• EU

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    17 June 2016

    The referendum lies but days away. Last week I focused on the costs of our EU membership - I argued that these would be dwarfed by the huge economic damage that would result from withdrawal and that the costs have anyway been grossly exaggerated by the Leave campaign - something that prompted my constituency neighbour Sarah Wollaston MP to very publicly switch from ‘Out’ to ‘In’. I firmly favour remaining and the final issues I want to address are the economy and immigration. The economy is the biggest issue. Why? Because Brexit will hammer our economy and too much depends upon it. We can only afford our public services if we have a strong economy. Our NHS, defence, schools, neighbourhood policing, supporting our farmers, protecting our environment requires long term funding that can only be delivered through the taxation flowing from a strong economy. Those great hallmarks of a civilised society - universal healthcare free at the point of use – a decent education for our children – all require economic strength. Brexit will hole the UK around the waterline and threaten much we hold dear. Staying in gives access to the world’s largest free market – 500 million people in 28 countries. 44% of our trade is with this market. Wrenching us away would create a profound shock. For example, 700,000 people work in the car industry in Britain – currently we sell cars tariff free into the EU. Post exit, falling back on World Trade Organisation rules, we will pay a 10% tariff – the sector will decline -  jobs will be lost. The same will go for pharmaceuticals and the City – which employs 500,000 people and delivers 13% of economic output. Some say that we will quickly get a new trade deal with the EU – but we won’t – the US and Canada have been trying for a decade – nothing will happen quickly and in the meantime uncertainly and disruption will wreak horrific damage to jobs, living standards and our public services. Immigration? Well, a few things to get straight. 1. We are not part of the Schengen area meaning we stop people at our borders and baddies are turned back – we have refused entry to several thousand in the last few years, 2. Turkey is not about to join the EU. It applied 30 years ago and has 35 Chapters to negotiate before it can be considered – it has completed just one. And all 28 members states will have a veto over it joining, 3. Net migration does need to be lower in my view but most migration is from outside the EU and we already have control over that. Australia and its ‘points based system’ has higher migration per capita then we do. 4. If we are to ultimately negotiate access to the single market, whilst being outside the EU then we’ll have to accept free EU migration anyway – just like Norway and Switzerland. On 23rd June let’s keep our country strong – work from within – and not just walk away.