In or Out

Europe in outLike many who follow politics I have watch the last few days with great interest to learn of the ‘deal’ has David Cameron returned with.  There was the first stab at it two weeks ago, which was a bit rubbish and at the end of last week we watched the late night/early morning comings and goings in Brussels, the first Saturday Cabinet meeting since the Falkland’s War and then the Prime Minister emerging from No.10 to announce the worst kept secret for ages that there will be an in/out referendum on our membership of the EU on June 23rd. Yesterday every political show and Sunday broadsheet poured over the ‘deal’ and which, mainly Conservative politicians, were going to back the ‘in’ campaign or the ‘out’ campaign.  Labour seems to have been largely ignored as the internal differences in the Conservative party seems to be of far more interest to the media than anything Corbin has to say.

So we have a few months ahead to hear the arguments and to think about what is a difficult decision to make but one we should all take very seriously, even if in life politics largely leaves you cold and you feel it has little to do with you or for you, this vote does.  The decision we collectively make on 23rd June will have a profound impact on our lives for many years to come.  Make the right one and we have a bright future ahead of us, make the wrong one and the fundamental living standards of all our families will suffer.

For me its boils down to three basic things, Security, Jobs and Economic Prosperity.  If you can work out which way I will be voting based on those three tests without reading further, then I suggest you know which way you should vote, either way you’ve made your decision and there is no need to read further, but if you do, thank you as firstly it’s good for my blog stats and I perhaps I can add a little something to your decision making processes before we all completely burn out with the debate overload that is to come.

In terms of security I have been to Brussels on a few occasions both to learn more and occasionally on my political work, if you visit the European Parliament building you will come across the references to its founding Fathers all born of the Second World War in one way or another.  One of these was Winston Churchill who believed those that trade together, do not wage war against each other and he has been proven to be right.  As the Iron Curtain fell we saw in the Balkans what can go horribly wrong on European soil.  Yet for the main part the EU expanded and those poor previously subjugated countries peacefully emerged and are catching up fast and become places for us to trade.  I do not, nor I suggest should you, underestimate how that process could have gone wrong but has not. Oh I hear you say it could not happen again, well in the hard economic times that areas of Europe have had of late the hard right and hard left are there just below the surface, make no mistake of that. For all the talk of net contributors and what we do or do not get out of it, Europe is a safer place for the EU and so are we.

Secondly where I live the economy is in part built on migrant workers, those here doing jobs we have not got the skilled people to do, are working both ‘Auf Wiedersehen Pet’ style sending money home to families and here raising their families, making a new life for themselves and paying their taxes.  The free movement of people does not mean much to us, but in Europe given the forced movement of people with millions dying in the process during and historically significantly, after the Second World War, this is a cornerstone of the union.  So David Cameron’s sensible caveat that if you claim child benefit here it is scaled to where your children reside and that if after 6 months you do not have a job then you must return to your place of origin and ask that state for support, is remarkable.  It’s also a measured set of rules that make more sense of free movement of people, one I can see slowly being adopted in other parts of the EU.  Yes, come here, work hard and enjoy all that brings and benefit our society but not scrounge off of us.

Thirdly and as one recent US President said “It’s the economy, stupid” if we leave, will GB flourish or flounder? On the one hand it’s often said that just look at countries like Norway and Switzerland and how successfully they trade with Europe, well Britain is far bigger with far more companies competing with European ones and we would be leaving. To my mind most European Leaders are wedded to the EU in a political sense which we struggle a little to understand here, their political capital, the thing that keeps them in a job and their opposition out of one, is about the success of their relationship with the EU.  So I ponder, if we exit, is it in their personal political advantage for us to flourish nor not? I think not.  Of course many countries such as Germany like free trade with us to sell their luxury goods to us, aka BMW and Mercedes but for most a successful Britain outside of the EU would be a weapon to their opposition to argue to also leave and take out the ruling politicians in the process. So I suspect if we leave trade barriers would appear and we would find trading with our key market, for that is what it is, for it will take another 40 years to try to rebuild a different trading landscape, our key market would become a more difficult place for British companies to do business. For the most part, British based businesses and companies have yet to speak and when they do I think we will understand their fears, fears we should all share.

For these reasons I shall be voting to stay in the EU.


A good meeting in Cambridge

2016_02_15 Devolution with Lord H & Greg ClarkeYesterday morning I and other Leaders from across Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk gathered in the Government offices in Cambridge to meet with Lord Heseltine and DCLG SoS Greg Clarke to discuss Devolution and what it might mean here in the East of England. Of course Norfolk and Suffolk have been working on our Devolution bid for these past 6 months but its has been increasingly obvious that the Cambridgeshire with Peterborough question has loomed large and this is particularly true if you, like me, live in the west of Suffolk or the West of Norfolk as we are actually in the Cambridgeshire sub-region. So the meeting was a chance to openly discuss what a three county Devolution bid might look like and how it would be received by Government. The meeting was very positive and there is lots more work to come on what if it were agreed by all the Councils and bodies involved, and that is a reasonable sized ‘if’, would be an Eastern Engine to rival the Manchester Powerhouse.

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