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Brexit puts jobs at risk' vs 'The EU is failing': Teesside MPs debate Euro referendum - Ahead of the EU poll on June 23, Teesside MPs Anna Turley and James Wharton argue their case :: Which way will you vote?
Teessiders will next week go to the polls to cast their vote in the EU referendum vote. Writing for The Gazette, two of our area's leading politicians have made the case on whether the UK should stay or leave the European Union. For our region, the biggest issue at stake in this referendum is the local economy and thousands of skilled jobs reliant on Europe. Brexit will put these and Teesside’s recovery at risk. Our area has been devastated recently by the closure of SSI and the loss of over 175 years of steelmaking.
On top of job losses at Boulby Potash and Air Products, three thousand jobs were lost overnight at the works, with many more in the wider community – everyone from window cleaners to child minders has been affected in some way. Some people have sought to channel the justified anger and sense of betrayal that we feel against Europe, but that would result in us ‘cutting off our nose to spite our face’ by hitting our remaining industries.
'Protects our rights'
At the time the government said they couldn’t intervene to save SSI due to European State Aid rules. We knew that wasn’t the case, and even gained confirmation of this from the European Commission.
The fact that the government is now discussing a state loan of hundreds of millions of pounds to stop Tata’s UK business closing shows that Europe was not the barrier. Our own government was. It would be deeply damaging to vent our anger at the very institution which was, in fact, working to raise tariffs on Chinese dumping and protect the steel industry in Europe.
We now have to rebuild our economy on Teesside. This means getting inward investment, growing small and medium enterprises and regenerating our area. In the Redcar constituency, we have two major assets which are vital to our economic recovery.
Both the Teesport and Wilton International benefit hugely from access to the European Union. The North East Process Industry Cluster joined business leaders from across the region to say that leaving the EU would deter investment, threaten jobs and put the North East economy at risk.
There are many other projects, such as the Teesside Advanced Manufacturing Park, which rely on EU funding, and many local businesses that rely on exports to the single market.
'Regenerate our area'
Our region is a net recipient of EU funds and we are entitled to more European funds than any other English region. The European Social Fund alone paid £157m into the North East between 2007 and 2013, and we are due £726m from the EU over the next five years.
The EU has also kept people safe at work and protects our rights as a consumer. It protects paid leave (before EU membership we had no right to paid holiday), maternity rights and equal rights for agency workers.
We have a huge job on to rebuild our local economy and regenerate our area, but the EU has a vital role to play in this. I hope you will join me and the many people in Redcar and Teesside who are voting ‘YES’ to staying in.
James Wharton, Stockton South's Conservative MP: I want to trade with Europe, but we do not need EU membership for that. The EU sells more to us than we sell to them. Germany will still want to sell cars to British drivers just as France will want to sell wine to British drinkers. Those who claim that to leave would endanger investment to our region fail to understand that we attract investment because we are good at what we do.
Teesside has a world leading chemical process capacity, incredible workforce and excellent connections through Teesport. Nissan in Sunderland is the most productive plant they have, that is why it succeeds. Hitachi in Aycliffe is backed by a big UK Government contract to provide trains to the UK. That is what brought them here.
'Expand our trade'
We should look to sell to the whole world, not focus only on our near neighbours. We should take back control over our laws and borders and should look to the rest of the world to expand our trade. The EU economy has halved in size as a proportion of world GDP since 1980. It is the only continent other than Antarctica that has not seen its economy grow over the past decade.
The EU influences trade, regulations, spending and immigration. It has become too big and too bureaucratic. It has countless challenges ahead, from the debt and the Euro crisis with places like Greece still in deep trouble to its demographic time bomb and the failure of its immigration systems.
We will be affected by what is coming, but if we are outside then we are free to take what action is necessary. If we are inside the cost will fall to our Government and, ultimately, your money. The real risk in this referendum is staying in an organisation which is failing.
'Cause instability and disaster'
European funds we receive are a tiny fraction of the money the UK sends to the EU every year. We pay in £8bn per year more than we get out. If we leave we can spend more to develop our economy and have more control over how it is spent.
It is also a matter of sovereignty and accountability. We choose our political representatives in the UK. We have little or no say over those making decisions that affect us in the EU. Teesside should be free to take what action is needed to prosper in an uncertain world, working with Europe but not being run by it.
Finally it is about long term stability. Peace in Europe has been guaranteed by NATO, not by the EU. With so many unresolved problems the EU cannot be seen as a force for stability. It may instead cause instability and disaster, especially given the troubles of the euro currency.