As voting day draws near on the EU referendum (June 23) the lobbying for support by the two sides grows more intense. Should we remain in the EU or should we leave?
Many people are still undecided and have questions still unanswered. That’s why we invited readers to send us their own questions to be put direct to two local Conservative MPs who find themselves on opposite sides of the debate.
Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) favours staying in Europe. Nus Ghani (Wealden) wants out.
Our thanks to all the readers who responded with questions. Many covered similar ground. In the end we chose ten that we believe reflect the views and concerns of the majority.
Last week we published the answers from Nus Ghani. This week it’s the turn of Greg Clark to answer the same questions.
We keep hearing conflicting versions of the implications a Brexit will have on national security, with some saying it will make us safer as we can better control our borders while others say we will be more vulnerable as we will no longer share intelligence with the EU. Who is correct?
Britain is in Europe, but we aren’t part of the Schengen zone of weak border controls. This is a powerful position that allows us to control our borders while sharing intelligence about crime and terrorism with other EU countries. For example, the European Arrest Warrant secured the rapid return to the UK of the July 2005 London bombers, now in prison for 40 years.
We also have a close security relationship with America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. None of those are EU members, of course – but as our closest allies they have made it clear that they greatly value the inﬂ uence that Britain has in Europe.
All of these relationships make us safer and make the whole world safer.
Will Britain still be required to abide by rulings from the European Court of Human Rights if we leave Europe? Isn’t it separate from the European Union?
It’s difficult to know what conditions might be attached to a deal with the EU following a vote to leave.
Whether or not we have out-of-touch judges defying the will of the British people comes down to the sort of government we elect in this country, not whether we’re part of the EU or not.
We will enshrine – in British law – the principle that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights does not create any new rights that our Parliament hasn’t voted for itself.
What impact will Britain leaving the EU have on the City of London?
It’s worth remembering that our financial services industry employs two million people – most of them ordinary workers not highly paid executives. Thousands of people in West Kent are employed in financial services and related businesses. Taxes from this sector also go a long way to paying for public services like the NHS.
A big reason for Britain’s success in finance is that we’re part of the EU – the world’s biggest trading bloc – but not part of the single currency. Leaving the EU would be abandoning what is a uniquely advantageous position for a major economy like ours.
At the same time, leaving would make it harder to stop competing financial interests in places like Frankfurt and Luxembourg from biasing EU rules against our firms.
We like the idea of Brexit but are worried about the prospect of a second Scottish referendum leading to the breakup of the UK if we vote to leave the EU. What are the chances this could actually happen?
The likes of Alex Salmond are trying to stir things up, but in the Scottish elections this month the SNP lost their majority and Scottish Conservatives surged to second place. I’d say that the Scottish people have delivered their verdict on the idea of a second referendum.
If Britain votes to leave the EU, how long will the exit process take?
I’d love to tell businesses in Tunbridge Wells that the exit negotiations would go smoothly and everything would be fine. However, the truth is that I don’t know what would happen – and nor does anyone else.
A new free trade agreement would be the biggest single issue – and I hope that common sense would prevail on all sides. However, let’s not forget that any deal that we wanted would have to be voted on unanimously by 27 different countries, meaning that there would be at least 27 different opportunities for a national parliament or a national referendum to send everything back to square one.
Anyone who works, or runs a business or has children or grandchildren hoping to start work in the next few years needs to decide whether this is a good time to be entering into a period of profound uncertainty.
Will the UK be better insulated from the Eurozone crisis if we vote to leave the EU?
Britain has the best of both worlds as an independent nation with our own currency within Europe. Whatever happens to the Eurozone, the deal negotiated by David Cameron earlier this year guarantees we will not be part of it nor have to contribute to its costs. A renewed Eurozone crisis would, of course, be bad for the world economy – but to insulate ourselves from that we’d have to leave the planet, not just Europe!
Is it actually realistic to think fast-growing nations are going to want to sign free trade deals with Britain if it is no longer part of the EU?
Britain is a major economy so countries like China and India would want to trade with us, but it’s likely that they’d negotiate with the biggest markets first.
As for the terms of any agreement, there’s not much sentimentality in trade negotiations – bigger is stronger. It’s blindingly obvious that we can get a better deal by bargaining as part of the world’s biggest export market than if we were left on our own.
What is the likelihood that if we vote to leave, other EU Members will act in a vindictive manner towards the UK in order to set an example to other nations who may be considering an exit?
I hope there wouldn’t be any vindictiveness, but I think there would be quite a lot of opportunism. As I say, a new deal for Britain would have to be agreed unanimously by all the remaining EU countries. This would give each of them a lot of leverage in getting payments, requirements to obey EU rules and other concessions from us.
For example, it’s clear that keeping our full access to the single market would mean us accepting the principle of free movement of labour. Therefore, leaving the EU wouldn’t be a short cut to reducing immigration.
We are worried that if Britain now votes to stay it will be seen as an effective endorsement of all things EU and we will no longer have any leverage to secure opt-outs from further integration. Is this going to be the case?
This isn’t a vote on our past relationship with the EU, but on our new relationship with it which has been agreed. In particular, our special status in Europe keeps us out of the Eurozone, out of the Schengen agreement and out of
‘ever closer union’.
The very fact that we are having this referendum – and such a vigorous debate about it – proves that
no-one can take British membership for granted.
It’s interesting to see other countries now demanding their own renegotiations to get some of the things that Britain has secured. The tide of reform is now heading in our direction and we should make the most of that.
We have read that many in the higher education sector say that UK research will suffer and our universities will no longer remain top in the global league tables if we leave the EU, is this true?
I’m proud that Britain has by far the best universities in Europe. In fact, we’re the only EU country to have several universities in the global top 20.
As a former minister for universities and science I have seen first-hand how this country attracts talent and investment from around the world. I’ve no doubt we’d continue to do so even outside the EU, but our universities and scientists are clear that our membership does make it much easier.
To be able to draw upon the most brilliant and creative minds of an entire continent is a huge IN advantage for
this country – one that bodes very well for our future.