Leave or Remain? Political hitters have their say on EU referendum
With the EU referendum drawing closer politically active residents gave their personal views on whether Britain should stay in or leave the European Union. ADAM GUEST presents some of their opinions.
Gordon Harmer, Conservative, LEAVE
Mr Harmer gave his personal take on why Britain would be better off with the fishing industry at the forefront of his thoughts.
“The main reason [to leave] is to give us more control of our fishing grounds,” Mr Harmer said.
Having worked as a fisherman in Grimsby and Shetland he believes the industry – and Shetland – faces a better future outside the EU.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon would also stand a better chance of negotiating fishing grounds on the back of a leave vote, he claimed.
Mr Harmer said he moved north to fish in Shetland after the UK joined the EU. The fishing industry in Grimsby started to decline in part following EU membership, he said.
In Shetland, EU membership had also been damaging: “We don’t have half the boats we used to have and they are tied down by regulations and quotas”.
Membership had also impacted on other industries, said Mr Harmer – noting the shift of building of Ford Transit vans in the UK to Turkey with millions of pounds of EU money.
“The EU has paid for businesses to move away from this country,” he said.
“I just think we pay into this club such a massive amount and we get half back and we’re told how to spend that half and I think that’s wrong.”
Britain and Germany are “net contributors” while France was taking bail outs and is “a net recipient”.
“I just find the whole thing is so unfair and so undemocratic,” said Mr Harmer.
“It’s not the MEPs that have the power it’s the commissioners,” he added.
Robbie McGregor, SNP, REMAIN
Peace and economic stability are the most important factors for SNP activist Robbie McGregor.
“This is the longest period of peace there has been in this country,” he said.
“I’ve got a son and two grandsons and I’m just delighted that there has been no conflicts as far as European countries are concerned in that time.”
Mr McGregor said “the EU has been good for this country” though added the EU referendum was “divisive”.
“There seems to be quite a division of opinion and that people seem to be split down the middle,” he said.
“London and Edinburgh still seem to be financial centres and I would be surprised if that continued if we were not a member of the EU. I believe there would be an exodus of companies.”
Leaving the EU would lead to financial instability, said Mr McGregor and “the markets don’t like instability, so I think it could cause quite a lot of disruption”.
Gordon Thomson, Labour, REMAIN
Labour party member Gordon Thomson believes Britain is best served by staying in the EU and argues that greater integration would bring benefits.
The UK should “be more a part of the European Union than we are”, he said.
Although the EU was “not perfect”, Mr Thomson said he was in favour of the EU or common market in principle.
Britain, he said had always been “lukewarm about Europe” and had “always dipped their toe in the water but never fully embraced it.”
Though admitting it is unlikely, he believes Britain should adopt the euro.
“It’s 70-odd pence now so it’s still in pretty good shape,” he said.
“If Scotland ever did decide to become independent, I’m not that fussed, but there wouldn’t be all this haggling about the currency.”
The days of the British Empire were gone, said Mr Thomson and Britain had to be realistic.
“We are a small European country,” he said.
“We do ok economically… but we have to realise that we are part of a greater whole and we should be looking to unify things with other countries.”
Brenda Wilcock, Liberal Democrat, REMAIN
There was a lot of positives of being in the EU, including jobs, employment and European funding, according to Brenda Wilcock.
From a security point of view, staying in the EU meant the sharing of information, Mrs Wilcock said.
“The communication is important and the counter-terrorism,” she said.
“There’s some things I don’t agree with in the EU,” she added.
“I think Britain on the whole would be better if got up on its hind legs and stood up a bit, but on the whole I think we are better to be in than out.
“I think if we want to change anything within Europe you are better to be able to change from within Euorope rather than being outside of it.”
She noted issues such as climate change and the environment, where Britain could work with other countries.
“I think Britain as a country has a lot to offer and I think Britain could do a lot more in the EU. I don’t think all the time Britain should take the EU rules or guidelines as literally as they seem to do.”
Brian Nugent, Scottish Leave Left, LEAVE
Brian Nugent’s position should come as no surprise – he is campaigning for Britain to leave the EU which he argues is corrupt, unaccountable and undemocratic.
He noted a number of court cases in which, as a result of being in the EU businesses trumped workers when it came to workers’ rights.
Mr Nugent also referred to the fishing industry as a reason for a leave vote.
“Shetland has a big interest in fishing but the fishing is not controlled by Edinburgh or London, it’s controlled in Brussels and Shetland’s got no favours. British boats have been getting scrapped and meanwhile other countries are building boats. How does that work?
“The EU is hugely corrupt … They reckon if you do one term as an MEP and you’re not a millionaire at the end of it you’ve not worked the expenses system properly.
“I think the European Union will fail whether Britain stays in or out. They are trying to run the euro zone and they’ve got vastly different economies and they’re having to fund the euro to a great extent which isn’t sustainable and it’s almost certainly going to fail.”