The EU debate: Should we stay or should we go?

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge enjoys trying out a combine harvester ANL-150611-135516001
South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge enjoys trying out a combine harvester ANL-150611-135516001

Politicians, councillors, business owners and residents have had their say on the big EU debate dominating the national headlines.

While MPs readied themselves for David Cameron to announce his proposed renegotiations with the European Union on Wednesday, politicians, residents and business owners in South Suffolk were sharing their thoughts on what could be the biggest decision facing the country this summer.

Most put forward what they viewed as the benefits of staying in, but others saw voting out as the only option, with Cameron’s negotiations described as ‘bread crumbs sold as four-course dinners’ by one business owner.

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said: “I am very likely to vote to remain but would reconsider if the renegotiation was extremely poor.

“In particular, many are overlooking the most important part economically which is the aim to secure fair treatment for non-Euro currencies and access to the single market.”

Mr Cartlidge added: “I believe it is a huge advantage to be in the EU but not in the Euro – ‘best of both worlds’ – but it requires confidence that we will be treated fairly so I hope we get this part of the negotiation. Failure on that part would cause me to reconsider.”

He said he believed staying in the EU was best for businesses both nationally and for South Suffolk’s diverse economy.

He added: “On manufacturing, I think it’s critical we avoid the tariffs which may result if we withdraw without agreeing a new trade deal.

“For agriculture, I think most farmers know that if we left the EU and the UK Treasury took over Common Agricultural Policy, there would be a big question mark about its long term viability.

“Fundamentally, leaving is a very uncertain course of action that many independent commentators believe would damage our economy, not least for the sheer uncertainty it creates.”

Ian Berry, who owns the Kestrel Bookshop in Sudbury, said: “I’m definitely going to vote out.

“It’s not going to affect our little shop one way or another. My personal views are that we have been running our own country for hundreds of years. I don’t want to be told what to do by other people.”

He was unimpressed by proposed renegotiations from Mr Cameron, saying: “What Cameron has come back with is just a few crumbs and he is trying to sell it as a four-course meal.”

Richard Howitt, Labour MEP for the East of England, said it was important the UK remained part of the EU, a view supported by South Suffolk Labour Party chairman and Sudbury town councillor Luke Cresswell.

“The East of England is the gateway to Europe with our ports and airports vital to Britain’s trade and tourism with the EU,” said Mr Howitt.

“Our whole region is stronger because Britain is a member of the European Union, which is why there is a clear local case that Britain is stronger in the Europe.”

Robert Lindsay, former South Suffolk parliamentary candidate for The Green Party, said the Suffolk Green Party was unhappy with many aspects of the EU, calling it undemocratic.

But he said it was also at the forefront of protecting wildlife, monitoring and cleaning rivers like the River Stour and forcing the Government to act on air pollution.

He said therefore most Greens preferred to stay in the EU and push to make it better.

Former Liberal Democrat candidate Grace Weaver said: “Leaving the EU would be harmful to almost everyone in this constituency.

“Shoppers benefiting from better prices because of competition with the rest of the EU, workers who get protections laid down by the EU, businesses that can trade freely with other firms in the EU.”

Business account manager Rob Simpson from Long Melford contacted the Free Press to share his views on the debate.

He said: “As an average working local family man I must admit my family and I, have become very much more Eurosceptic over recent years.

“I understand the UK paid the highest amount of billions into the EU last year, closely followed by the Germans.

“The UK tax payers, also paid in twice as much as the French, and certainly much more than all the other member states.

“Something is wrong here, and no wonder all EU member states don’t want us to leave.

“In these times of local and national austerity, we all still have funding problems to our local NHS hospitals, public services, local councils, schools, roads, railways, plus a lack of affordable housing, for our children.

“I’m now thinking if we stopped sending £350million per week, to the EU “black hole” we could support not only our own people much better here in Britain but the UK could also target more accurate crisis funding, to help the genuine family refugees.”