Craig Leyland: I'm voting to remain in the EU

Craig Leyland (Leader of ELDC and ward councillor for Woodhall Spa) has declared that he will be voting to remain in the European Union. Please note that this letter expresses his own view, and is not associated with his official positions...

Craig Leyland.

“I have been asked by many residents, friends and family how I will vote in the EU referendum.

My first response is to say that all our votes are of equal importance and my comments are made as an individual, not representing any organisation or council. I have read much, I have attended campaign events and I have listened to many, most notably Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, who spoke eloquently on the subject.

There is much to criticise about the European Union….it’s structures tend to be over complicated, it is charged with being inefficient and there is a natural tendency to bureaucracy. There is also the charge that is has usurped our democratic ability and has diminished our sovereignty.

For me, the argument comes down to a number of key areas that affect our great country…namely the economy, immigration, our standing in a precarious world order and sovereignty.

Dealing with these in turn..The economy….the truth is nobody knows what the actual impact of leaving the EU will be….but what I do know is that we are the gateway to Europe and this has been recognised by many companies, large and small, that take advantage of our unique position.

We are one of the least regulated economies in the world and leaving the EU common market would be perverse given that we would have to renegotiate trade deals for so many sectors of our economy and if we still wanted to trade with the EU post Brexit, the EU regulations would still apply.

Oh and we can still trade with the rest of the world while in the EU….interestingly Germany does more business with China than we do.

I have heard the argument that we could run with import and export tariffs (WTO tariffs used as an example) that would still be cheaper than the £350 million gross per week (sic) we give to the EU, thus freeing that money to support farm subsidies, education, hospitals, the fishing industry, all arts and culture previously supported by EU funds, academic research, medical research, scientific research, pharmaceutical research, academic exchange….of course that supposes that more expensive imports would not be inflationary.

Immigration….the free movement of labour is an essential tenant of EU membership and both the Leave and Remain campaigns recognise that limiting this in any meaningful way is a challenge. European workers are drawn here because our economy is successful….and even with an Australian style points system, the same numbers would be needed to keep pace with our successful economic growth.

The impacts of immigration on communities should not be underplayed but many of the structural challenges are due to successive government’s poor investment and management of housing supply, the NHS and education provision.

We also need to make sure employers operate recruitment on a fair basis.

These are issues we need to address…The world today is full of threat….China is moving from being an economic giant to one with territorial ambitions.

The middle east continues to be an ulcer that won’t heal allowing ISIS to exist and Russia is led by Vladimir Putin….need I say more.

We are members of Nato but it is my view we are safer facing these challenges giving the EU the strength and resolve as only our great nation can.

And finally the most emotive of all the issues…Sovereignty.

When this debate started, I would have felt more inclined to agree that we have been ceding our sovereignty to the EU. But as I have read more about the EU itself and the nature of the other organisations we are members of, it is very apparent that sovereignty is not an absolute.

Lets take NATO for instance, we give up some of our sovereignty to benefit from mutual defence.

We are signatories to many such international agreements and organisations. Our government controls more than 98% of its public expenditure with responsibility for health, education, monetary policy, defence and welfare spending. There is a fine balance in the decision we are facing….we are a great country and we will succeed in Europe and no doubt we will succeed outside of Europe….the key question for me is, do we abandon Europe and potentially have weak neighbours both militarily and politically across the English Channel at a time when the world is at its most turbulent or do we maintain our status as the international trade gateway to Europe, giving strength and resolve to our allies and trading in the Common Market for our benefit.

I am for giving strength to Europe by our engagement.

I am voting to Remain in Europe.

Craig Leyland

Woodhall Spa