As history shows, Britain is made of sterner stuff.

Why I am backing the ‘Stay’ Campaign by Melanie Onn MP. Member of Parliament for Great Grimsby.

Melanie Onn MP

Grimsby has seen huge investment in its offshore wind industry in recent years, creating hundreds of jobs and helping us become the green energy capital of England. On a recent visit to the DONG operations and maintenance centre on Grimsby docks, every employee I spoke to was from the local area. This investment is benefitting the local economy, with Grimsby businesses like WR Gaskets supplying parts for the turbines. We’ve also seen AIS investing £10 million in a new training centre complex (at an EU-funded site), so young people can get the skills they need to access these jobs.

That investment in offshore wind comes mainly from Denmark and Germany. We shouldn’t make it any harder for those companies to create jobs for people in Grimsby, but leaving the EU would do just that. For example, companies sometimes need to bring experienced workers to the UK initially, while a new site is being set up. But after we’ve left the EU and free movement of labour, many want Britain to start issuing work visas, which companies would find costly and burdensome.

As a country, over half of everything we sell to the world is sold to Europe. Every day, goods worth millions of pounds are shipped between our docks at Grimsby and Immingham, and mainland Europe. My town is a gateway to the rest of the continent, and it would be hugely damaging to local business if we were to shut ourselves off from that.

I have recently glimpsed what being outside the single market could look like for Britain. A business in my area exports dried fish to Nigeria. The Nigerian government banned fish products from being imported, shutting my local business off from their largest customers.

This is the sort of protectionism doesn’t happen to UK businesses in Europe. However, out of the single market, it will be down to other nations to decide whether they accept our goods into their economy.

Businesses I speak to recognise the ease of trading within a market of agreed standards and rules. Unlike when they deal with countries outside of Europe, there is no need to apply for work visas or pay import duties, and there’s less form-filling and red tape. What worries me most is that, while some big businesses can afford to take on the extra cost of more bureaucracy and tariffs, many smaller exporters simply cannot.

Many of those campaigning to leave the EU have used the recent crisis in the steel industry to make the opposite point- that our government is prevented from helping protect British industry because of EU regulations. That is simply not true.

The fact is that the Conservative Government have not supported the steel sector as much as other European governments. For example, they could have brought business rates for capital intensive firms in line with those paid in France and Germany. Instead, British steel continues to pay 5-10 times more than its EU competitors.

In response to China’s dumping of steel, which has caused this crisis by driving down the commodity price, the US has slapped a 236% tariff on Chinese steel. Why, ask the Leave campaigners, has the EU prevented Britain from doing the same? The reality is that many European countries wanted to match the US with an EU tariff, but it was our own Government which blocked it, as the Business Secretary has admitted. So exit from the EU is not what is needed to save our steel industry- for that we need a change of government.

Our local businesses should be expanding and selling their products further afield – to the US, China, India and across the world. The Team Humber Marine Alliance recently visited the USA on a trade mission to showcase their members, and found plenty of interest in Humber-based businesses. They can more easily trade overseas as part of the largest economy in the world- the EU.

I’ll be making the case to voters in Grimsby to vote to stay in Europe on 23rd June. I hope that every business involved in tourism, shipping, exporting or importing from and to Europe will also speak up and make sure people know how beneficial our links to Europe are for the local economy.