This week’s speaker is Lib Dem city councillor Nick Sandford
Only two weeks to go to the EU referendum. Have you made your mind up yet? Or are you fed up of all the media coverage? It is an unnecessary referendum being held to help Cameron appease the right wing of the Tory party.. But let’s get over that. We are having it. And it’s a vital decision but for every man, woman and child in Peterborough and the rest of the UK.
People have said to me: “Yes but we need the facts”. The problem is there are no real facts. No EU country has ever exercised their right under article 50 of the Treaty of Rome to resign from the European Union. No-one knows for certain the impact leaving would have on employment, the value of the pound, on environmental protection etc etc
But people can make a pretty good estimate. When all major economic bodies and every living former UK prime minster say that leaving would cost jobs and do serious long term damage to our economy, they could all be wrong. When every major trades union leader says that vital protections for the rights of employees they could be completely barking up the wrong tree. When major environmental campaigning groups say that if we lose the EU Habitats directive, the EU Birds directive and a raft of other legislation, it could have a damaging effect on our wildlife and the environment, they could be living in the proverbial cloud cuckoo land. And when senior law enforcement officers say that leaving the EU could damage the fight against terrorism and international crime, they might be just making it all up. But then again, they might all actually be right. Ask yourself, can you afford to take those risks on the basis of a vague promise by the Leave campaign about “getting our sovereignty back”.
What we do know is once we are out of the EU, there is no going back. The disruption and antagonism in relations and trade with our neighbours could take years or even decades to sort out.
We live in a complex society in an ever more complex and interdependent world. If the EU ever was about straight bananas and defining what is or is not ice cream, then that sort of thing should not happen. Like all institutions, those of the EU are probably in need of some reform. Large companies these days operate across international borders. People travel frequently between EU countries, sometimes for holidays but also increasingly to work or to retire. Encouraging people to move around our continent, to work with people from different countries and to experience different languages and cultures is a positive thing. And encouraging countries to work together and resolve problems by talking, rather than by fighting is a very positive development. Remember the two major European wars which ravaged our continent in the first half of the 20th century.
Yes there is concern about immigration. But throughout its history our country has been enriched and has prospered through successive waves of immigration. Most immigrants vastly benefit our economy and our society. Immigration can produce some problems for public services but often these are caused more by sustained massive underinvestment in public services like our NHS. And here Peterborough, most our population are immigrants, whether from abroad or from London or from other parts of the UK. We are one of the most prosperous cities in the country, we are the third fastest growing city in the country. Any concept that “Peterborough is full” is clearly a nonsense. Yet is a nonsense that parties like UKIP and the right wing of the Tory party continue to propagate. Yes we need to make sure that migrants from the EU genuinely are here to work but any attempt to keep them out would severely damage our NHS, our agricultural industries and many other aspects of our economy. I hope that for this and many other reasons, you will all vote on Thursday 23 June. Let the people decide. But let everyone be aware of the possible consequences of the decision they are making.