Are you in or out? Campaigners on both sides have their say ahead of the EU referendum

The European Union flag and national flags in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
The European Union flag and national flags in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
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Have your say

The Mail approached campaigners on both sides of the referendum on the EU to give them the chance to have their say ahead of the important vote tomorrow.

The Remain campaign

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said: “What has the European Union ever done for Hartlepool? More than you would think.

Since 2007, our town has received more than £7m in European funding. It has gone to helping communities and creating and supporting growing businesses in the town.

Around £1.3m went to Hartlepool Borough Council to help young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) find a route back into the system. And £400,000 went to Hartlepool Growth Hub to help fledgling businesses take the next step. Where will this support come from if we sever ties with Europe, the UK Government? I doubt it. The Tories have hit the North East hardest with their cuts to public service.

The Vote Leave gang have been touring the country with a bus that has a lie plastered on it. It says we pay £350m-a-week to the EU. It’s wrong, it doesn’t take into account a rebate that the British Government negotiated and the reality is we get more out of Europe than we put in.

We in the North East are a net recipient of EU funds. For every £1 we put in, we get almost £10 back in jobs, trade, investment and growth. We cannot take that fact for granted, we must think about the future for the next generation.

Whatever concerns you may have about immigration – it is worth remembering that just 1.6% of people in the North East are foreign-born – they will not be dealt with by voting to leave. Norway, for example, is not a member of the EU and has a much higher rate of immigration than its neighbours.

Our region has much to lose from Brexit. A higher proportion of our exports – 58% - go to Europe than other UK regions (the average is 44%). We are part of something huge - the world’s largest trading bloc. The EU free trade area is bigger than China and bigger than America. Hartlepool gets a good deal from being part of Europe. Holidays for Hartlepool people are cheaper because we are in Europe. The shopping bill for Hartlepool people is lower because we are in Europe.

On the other hand, all of the economic experts agree that Brexit represents a huge risk for the economy. The World Bank, the governor of the Bank of England and the Institute for Fiscal Studies agree. This is not scaremongering: a vote to Leave is a vote for job losses. The North East has the highest unemployment rate in the country, why do something to bring about a recession when we have just recovered from the last one?

Vote Leave cannot tell you what a British exit from Europe will look like. They do not know what trade deals we will be able to negotiate if we go it alone. They say leaving means more money for our NHS. Another bare-faced lie, the sad truth is the very opposite; trashing our economy will mean less money for our public services not more.

I would urge the people of Hartlepool to consider one other thing before they go to the polls. The European Union was created to stop wars and it has been the world’s most successful peace process. Do we really want to turn our back on that?

Voting to Remain is the right choice for the North East. It means more jobs, lower prices, stronger public services and a decent, tolerant Great Britain. If we vote to leave, there is no going back. Don’t risk it.”

The Leave campaign

A statement from the Leave campaign said: “When it comes to making a decision on leaving the EU, seven in every ten Hartlepool people told the Mail’s recent survey that they were firmly in favour of an exit.

It’s perhaps not a surprising result for a town that – like many in the North East – has seen more than its fair shares of downs over the years in the rollercoaster ride of EU membership.

With around 92,000 residents, Hartlepool may not have quite the clout of some of the major UK cities when it comes to the big day, but its ‘no’ vote will still pack a hefty punch.

That seven-in-ten survey result shows a deep dissatisfaction in the town that is both social and economic – and plenty of reasons why Hartlepool residents would be better off if they vote for Brexit.

Campaigners point to important local issues that include concerns over the threat to NHS fertility services, and a shortage of care beds that means Hartlepool people are using up the equivalent of more than six months’ hospital time.

In fact, it’s estimated that by 2021, the NHS in Hartlepool and Stockton could run up a funding deficit of around £67million, which could mean patients do not get the healthcare they need.

The UK hands over £350million a week to the EU, and that money could surely be better spent on priorities such as the health service, which everyone relies on.

Who could complain if those threatened fertility services were preserved, and if there was more money for University Hospital to spend on vital equipment and extra nurses?

On the economic front, small businesses in Hartlepool are among those who say they feel the burden of EU red tape, and feel it adds to the pain of unemployment in the area.

In a YouGov/Business for Britain survey in January, they said - by 25% to 11% - that the EU makes it harder to take on staff. And by 54% to just 17% the same firms said the UK can trade with the EU without giving away permanent control over our economy.

This is also a hot issue for the national companies employing people in the town, such as Wetherspoons, which operates the Ward Jackson pub and King John’s Tavern.

Tim Martin, founder of the chain, is a keen campaigner for Brexit, and says he thinks Britain will be a more prosperous place if it can take back control of its own laws.

“You don’t need to be in the EU to run a successful business or to have a successful economy,” he told a paper earlier this year.

Hartlepool is a proud North East town that has been hard hit at home in recent years, yet maintains strong links with the wider world – the current issues with Tata Steel, and the international interest in its assets and people, are a good example.

So when the town gets to have its say tomorrow, at least 70% of local people are likely to be placing their vote against red tape and unnecessary spending – and after having their say, they’ll be more than ready to take advantage of the opportunities an EU exit will create both at home and further afield.”