EU REFERENDUM: Debating a case for remaining in the EU

On Thursday, the people of South Yorkshire will head to the polls to have their say in the EU referendum.

Tuesday, 21st June 2016, 11:02 am
Updated Tuesday, 21st June 2016, 12:03 pm
Should South Yorkshire vote to leave or remain?

Voters in our region and across the country will be asked whether they wish for Britain to stay in the European Union – or to get out.

To help those who haven’t made their minds up yet – or to help you reinforce your decision – we have asked a number of key political figures in our region to explain why they will be voting remain.

David Blunkett


Ed Miliband, former Labour leader and Doncaster North MP

“In eight days time you will have to make a choice even more important than a vote in a generalelection.

I urge you to vote Remain in the EU referendum.

Ed Miliband

I do so because it is better for jobs, better for workers rights and better for working people.

The EU is far from perfect but it gives us a market to trade in which creates millions of jobs and it protects hard-won gains for working people, like four weeks paid holiday and rights for part time


What’s more the EU is investing resources in areas like Sheffield which we could never rely onfrom a Tory government. South Yorkshire has received over £1 billion of EU funding since 1990s

Liberal Democrat Coun Shaffaq Mohammed

This has been used to fund dozens of projects that benefit the local economy including rolling out high-speed broadband, redeveloping the area outside Sheffield station and funding a new bus route from the city centre to Rotherham.

That is the positive case for our membership. And the risks of leaving demonstrate too why we should Remain.

Independent experts say our economy would face recession if we left. That would hit jobs, livelihoods and mean more cuts to public services.

Of course people have concerns about EU immigration. But we can address the undercutting of wages, the pressures on public services inside the EU with the political will.

Peter Moore, former Liberal Democrat leader of Sheffield City Council

And the damage we would do to our economy by leaving the EU would inflict untold damage on working people.

What’s more the right wing Tories in the Leave campaign that wants us to exit has said in terms they want to take away the workers' rights that we get through the European Union.

I shudder to think about the prospects of a government led by Boris Johnson, Michael Gove with Nigel Farage cheering them on. Think what they would do to cities like Sheffield and towns like Doncaster that I represent.

So on Thursday I urge you to take the position of every major trade union, every living Labour leader and 95 per cent of Labour MPs and vote Remain.

This referendum is not about David Cameron. It is about your future. Because it is the best choice for you and your family, I urge you to vote Remain.”

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, Leader of the Sheffield Liberal Democrats

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield

“On Thursday, more than just our relationship with Europe is at stake. Brexiters have often made the argument that we should forego our relationship with Europe in favour of a strengthened relationship with the Commonwealth, but that is a false choice.

Britain can be – and is - strong in both Europe and the Commonwealth. Britain has trade deals in place or they are currently being negotiated with 45 of the 50 Commonwealth countries outside the EU. It is true that Britain discriminates against non-EU migrants who want to come live in the UK but it is the policy choices of the British Government not because we are a member of the EU.

It’s why the leaders of Commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia, Jamaica and India have been outspoken about their belief that the UK is better off in Europe. They want us in there at the European table, they can see from the outside the value of our influence and the power we hold in shaping EU policy.

Without that influence, our position in the Commonwealth is weaker, not stronger. If we set the example of leaving the EU, how could the UK oppose a referendum on, say, Australia’s membership of the Commonwealth?

There is lots of speculation around what would happen whether we chose to remain or leave, but one thing is true – We can’t go it alone. Britain as we know it was built on trade with other nations, our fabrics, our machinery, our steel. Leaving the EU will put both unions at risk, and that’s not a risk I think we should be willing to take.”

Peter Moore, former Liberal Democrat leader of Sheffield City Council

“After over 20 years as a Sheffield City councillor I retired completely from active politics in 2012. I never dreamt that I would ever again take up my pen on behalf of an election campaign. But I am urging my fellow South Yorkshire citizens to use their vote to keep Britain in the EU.

Having spent many years on an EU Local Government Committee I am well aware of the EU’s flaws. But I genuinely believe the EU is a force for good. I believe it has contributed massively to keeping virtually all mainland Europe free from war for over 70 years. I don’t discount the role of NATO . But nations bound together by trade and mutual understanding are most unlikely to go to war with each other. I know from my time in Europe how some of the ancient enmities between nation states can still surface. Britain leaving could easily lead to the EU’s breakup and who knows where that could lead. I don’t want to even contemplate that.

I know from the inside how positive the EU has been in promoting workers rights. How much of UK anti discrimination legislation is down to our membership of the EU. Legislation that protects women, disabled people, elderly people, gay people, ethic and religious minorities. Would a future Government outside the EU protect those workers’ rights and anti discrimination laws?

