Fringe Box



Updated: EU Referendum: Our Local Politicians Speak

Published on: 9 Mar, 2016
Updated on: 15 Mar, 2016

The Guildford Dragon NEWS believes that the forthcoming EU referendum is perhaps the most important vote that any of us will cast in our lifetime.

We have asked our local politicians what they think.

While Anne Milton (Conservative MP, Guildford) has not responded to The Guildford Dragon NEWS, we know that she is undecided as yet (noted in the Surrey Advertiser).

We have had no response from local Conservatives in Guildford or the Guildford Green Belt Group. We will bring you their responses when we get them.

LAbour logoGeorge Dokimakis, vice-chairman of the Guildford Labour Party response:

How do you think that Guildford would be affected by leaving or staying in the EU?

It would affect local prosperity in several ways.

If we were to leave the EU, the University of Surrey which now tops a number of league tables, would feel a great impact. A number of research grants will disappear that have enabled the University to be at the forefront of scientific research in a number of key areas, such as mobile and satellite technology.

And what would happen to the Erasmus students who get to study here from abroad whilst our students study in their country? The world is a small place these days and we need to ensure our young people have contacts with other countries and people and understand them. The EU has enabled 70 years of peace amongst European nations and we shouldn’t forget that.

In addition we have a number of multi-national companies located in Guildford. It is highly likely that they would relocate to a different country costing Guildford hundreds of local jobs.

Guildford’s reputation as the UK’s gaming centre of excellence would be in danger as development studios would move away from the Guildford to countries where they can easily attract and recruit talented employees from other countries without the burden of administrative visas.

Protection of the environment is important to local people too – clean air and water. And Guildford’s part-time workers, many of them women, know that their rights at work have been gained through EU legislation. They know their consumer rights and things like standards of food hygiene are all part of the European package as well.

Immigration and ‘benefits to migrants’ appear to be the focus of the national newspapers in the EU debate. What do you think Guildford’s voters believe are the main issues which will decide which way they will vote?

There’s a lot of emotion around this debate and rightly so as it affects many aspects of our life. Dog whistle statements about sovereignty and immigrants are being used to fuel negative emotions. However, the people of Guildford are intelligent and informed and know there are many other issues involved and that we should focus on the prosperity, protections and power that membership of the EU brings.

The key issues that people are misled on are: immigration; economy; sovereignty and; life outside the EU.

On Sovereignty, the EU is the world’s first and foremost cooperative collective of equal sovereign states. We have signed up to pool our resources together and to agree a common way forward. All countries are present in all its bodies through their directly elected or governmental representatives.

EU legislation is not laws dictated and pushed to us. They are proposed by the Commission whose members are appointed by each of the European countries, they are agreed by the European Council which is made up from elected ministers from all the countries and legislation and regulations are debated and agreed upon by the UK MEPs who represent us in the EU, and promote laws that would be beneficial to us.

Much EU legislation and regulations protect social rights, worker’s rights and the environment; all three are areas where the current Conservative government has little or no regard. So in this case the EU is clearly beneficial as it’s unlikely that these protections would be high on their agenda or even maintained.

Immigration is the topic that stirs the most. Unfortunately it is also the topic where the facts are skewed in favour of emotion. Recent surveys showed that “benefit migration” isn’t what is causing EU migrants to come to the UK. The jobs and the quality of life are the pull factors. This will not change if we leave the EU. The UK is still at the forefront of a number of industries and services. It has always attracted people to come here.

The question is whether we have a positive or a negative effect from migration and there have been multiple studies showing that migration provides a net benefit to the economy. In addition, a number of our key services such as the NHS rely heavily of the influx of talented people from across the EU. Not to mention our farmers.

We do need to recognise that the influx of unskilled workers has put pressure on local unskilled workers. But addressing this issue by leaving the EU is synonymous to the old adage of a hammer to kill a fly. What we need to do is make sure all employers obey the rules about the minimum wage. The greatest support for low wage earners is to make sure we have a prosperous economy.

As for the Economy, it is a fact that we are a net contributor to the EU. Most countries are, otherwise it wouldn’t work. Unfortunately there are a lot of numbers flying around that portray the wrong image. If you want a good idea of the value for money we get as individuals, just look at the Tax Summary document that was sent out to taxpayers last year. 0.6% only of your tax was for the EU

In addition we have multiple benefits that are not captured by the high-level economic analysis. We get cheaper foodstuffs, clothes and other consumer articles by being part of the EU – to the tune of about £450 for the average family each year. Leaving the EU will cause the cost of living to increase.

