These are opinions published in the Dartmouth Chronicle over the last few weeks
South West Devon MP Gary Streeter, in an opinion piece about the European Union referendum published at the end of February, had this to say:
AFTER months of speculation, we’re off: the referendum on EU membership will be held on June 23, 2016.
There are strong arguments and good people on either side. The entry of the charismatic Mayor of London into the fray on the leave campaign has electrified the debate. Good. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to settle this matter, and the arguments on both sides must be fully articulated. And the outcome is clearly going to be too close to call.
I have found the arguments finely balanced, but in the end, over the Christmas break, decided to support the campaign to stay in the European Union, warts and all. My three top reasons to remain are:
First, likely impact on our economy of leaving. I simply do not believe that if we leave the EU our former partners will provide us with a special free-market deal where we take all the benefits without the burdens.
In fact that is the last thing they would do. They will, I suspect, insist that if we are to have free trade it will be on the same basis as Norway and Switzerland: i.e. – we have to pay for it, and comply with the rules of the single market, including free movement of people. (On that basis, coming out and having free trade will not solve the immigration problem, so why do it?)
Five per cent of EU trade is with the UK, 50 per cent of our trade is with them.
If they cut us a special deal, they run the risk of others wishing to follow suit (contagion). Why would they do that? So I see no advantages in coming out and plenty of risks.
Second, in the inter-dependent globalising world in which we now live I wonder if old notions of freedom and sovereignty have the meaning they once had. All modern nations are heavily inter-connected with each other, not least by technology like our stock markets and government decisions have to take that into account.
What freedoms do we want to exercise that we cannot already exercise, especially if, as I say above, leaving the EU would not help us control our borders?
Britain already plays a significant role in the world, a permanent member of the security council of the UN, member of the EU, head of the commonwealth, G7, NATO and so on. It is our destiny to sit at the top table and to pull out of the EU might well jeopardise that.
Some people say we should come out of the EU and trade with the rest of the world. We already trade with the rest of the world.
Finally, peace. Ever since William the Conqueror landed on our shores, we have seen terrible warfare in Western Europe, mainly involving ourselves, Germany, France and Spain.
In the past 60 years, having a framework in which former enemies are now working together, trading together, making decisions together has made that prospect inconceivable.
If the UK leaves it, the EU will be seriously weakened, perhaps terminally. Imagine the continent of Europe with no strategic framework: we would be back to the 19th century pattern of ever-shifting alliances and power-grabs. Parts of Europe remain highly unstable, not least Greece, the Balkans and the Baltic States. I would not wish to see the early demise of the EU that might hasten the day when my grandchildren have to pick up arms once again. Churchill himself said that jaw-jaw was better than war-war.
I have no love for the institutions of the EU. I do not know too many Brits who do. But the question is: ‘would we be better off in or out’.
I have concluded that the advantages are either non-existent or too vague to be of use.
And also that the risks are considerable. I think the Prime Minister did well to extract some changes to the EU, but I made my decision irrespective of them.
I have taken a step back and looked at the big picture: our security and prosperity are more likely to be safe-guarded in the reformed but still imperfect EU rather than outside.
But here is the good news.
It no longer matters what I think.
The decision is yours!
SOUTH Hams MP Sarah Wollaston has made a U-turn over the European Union referendum.
The Totnes constituency MP and chairman of the House of Commons Health Select Committee said she could not support Vote Leave’s claim that if Britain were to leave the EU, £350m could be spent on the NHS – and would now be voting to remain in the EU.
Speaking to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg on Wednesday, she said the claim was ‘simply untrue’.
She added: ‘For someone like me who has long campaigned for open and honest data in public life I could not have set foot on a battle bus that has at the heart of its campaign a figure that I know to be untrue. If you’re in a position where you can’t hand out a Vote Leave leaflet, you can’t be campaigning for that organisation.’
Dr Wollaston also claimed there would be a ‘Brexit penalty’ on the NHS as withdrawal would damage the economy.
In an opinion piece for this newspaper, published in February, she said she would be voting to leave the EU.
Following Prime Minister David Cameron’s negotiations for reform of the EU, she said: ‘The European Union has missed an important opportunity for reforms that could have benefited all its member states and their citizens.
