BRITAIN is looking more likely than ever to leave Europe- but is this just a battle for political supremacy, or could the effects be felt in Stroud? Will Mata finds out.
SHOULD we stay or should we go?
This is the question on everyone’s lips regarding the European Union, but behind the pictures of Nigel Farage drinking beer and David Cameron forcing a laugh at Angela Merkel’s jokes- what does it all mean for a town like Stroud?
Surprisingly all three Stroud District Councillors I spoke to were in agreement.
Cllr’s Molly Scott Cato, Paul Smith and Haydn Jones all concurred this was an issue with huge implications, even for a small town in Gloucestershire.
Ahead of a possible 2017 in-out referendum, the big debate is a financial one. While the Euro single-currency continues to divide opinion on these shores, there can be no doubting the impact of the 28 nation group on the local economy. Liberal Democrat Cllr Smith warned that any EU exit could have an irreversible financial impact: “We have a lot of investment that uses Britain as a backdoor into Europe. Companies trading here are exempt from a tariff, so it gives them an advantage. We would lose this if we left the EU which could put business and jobs at risk and the local economy would suffer.”
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a key area of influence for the EU and the effects of it are felt right down to grass-roots level. It is one of the only aspects which Britain would be better without, according to Cllr Smith, who feels Britain would benefit from having more control over agriculture.
While Cllr Smith’s Lib Dem party are traditionally pro-Europe, the Green party aim to take positive action to reform the 28-nation group and recently elected MEP Cllr Molly Scott Cato feels more protection is needed for local businesses: “The CAP currently works in favour of big corporations, and should do more to promote local business- but this is something that needs to be changed and cannot be improved by leaving Europe” said Cllr Cato, who also argued that remaining in the EU was crucial to maintaining environmental standards.
With only around 8% of the county born in a foreign country, none of the councillors considered any possible tightening of immigration to have a massive impact on Stroud. However, the effect still might be felt by the elderly, as Cllr Cato points out many carers from the region were born overseas. Leaving the EU could see the UK tighten its borders to immigration and also restrict the freedoms of those wanting to travel within the continent. Cllr Smith said: “Travelling would be more problematic, as there would no doubt be a tighter boarder control in all European countries. It may well also effect the medical card that you can take with you, which gives you the rights to medical treatment within those countries, as if you were a citizen.”
Conservative Councillor Haydn Jones did not feel there would be a noticeable impact on freedom if we were to drop out and also disagreed with Cllr Cato that there would be a negative on the environment.
“There are positives and negatives to it all, but I would personally wish to stay. The payments and protection it offers could have a big impact on this side of things if we pulled out. Also our economy is built around Europe” he said.
While all three councillors had very different views as to whether the UK should remain connected- the consensus was clear: this is something that people in Stroud should be concerned about.
“It would have a huge significance for Stroud if we were to leave. People are not being told this in detail. People do not realise how the EU plays a part in people’s lives” summarises Cllr Smith.
Stroud may feel a long way from Europe at times- but this is one issue not to be overlooked.