With less than 100 days to go until the EU referendum, Britain’s pro-exit and pro-stay campaigns are in full swing.
Eurosceptic Employment Minister Priti Patel brought the so-called ‘Brexit’ campaign to Suffolk on Friday, visiting firms in Stowmarket and Needham Market after speaking at a business reception in Claydon.
The Tory MP told business representatives that voting to leave the UK on June 23 would enable Britain to take back control of its finances, markets, laws and borders.
In her speech, she said: “Since we joined the EU in 1973, the UK has contributed a staggering £506 billion to Brussels’ coffers. Every year the East of England sends £1.98 billion to Brussels - that’s over £220,000 per hour.
“Imagine what could be done with this money to benefit the region - build more schools, provide more funding for the NHS or invest in transport infrastructure across the East of England.”
She said Britain’s EU membership was preventing it from striking free trade deals with fast growing economies around the world and that EU regulation was ‘making it harder for entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow and create jobs’.
“As long as we remain in the EU we are powerless to prevent laws that damage our country from being imposed on us,” she said, adding that the pressures of EU freedom of movement had resulted in skilled people being turned away from outside of the EU.
John Biggin, MD of commercial vehicle dealer TruckEast and a Business for Britain supporter, echoed Ms Patel’s concerns when she visited his Stowmarket headquarters on Friday, though he stressed this was only his personal view.
He said: “The legislation I see going over my desk is made by people I haven’t voted for and if I don’t like it I can’t vote it out whereas the government of today I can. It’s bureaucratic and undemocratic.
“I think the country could do well outside [of the EU] because we’re not a big exporter of anything really, we have a trade deficit, we’re not like Germany who have a big trade surplus. I think they [the EU] need us more than we need them.”
He said he would support ‘an Australian style points system’ with regards to immigration because he would like to be able to recruit more easily from outside of the EU.
“Why should it be more difficult for a skilled person from New Zealand to come here than someone from Romania, that’s wrong from a business point of view,” he said.