WILL they love it or leave it? The great Brexit debate is set to divide our county’s MPs every bit as much as it will split their constituents.
As the countdown began to the June 23 referendum day, when UK voters will decide whether Britain stays in the European Union or goes it alone, we asked our local MPs which side of the fence they will be on.
Preston’s Labour MP Mark Hendrick, who served as Euro MP for Lancashire Central for five years from 1994, will be campaigning for a stay vote.
He said: “I’m very strongly in favour of continued membership. I’ve seen first hand how institutions like the European Commission, the Council of Ministers and the Court of Justice operate. They are very very important and progressive institutions.”
Arguing that the ability to act “collectively and cooperatively” brings benefits both environmental and economic benefits he said: ”Pollution doesn’t respect national boundaries ... it floats through rivers and air from one country to another.”
He said membership brought access to 500 million potential customers rather than 60 million in the U.K. but it was probable tariffs and quotas would be imposed if Britain left, limiting what the UK could and couldn’t sell.
Mr Hendrick continued: “There are two million Britons working in other European countries and a similar number from other parts of Europe working in the UK - that’s one of the benefits. British people can work in other coutries.”
Illegal immigration happened whether or not countries belong to the EU, he said, adding:”Norway and Switzerland have the same problem with illegal immigrants.”
With Conservatives given a free vote some of the county’s Tory MPs have yet to make up their minds.
But for Nigel Evans, confirmed Eurosceptic and Conservative MP for Ribble Valley, the vote on June 23 will be “Independence Day.”
He said: “I am definitely voting to leave the E.U. People send me to Westminster to legislate. If they don’t like what I or the government are doing they’ve got the opportunity to get rid of us, The EU is undemocratic - it’s remote. If people don’t like what the EU does they’ve just got to take more of it. As a country that has a proud tradition of democracy the EU really runs counter to it for me. I also believe we should be trading far more with the rest of the world not just with the EU.”
Another crucial issue for the MP is border control and combating the threat of terrorism. He said “Over one million migrants have come into mainland Europe in the last year alone. Intelligence sources say that 5,000 of those are jihadists. I want total control of who comes into the UK.. I want to make sure those jihadists don’t cross into the UK. They’ve got into Belgium and France.”
He argued that once settled in mainland Europe such immigrants would gain passports and then be free to move to the UK “with nothing to stop them”.
Fylde Tory MP Mark Menzies has not yet decided which way he will vote, but said: “As someone who represents a constituency in which many people are involved in the construction of BAE Systems’ Eurofighter Typhoon, I am keenly aware of the economic importance of business links with the continent. The ink is not yet fully dried on the Prime Minister’s agreement and I want to take more time to consider what implications a decision to leave the EU would have for businesses and communities in Fylde.”
He had, he said voted in favour of an in/out referendum on the EU because: “I believed it was right for the people of Fylde, and the entire United Kingdom, to make this decision.”
Paul Maynard, Tory MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, is also in the undecided camp. He said he is “reading very carefully all the details and listening to the debate and (I) hope to reach a decision by the end of the week.”
Meanwhile Tory Northern Ireland minister Ben Wallace, MP for Wyre and Preston North, was re-tweeting pro-European contributions to the debate yesterday. For Cat Smith, Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood it will be a “yes” vote to stay , but she stressed she is in favour of a Europe which “works for our working people not just big business. I do want to see reform.”
Seema Kennedy, MP for South Ribble intends to inform her local Conservative Association members first of her decision.
West Lancashire’s Labour MP Rosie Cooper backed having a referendum in a 2011 vote, but is against leaving Europe. She said:“I am a pro-European and believe that our economic future lies with Europe. Ahead of the referendum we need to consider the security of jobs, growth and investment along with the protection of workers and consumer rights. For some time it has been evident there is significant disillusionment amongst people and the British people wanted an opportunity to have their say. It was for this reason that I voted in support of a referendum.”
David Morris, Tory MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale and Blackpool South Labour MP Gordon Marsden were not available for comment.