Arguments about having a special status and trade agreements with the EU are naïve at best. Trade agreements take years to negotiate and effectively we will end up signing to the same obligations but having none of the influence that EU members have. Norway and Switzerland are outside the EU, yet they have to sign up to the EU’s rules if they want to trade and they have no say in its policies and rules. Is this really what we want?

Will life outside the EU be better or worse? 

Undoubtedly the latter; We need the powerful voice that the EU gives us.  In the current turbulent times, we need allies and countries we can rely on. The geopolitical threats of Russia and ISIS as well as the economic landscape does not warrant and justify us deciding to go at it alone. Globalisation has ensured that “no country is an island”. Thinking we can do it alone is naïve and will leave us open, unguarded and helpless against global forces and changes.

Will the government’s current negotiations with the EU change the nature of our relationship with the EU?

Although we in the Labour party think the current negotiations have been disappointing as regards protecting the low paid, they do remove some of the perceived anxieties that might have prevented people from voting “Remain”. They make clear that the UK will have no truck with “ever closer political union” .They improve fairness by removing the immediate right of EU migrants to welfare benefits – pay in before the right to draw out. The deal also makes clear we have no intention of joining Europe’s single currency.

All in all we believe that although the EU is not perfect and does need to change, it is the best system available for us to co-operate with our neighbours. We cannot make this change happen from the outside. The UK leaving will not influence and drive change.  Staying in and taking a more leading role will do so, and contribute to a more prosperous, safer world for all into the bargain.


Cllr Caroline Reeves (leader of the Lib Dem group) response:Lib Dem logo_lg

How do you think that Guildford would be affected by leaving or staying in the EU?

We feel it will impact heavily on some of our key businesses, many of which have major business agreements with EU countries. There is also the question of staffing for businesses – retail, trade, care sector, hospital and so on – it is clear that EU citizens make up a significant proportion of our work force.

Of course any meaningful change in our business and economic situation would affect Guildford socially too.

Immigration and ‘benefits to migrants’ appear to be the focus of the national newspapers in the EU debate. What do you think Guildford’s voters believe are the main issues which will decide which way they will vote?

The emotive topic of immigration and ‘benefits to migrants’ has definitely been the focus of the tabloids and the OUT campaign.

The reality in the stats is less confrontational. Immigration figures include Irish who have come here, and rarely compare the number of people who come to live here with the number of our residents who have gone to live in other European countries.

The feedback we have had suggested that many local residents are exasperated by the slow response of the government to help refugees, and that a number of homes would want to take in refugees, in particular the unaccompanied children.

The main issues are varied and cover personal impact to national changes; the drop in the pound, the ease of travel across Europe and the movement of the border from Calais to Dover, the potential breaking up of the United Kingdom if we were to leave and Scotland, Ireland (and perhaps even Wales) wanted to stay, the loss of cheaper flights, the loss of European health insurance cover (EHIC card), the loss of the ‘booze cruise’ easy access to wine and beer, more expensive travel insurance to EU countries, uncertainty of status for British residents’ currently living in EU countries…

The unknown consequences of exit and the impact it would likely have today and for decades to come, in our view, far outweigh any potential benefits of exit.

Will the government’s current negotiations with the EU change the nature of our relationship with the EU? 

They have highlighted issues which other EU countries also have concerns about, such as payment of benefits and numbers of refugees allowed across borders, which may well create the opportunity for a wider discussion across EU countries to make changes. However that discussion can only happen if we ‘remain at the table’.

John Armstrong (chairman Guildford UKIP) response:Logo_of_UKIP_svg

How do you think Guildford would be affected by leaving or staying in the EU?

By leaving the EU and invoking article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the Brussels directives would cease.

We could dredge the River Wey again and bring our waterways back under local authority control rather than the EU quangos like the Environment Agency and the Highways Agency (potholes).

The local plan would go, thereby untying the hands of local elected councillors (currently writhing under the steely gaze of ‘The Inspectorate’) freeing them to plan once again for local need rather than the EU’s grand plan.

The green belt would be safe. The ever present threat of the Brussels boot stamping it’s authority on your local area would evaporate.

By staying in we will we will see the PM’s deal scuppered in the European Parliament followed by a tidal wave of Europeanisation and overwhelming housing and highway development.

Immigration and ‘benefits to migrants’ appear to be the focus of the national newspapers in the EU debate. What do you think the Guildford voters believe are the main issues which will decide the way they will vote?

I hope that Guildford voters will look to the future to what the EU might become before they cast a vote. In 1975 we could not; in our worst nightmare have foreseen the EU of today. No-one mentioned in 75 the Treaties of: Nice, Maastricht and Lisbon. Immigration was not an issue; mass or otherwise.