Hundreds of millions of pounds came in to Sheffield and South Yorkshire from the EU in the early 2000s. Money that helped transform the Local economy. That helped create jobs for Local people. Money that could not be siphoned off by a UK Government to sweeten voters in London and the South East. Sheffield and South Yorkshire may fall on hard times again. I worry that outside the EU we may not get our fair share from Central Government.

When all the arguing is over and it is time to vote I urge people to vote positively. To think about how the UK and Sheffield and South Yorkshire have benefited from our continuing membership of the EU. How we and our children and grand children will continue to benefit if we Remain in the EU. A vote to Remain is a positive vote for peace, protection and prosperity.”

Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central

“The European Union is the world’s largest partnership of free democratic nations. As a leading member of this alliance of 28 countries we have more influence in the world. That matters as we face the challenge of growing powers, like Russia and China.

Europe is the world’s biggest market too, with 500 million people. Other markets matter, but it’s the most important to us. We export more to tiny Sweden than to China. More to Holland alone than the rest of the Commonwealth. And these exports sustain millions of jobs.

Lots of British workers gained from the right to paid holidays, which was introduced by the EU, as did the millions of part-term workers who were given the same rights as those in full –time work. It is rights like these, with protection for consumers and the environment, that ‘leave’ campaigners call ‘burdens on business’ and want to scrap.

Walking away won’t solve any problems. Take the challenge of immigration – something faced by every developed country in the world from Australia to America. Nothing will change if we leave. Half our immigration comes from outside Europe and, like Norway, agreeing to free movement of European labour will be a condition for any new trade deal after exit.

Getting European nations to trade and work together has given our continent 70 years of peace for the first time in our history. We can’t afford a step into the unknown. We owe it to our children to vote remain.”

Coun Douglas Johnson, deputy leader of the Sheffield Green Party

“As a Green Party councillor, I want to be positive and tackle inequality. Making a more equal society is good for everyone – both rich and poor. The European Community helps promote equality too and Sheffield is one of the places that has benefited - a lot.

South Yorkshire has had billions of pounds from Europe over the last couple of decades. We got over £1 billion of EU “Objective One” money between 2000-2006 because the local economy needed extra support to bring it up to 75 per cent of the European average. Some money went to big infrastructure projects like redeveloping industrial land in the Don Valley and creating the Advanced Manufacturing Park. Over 11,000 small and medium businesses were helped; thousands of people were helped into jobs and training, including in the creative industries. Sheffield station was completely revamped. Sheffield College provided more training and skills for young people. Sheffield Cathedral could rebuild to provide for its excellent Archer Project, and many local community projects such as advice centres and festivals were funded.

Of course, many people never knew they were benefitting from EU money and that is one of the problems: we often take our city infrastructure for granted.

It is true that Britain as a whole is a net contributor to the EU. But wealthier areas such as the South East pay more – and the money is redistributed to benefit the North and help balance out the regional inequalities that exist within Britain. I for one think we all win from that.”

Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat Sheffield MP and former Deputy Prime Minister

“In all of the exaggeration around the EU debate, one thing is true. No one – not a single authoritative economist or institution – thinks the result of Brexit will be better than what we have now, and the vast majority believe it will make us poorer and economically more insecure.

With more than 3 million British jobs linked to our trade in Europe, it is beyond doubt that many people’s jobs across the country are on the line. Growth in our economy is also at risk – so says everyone from the IMF and the World Bank to the Bank of England and the OECD – which means lower tax revenues, which means less money available to be spent on our schools and hospitals, and less public sector jobs.

There have been warnings of untold damage to our universities, massive uncertainty for British farmers and even for our thriving creative industries, all of which would hit Sheffield harder than most.

Brexiteers acknowledge that leaving the EU will throw the UK into a period of economic uncertainty, risking people’s jobs and livelihoods, but even then, that the risk is worth taking.

That’s fine for the likes of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove – whose job prospects will be a lot better if we vote to leave. But for the ordinary working person, whose income relies on a strong regional and national economy, that risk isn’t one worth taking.”

Dr Knut Roder, EU expert at Sheffield Hallam University

“As a German who has been living in the UK on and off since 1987 I am increasingly worried about the severity of the consequences of an increasingly likely vote on the 23 June to leave the EU.

The UK, Germany – in fact all EU member states – face challenges in 21st century that lie well beyond the capacity of a single state to control. One of those challenges indeed, is the big vote winner for the Leave campaign: immigration. Coming from Germany, a country that has taken in over a million refugees in 2015 alone, I am well aware of the effects, and of course, the fears that such numbers cause. I hear you ask: shouldn’t it be Brit’s and German’s welfare first, before helping endless numbers of others?

Whilst it surely is in the national interest to search for positive solutions to international problems, I am certain that only a common coordinated EU-wide effort to share the burden, defuse crises and help economically vulnerable countries to help themselves is the only realistic way forward to reduce numbers. Pulling up the drawbridge to the UK is an unworkable and dangerous illusion.

