Last week I spoke in a House of Commons debate on our membership of the European Union. I expect the issue to dominate things in Westminster for the next few months and have heard equally passionate arguments from politicians and local residents. I have tried to produce a different sort of assessment about where we stand, based on the issues I think affect people’s lives most every day. Whatever happens in the referendum the country needs to pull together afterwards and move forward in a positive and constructive way.
I’ve chosen ten categories to break down the way in which the EU can affect the things that matter and gone for a scale of 1-5 with 5 meaning strong reasons to leave and 1 meaning strong case against.
First on availability of housing I have scored that as a 5. Immigration from the EU puts pressure on social housing and pushes prices up in the private sector. Next is access to local services including GPs and school places. Again I have given that a 5 due to the pressure on our infrastructure caused by uncontrolled immigration. Cost of living is more mixed. Unpopular taxes on items like sanitary products and potentially food and clothing look to be set by the EU and we could avoid them. Imported items are unlikely to become dramatically more expensive, but mixed overall: 3.
Could people move to a big city to further their careers? I’ve given this a 5; foreign demand is crowding out domestic supply and pushing prices up, making that much harder. Similarly, whether people could get jobs locally could be made harder by further overseas labour competition. Beneficial EU trade should be able to be renegotiated and international trade could increase, although some technology and farming incentives would need replacing Overall that is probably a net positive: 4. On wages, some may go up as a result of less price competition; wages score 4.
Working and taking holidays in Europe would still be very possible if we left the EU but not quite as straightforward as they are now especially for extended or permanent moves. That scores a 2 for me, slightly disadvantaged by leaving. I have scored international and domestic security at 3 each. Cross border policing should continue with sharing of data and passenger manifests and replacement agreements comparable to the European Arrest Warrant. NATO wouldn’t change and constructive new bilaterals could be pursued. Finally I have scored environmental regulations as a 2 as some EU regulations are proactive and would need to be replaced.
My tally of these areas equally weighted takes me to 36 out of 50 suggesting on balance it would be in our rational interest to leave the EU. Of course people might reach different scores based on their own circumstances but that is the point about a referendum - they will decide for themselves. I also respect the fact that some may have a sentimental attachment to EU institutions, or indeed a strong view on our power to make our own laws, which may sway them. My role as an MP isn’t to tell people how to vote, but I think something like the above might be a good way to assess your decision.