We were sold the Common Market on jobs and trade coupled with the undermining of our national self confidence; which hitherto had been sound. They are trying the same trick now bundled with security. But with the looming spectre of Turkey, not to mention other eastern European states, there will be even more cheap labour and therefore less jobs and certainly less security.

People are better informed these days and we don’t trust politicians any more. I think Guildford voters will vote on the big picture as they see it; not as politicians paint it.

Will the government’s current negotiations with the EU change the nature of our relationship with the EU?

I do not think the negotiations will change our relationship with the EU because they are meaningful only in the sense that they are so meaningless. They address none of the issues that bother people so much.

Their paucity of content speaks louder than the content itself. No powers back, nothing on free movement, nothing on border control; which is just what we expected. Our relationship to the EU remains exactly the same. Total subordination.

All our law is overwritten by the EU treaties: Nice, Maastricht and Lisbon. We have a civil service, a commercial and military infrastructure designed to run a global power; that infrastructure is now neutered. Even our exports, diplomatic and defence business outside the EU comes under EU rules; seriously inhibiting our effectiveness in all those areas. This will remain the case until we vote to leave; now that; will change our relationship with the EU.

 Selina Cartledge (press officer for the Guildford and East Waverley Green Party) response:Green Party Logo

How do you think that Guildford would be affected by leaving or staying in the EU? 

The EU impacts the science and technology sector more than any other. Membership brings tens of millions of pounds to universities and the University of Surrey is no different. Such funding has enabled the university to carry out world leading research, which would be under immediate threat if the UK left the EU.

Guildford is also home to headquarters of leading European companies, including IBA, Allianz, and Electronic Arts. These companies form a large portion of the 65,000 jobs that give Guildford one of the lowest unemployment records in the country. There would be no guarantee these companies would remain should we leave the EU.

Thirdly, the recent flooding of Guildford town centre and worsening air pollution are two local issues that are part of wider, cross-border environmental concerns. EU environmental policy is the most developed and influential environmental framework on the global stage and the UK has greater leverage by being part of the EU.

Immigration and ‘benefits to migrants’ appear to be the focus of the national newspapers in the EU debate. What do you think Guildford’s voters believe are the main issues which will decide which way they will vote? 

Guildford has a significant social, economic, and political divide, serving as a commuter town to London and a university town as well as having a large retirement population.  As a consequence, Guildford voters’ concerns are likely to be more varied than immigration and benefits.

For the commuters, the future of the City of London will be of key interest. The latest EU renegotiations place further protections on the City of London. To exit might risk banks leaving the UK as trade advantages of EU membership would be lost.

More likely to influence the students and younger generation are the jobs that the EU brings, which would certainly be lost should the UK vote to leave on June 23.

Will the government’s current negotiations with the EU change the nature of our relationship with the EU? 

The recent negotiations show the extent that leaders are willing to compromise to ensure the UK remains part of the EU, but there is little appetite for further compromises. David Cameron has, in effect, played the UK’s remaining ace. To make sure of this, Belgium insisted the recent draft deal included guarantees that the UK couldn’t push for further renegotiations.

This has left the UK/EU relationship in a difficult place. The EU referendum will be a global show of how divided the Government and the public are over membership of the EU. Despite Eastern Europe giving in to demands on benefit curbs, the French dropping their opposition to City of London guarantees, and the UK rejecting Germany’s concept of closer union, they will have to watch as some of the Government’s own cabinet decry “not enough” and “empty gestures”.

This is bound to lead to resentment throughout Europe’s leaders and citizens.

What do you think of the comments to the questions we posed? Please have your say and leave a reply in the box below.

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Responses to Updated: EU Referendum: Our Local Politicians Speak

  1. Stuart Barnes Reply

    March 2, 2016 at 8:07 am

    I am glad to learn that Anne Milton is at least undecided.

    It seems to indicate that at least she is prepared to listen to her voters.

    I have spoken to many people locally and it is quite difficult to find anyone in favour of staying in the corrupt EU.

    Certainly those who vote or used to vote Conservative are overwhelmingly for getting out as far as I can determine.

    The pathetic and ridiculous propaganda being pumped out by Cameron and Co. is likely to give more impetus to the out campaign as it is clearly nonsense and being sent out in a panic as events and opinion are moving away from them.

    • Henry Gilbert Reply

      March 17, 2016 at 11:28 am

      I consider Ann Milton is an honest and clean MP who was not involved in the expenses scandal. I know that a third of the Conservatives councillors are campaigning to leave, one third want to remain and one third are undecided.