The more sensible approach is to pro-actively partner up with our friends in Europe, use the EU’s capacity to speak with one voice on all of the pressing issues we face as a Continent, such as tax avoidance, the refugee crisis, climate change, inequality and poverty, and ending austerity successfully together.

Of course, there are plenty of good reasons to criticise and reform the workings of the EU, in the same way that we are confronted with the constant need to update, adjust and improve the way Westminster, Paris and Berlin operate. In fact, if we should be voting on something, it should be forcing our governments in London and Berlin and elsewhere to invest more energy into making the EU the effective tool for European co-operation it is supposed to be; and the one we desperately need.”

Lord David Blunkett, former Labour cabinet member and Sheffield MP

“Today I set out what I believe to be a compelling case for Britain to remain in the EU. I do so from a background of Euro scepticism, including voting to come out of the European Union 41 years ago.

So what has changed? Quite simply, the world around us. What has changed is where power lies, and how we use our influence as a nation in order to be able to continue to exercise a modicum of real influence in this highly globalised, insecure and uncertain world.

There are, of course, countries with a population much less than that of Yorkshire. But as we argued successfully two years ago when the Scottish people voted to reject exit from the United Kingdom, a nation with a population slightly less than Yorkshire’s was better off inside rather than outside the UK.
Many of the same arguments apply in terms of our continuing commitment within, and our efforts to change for the better, the European Union. For in this ever changing world, it is those who are part of powerful blocs, who combine together to maximise their clout, who gain the greatest results.

This is true of nation states facing the enormous trans-national influence of major private companies and countries such as China and India with populations of around 1.2 billion. Whether in finance or mining, communications and social media, it is the great giants of the world who now exercise such power way beyond national boundaries, and overwhelmingly cancel out any arguments relating to the sovereignty of individual nations.

Back in 2002 with the then Interior Minister of France, later to become President, Nicolas Sarkozy, we reached historic agreement. The agreement did not just result in the closure of the Sangatte Camp outside Calais, but the establishment of a special zone in northern France, where British intelligence, security and customs staff would be able to double check those seeking to enter the United Kingdom.

That agreement grew out of the joint understanding that we had in working together on the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the EU. Of course this was a bilateral agreement, but within the European boundaries and also recognising the role that all of us had to play in protecting the outer boundary of the EU and the security, intelligence and policing functions that made it possible to stop people simply flowing across individual countries, and into the UK.

I have absolutely no doubt that were we to leave the European Union, the French would no longer continue to have arrangements which effectively allow the UK border to operate on French soil.

Like Britain, Yorkshire benefits from – and contributes to – the well-being of the wider European Union. We have over the last 40 years said very little about the substantial contribution made back into the Yorkshire economy, both in terms of the direct return of cash as part of the operation of European Social and Structural Funds, but also in respect of our great White Rose Universities.

From Sheffield and Rotherham’s advanced manufacturing research centre, through to investment in the University of Leeds, from the Deep in Hull, to the refurbishment of Sheffield City Centre, Yorkshire has benefitted.

Historically, South Yorkshire benefitted substantially from what was known as Objective One funding. This was aimed at those regions across Europe facing the greatest challenge in the restructuring of industry, the levels of unemployment and social deprivation, and the critical task of preparation for a very different future.

While in the 1980s, the Government of the day believed in a “hands off” policy towards industry and local economies, the European Union was developing positive interventions to help with that critical social as well as economic restructuring. From training and retraining, through to investment in infrastructure, Yorkshire benefitted.

In the present era, it has been stated very clearly by Siemens that they would not be investing in the future of wind power and jobs in Humberside if it were not for the fact that we were in the EU.

But selling our goods and services, our know-how and expertise into a European Union with a single market, is only one side of the coin. For we also have a great deal to give. The developments of two new City Regions based on Leeds and Bradford in the West, and South Yorkshire through to the East Midlands, offers a chance of developing new relationships with regions across the EU. In this way, we can exercise further influence to make the European Union both more efficient and people-centred.

Across Europe there are people of like mind. Sick of bureaucracy but recognising the reality of global influences and the need to exercise power by combining together and forming alliances together.

Let us take great pride in Yorkshire, in our country and in our history but let us also face the overwhelming reality of the world as it is today and the challenges of tomorrow. That is why in this referendum, a vote to stay in is a vote to acknowledge the reality of power.”

* Leave campaigners: visit tomorrow

Green Party Coun Douglas Johnson
Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP
Dr Knut Roder, Sheffield Hallam University academic specialising in EU politics
Should South Yorkshire vote to leave or remain?
David Blunkett
Ed Miliband
Liberal Democrat Coun Shaffaq Mohammed
Peter Moore, former Liberal Democrat leader of Sheffield City Council
Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield
Green Party Coun Douglas Johnson
Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP
Dr Knut Roder, Sheffield Hallam University academic specialising in EU politics
Should South Yorkshire vote to leave or remain?