‘As a result, the Prime Minister has returned with a threadbare deal that has highlighted our powerlessness to effect institutional change.’
She added: ‘Referendums have a tendency to deliver the status quo. The point needs to be made, however, that neither choice delivers the status quo because, like it or not, within a decade our relationship with the EU will look radically different, whatever the outcome. Last week’s deal has underlined the reality that our Eurozone partners are continuing their separate journey towards full political and monetary union.
‘We will inevitably be bound by and disadvantaged by the decisions they make in their own interest.
‘The time has come for us to frame a new independent relationship as good neighbours rather than remain a discontented junior partner picking up the bills but with no power to influence the rules of the club.
‘The costs go far beyond our considerable net financial contribution, annually variable but between £8.5bn and £10.5bn over the past three years. The Common Fisheries Policy has been disastrous both for fish stocks and for our once thriving industry.’
She said that, in the event of Britain voting to leave the EU: ‘We would set out on a new path as the world’s fifth largest economy, confident, outward-looking, keen to maintain close co-operation with our European allies and open for business.’
In a blog posted on her website, she outlined her reasons for the U-turn.
She also added: ‘This has been an unnecessarily acrimonious and divisive campaign.’
The June 23 referendum should represent a day to liberate and set free a creative, independent Great Britain that has the ability to rule itself, to negotiate for itself and not be subject to the will of 27 other countries or, for that matter, the leadership and rules of an unelected EU Commission.
The day should represent a pivotal point in British history where the UK can reach beyond the EU and into the world and regain our stature as an inclusive and outward-looking country. After all, the only continent with weaker economic growth than Europe is Antarctica!
But why have we got here? The single market in 1992 was a great idea, but the European free trade zone had been operating for many years prior to the Lisbon Treaty, with trade agreements made between businesses and with governments simply rubber stamping their efforts to facilitate trade.
What has emerged since 1992 is a political union that has created a ‘one size fits all’ body of law that is applied to everyone with some countries having advantages and many not. Fifty per cent youth unemployment in southern Europe is the cost of full employment in northern Europe. The favourable strong euro in northern Europe hampers any recovery in southern Europe and leaves those countries perilously close to default.
The lists of inequalities made by EU policy are endless but so is the hunger of the EU to expand, soon to include Turkey and needless to say, this project is only made possible by the membership contributions of the richer countries. The UK is the second biggest gross contributor to the EU budget at £350m per week.
But rather than catalogue the ills of the EU, it is much more helpful to list the benefits of an amicable divorce and protecting our own sovereignty.
The first point is that nothing will change for two years but you can guarantee that it will be European and UK businesses that will quickly engage in talks to find quick, workable solutions, as opposed to our politicians who seem to exacerbate any problem. German cars are manufactured in the UK because we buy so many and our workforce is cheaper and more flexible than their European counterparts and we seem to forget that we are still the EU’s largest customer.
The Remain campaign trying to scare us that the pound would suffer, but anyone in business will say that this will make the UK an exporter’s dream. Inward investment would increase owing to stronger currencies taking advantage of the pound’s weakness and our exports would be priced to the maximum advantage across the globe. This is the main reason why small and medium-sized businesses wish for a Brexit and the large multinationals oppose it, who would rather have a ‘one currency suits all’ for their inflexible needs.
The greatest benefit of regaining our sovereignty will be to trigger reform in the European Union by our example. Furthermore, we can take leadership on a global stage and show how a proper functioning democracy can provide a template for the rest of the world. Mr Cameron’s failed renegotiation attempts earlier this year highlighted the EU’s stance on compromise. In EU President Juncker’s own words: ‘There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties.’
It should serve as a reminder that the EU rules less from discussion, more by dictat.
So if you believe in Britain, and you believe that, as the fifth largest economy in the world, we can reclaim our seat at the World Trade Organisation, elect our own government, implement our own laws, operate a system of justice and manage our own borders.
Similarly, if you value the sacrifice made by over one million British military personnel, who died in two world wars so that we could inherit a free and independent country, then I would ask you to Vote Leave on June 23.