      I hope that Ann Milton does not decide at the last minute to support the remain campaign because she feels under threat from David Cameron to keep her in her government job. She has to say now whether she is in or out not wait until the last minute.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    March 3, 2016 at 8:57 am

    For government to work it must be accountable. This is the problem. Greater size and centralisation has led to less and less accountability.

    What have been the big issues confronting the EU?

    1. the collapse of dictatorial regimes around the Eastern Mediterranean.

    What has the EU done? Did it have a foreign policy? In effect it stood by and watched the slow motion train wreck in Syria and Libya as if it had no consequences. It was a failure of foreign policy. Who is accountable? Which bureaucrats and politicians? And now they dont know what to do with the refugees. Prevention would have been better than cure.

    2. the collapse of the political consensus in the Ukraine – leading to the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea. There is a lot of evidence that EU policy was a fundamental cause of much of this. Who is accountable?

    3. the collapse of financial stability in Greece and Southern Europe. What was the cause of this? Fraud. Greece was admitted to the EU on the basis of false financial statistics. Are any bureaucrats accountable for these decisions?

    There are no consequences for our governors in the EU when they get it drastically wrong. They are all teflon coated. Responsibility is diluted among so many that they all evade any blame.

    This rot has infected government in the UK. In Guildford we have a failed Local Plan – but the same people are still in charge.

    We have policy made in secret. No one at GBC has seen the demographic housing projections model – or so they claim.

    We’ll only know what it says after they have passed their local plan.

    GBC Conservatives don’t work for the people who live here. Central government wants to build houses to accommodate the mass of people who want to come here from abroad.

    As the Daily Mail rightly says, David Cameron and George Osborne despise the Conservative grass roots.

  3. Ngaire Wadman Reply

    March 6, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    “…the future of the City of London will be of key interest. The latest EU renegotiations place further protections on the City of London. To exit might risk banks leaving the UK as trade advantages of EU membership would be lost.”

    I take it Ms Cartledge is unaware of the current threat to the London Stock Exchange, being taken over and sold to the Deutsche Boerse?

    That is a far bigger threat to City jobs – hoovering financial companies out of London to Frankfurt – than any ephemeral ‘trade advantages’ with the only major trade body in the world that has failed to grow for ten years and whose influence is steadily waning in the bigger, wider global economy in which an independent United Kingdom would thrive.

  4. Jim Allen Reply

    March 9, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    I will try and simplify – the EU is a sink hole (of red tape and failed accountancy procedures) waiting to collapse in on itself. It’s not if but when.

    We have to decide if we want to ride the collapse into it, with the mainland continent, or run like hell and then be on hand to rescue what’s left.

    I think you can guess which way I’m heading – sorry guys, self preservation.

  5. Keith Chesterton Reply

    March 9, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    The local UKIP spokesman has several delusions. If we want to, we can dredge the river Wey now. Remaining in or leaving the EU would make no difference, although Britain has signed up to water quality standards, that I hope we would keep, whatever happens. Our fishermen (and women) and swimmers would certainly want to.

    Pot holes have nothing whatsoever to do with the EU, and locally, the Highways Agency only deals with motorways and the A3. Other roads are the responsibility of Surrey County Council.

    The Local Plan is determined by rules set by the UK Government. Again nothing to do with the EU. If we want to change our planning system change the UK Government.

    I can remember the 1975 referendum clearly. It was not only about a free trade area. It was about much more cooperation than that.

    I voted against joining then. But after we lost, I thought we should work within it to make it work for our benefit. We shouldn’t throw it all away now on an irresponsible gamble.

    Keith Chesterton is a former Labour county councillor.

    • John Armstrong Reply

      March 12, 2016 at 7:21 pm

      There were rules in Britain before we joined the EU. We had a very sophisticated waterways management system before the EU got involved. It was maintained by a combination of vested interests and local authorities; the landowners who didn’t want their lucrative fisheries and farmland of centuries standing ruined; and the local authorities who’s responsibility it was to maintain and protect the local infrastructure so that people could go about their business.

      Now, the River Wey floods because it wasn’t dredged for ten years, the water backs up to Cranleigh and floods homes that have stood flood free for 200 years.

      True, councils maintain local roads; that is they used to. They used to employ their own workforce who carried out a rolling programme of maintenance just to keep the workforce busy; they went out looking for potholes. Now it has to go out to tender, and the contractor is not out looking for potholes. Once his bid is accepted the last thing he wants is spend more than he has to fixing potholes.

  6. Stuart Barnes Reply

    March 10, 2016 at 8:38 am

    It seems to me that the left and far left are for the corrupt EU and normal people are against.

    As far as politicians are concerned, I would rather take the opinions of the UKIP ones than the rest of them. After all, it is only because of UKIP that we are even allowed to have a vote on leaving the EU – if the old parties had had their way we would be told just to get on with it and do whatever the undemocratic left wing organisation decrees.

  7. Keith Chesterton Reply

    March 10, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    I hope this debate can take place without assuming people who have a different view are “corrupt”, “undemocratic” or “stupid”. We should try to get the basic facts correct.

    I know many “normal people” if by that is meant people who are not terribly interested in politics.
    Most are in favour of staying in the EU, but some are in favour of leaving and others can’t make up their minds. Let’s argue with respect for others.

    Hear, hear. Ed – Both those who favour “remain” and those who favour “out” have respectable positions. It is a shame we are not given a better example by some of our political leaders. I also wish that they would answer questions directly and concisely (And wouldn’t an occasional “I don’t know.” be refreshingly honest?).

  8. Stuart Barnes Reply

    March 11, 2016 at 8:31 am

    I agree that we should try to have a decent and respectful debate about the referendum. Also let us get basic facts correct.

    For instance, how would anyone describe a company or organisation whose independent auditors refused for 19 years in succession to certify its accounts apparently because of fraud and corruption?

    People are confused by the “project fear” agenda being pumped out by the increasingly desperate “In” campaign but I speak to a lot of different people and it is quite difficult to find supporters of the EU except from the obviously political activists of the left.

    Some of the people I speak to are or were supporters of the Labour party pre-Corbyn and they seem to have the same views as those who do or used to support the Conservative party.

    • Harry Eve Reply

      March 11, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      I too would like facts. I do not want the real arguments and debate obscured by politicians fighting with each other over their ideologies and personalities.

  9. Andrew Backhurst Reply

    March 11, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    Many years ago I got into a heated debate at a party with an old lady called Mary, of the benefits of leaving the EU, as I was of the opinion it was draining us dry.

    She was having none of it and explained that she had lived through two world wars with our near neighbours where many Europeans were persecuted and killed and now we live in a prosperous Europe. Yes we subsidise others, along with our former enemy Germany but, because of our common market people live in peace where the common understood language is English.

    She went on to say how London makes more money than the rest of Britain put together and subsidises all of us, leaving the EU would be like London going it alone. She said imagine the poverty we would all have.

    At the time I laughed about it and my mind was not changed. Over time I have realised that she was right. The UK will prosper outside short term by leaving, there is no doubt of that, but by leaving the EU we will make Europe poor. Poverty on our doorstep is not something we should be moving towards.

    So I am now on the side of Mary (although she has long passed away) I will vote to keep a united Europe speaking English and prospering.

    • Stuart Barnes Reply

      March 12, 2016 at 9:15 am

      In reply to Mr Backhurst – I do not wish to start another argument but cannot refrain from pointing out that the so called “united Europe” is clearly not united (see the responses to the flood of unwanted immigrants for example) and, equally clearly, it is not prospering.

      • Terry Stevenson Reply

        March 15, 2016 at 12:54 pm

        “Unwanted immigrants”? Refugees, many of which are fleeing conflicts that we (more than most in Europe) have had more than a little involvement in – namely Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and more recently, Syria. So no moral obligation there then?

        There are some people in Britain that consider our Christian values are under threat due to immigration (from Europeans?). Yet, at the same time, they don’t appear to hold views that are consistent with those values. An interesting concept.

        Perhaps, we should be all be asking ourselves when was the last time we were prepared to risk our lives? Could it be that some of these people are rather desperate?

        • Stuart Barnes Reply

          March 16, 2016 at 8:44 am

          If Mr Stevenson considers that the immigrants are wanted then why are all the countries, except perhaps Germany, closing their doors to them?

          • Terry Stevenson

            March 16, 2016 at 11:53 am

            In the main, the countries in the Balkans are reacting to the fact that Austria closed its borders.

            Prior to this, they seemed content to see them pass through their territory. When the blockade was put in place, understandably, each nation baulked at the idea of refugees being unable to proceed further than their own borders.

            Many of these nations have relatively small populations and the odd hundred thousand here or there could have a material effect.

            And now, the ‘sick man of Europe’, Greece, is saddled with much of the burden.

            And for definition’s sake:

            A migrant is a person who makes a conscious choice to leave their country to seek a better life elsewhere.

            Refugees are forced to leave their country because they are at risk of, or have experienced persecution. The concerns of refugees are human rights and safety, not economic advantage. They leave behind their homes, most or all of their belongings, family members and friends. Some are forced to flee with no warning and many have experienced significant trauma or been tortured or otherwise ill-treated. The journey to safety is fraught with hazard and many refugees risk their lives in search of protection.

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