Two days to go until the EU referendum but have you made up your mind yet? North Herts experts and politicians offer their last minute advice to voters

European Parliament building, in Strasbourg

European Parliament building, in Strasbourg - Credit: Archant

As the EU referendum campaign enters its final week, decision day is drawing ever closer – but have you made your mind up yet?

Leave or Remain? Only you can decide.

Leave or Remain? Only you can decide. - Credit: Archant

We have sought out the views of experts, politicians and voters to see if there’s a clear picture emerging about which way the nation may go.

And while it’s no surprise to find that there are champions for both camps, what they have to say may help you make up your mind in the next few days.

In case you find the whole EU debate bewildering, we’ve summarised some of the key points put together by the Brexit and Remain campaigns:

The case for Brexit:

1) Britain could strike its own deal with the EU giving it access to the single market without being bound on its other laws.

2) Outside the EU Britain could strike up independent trade deals with countries like China, India and the US.

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3) The EU’s Central Agricultural Policy (CAP) is wasteful and expensive.

4) There is too much bureaucracy in the EU and its laws regulate too many areas of our lives.

5) The EU is very expensive, costing Britain £20 billion in membership fees each year.

6) Inside the EU, Britain has no control over immigration from other EU member states

The case for Remain:

1) The EU is our biggest trading partner. Currently 45 per cent of our exports are to the EU, while 50 per cent of imports come from the EU.

2) The EU has introduced many directives which benefit workers’ rights in the UK. For example, the 48 hour week, four weeks of guaranteed parental leave and four weeks of annual leave.

3) Immigrants from the EU tend to be better educated than UK nationals – around 32 per cent have a degree, compared with 21 per cent of UK citizens. From an economic perspective, people moving over from the EU since 2000 have contributed 34 per cent more financially to the UK than they have cost us.

4) Many of the UK’s food standards come from the EU, meaning many potentially harmful additives are banned from food.

5) Around three million UK jobs are dependent on the EU.

Dr Nathan Jones, a former pupil at Letchworth’s Fearnhill School and now living in Baldock, has a doctorate in European politics from the University of Nottingham.

What does he make of the campaign so far? He said: “Brexit campaigners have repeatedly demanded that the debate on the EU referendum should be based on the facts.

“This stance is hypocritical, since they dismiss any facts which do not suit them, exploiting the lack of public knowledge about how the EU works to manufacture arguments based on fear.

“Vote Leave’s mantra is that the UK pays about £350 million per week or £55 million per day to the EU. This is misleading.

“All calculations of the EU budget must include the rebate and these figures do not. The annual net figure is the only accurate and reliable figure to use and £8.5 billion per year is the UK’s net contribution to the EU budget.

“Vote Leave claims that Turkey is soon going to join the EU. It is not. Turkey has to meet very strict criteria for its application to even be considered, and it has failed to achieve this objective for years. The recent deal between the EU and Turkey over immigration does not apply to the UK,. Turkish citizens cannot obtain visa free travel to the UK by means of this deal.

“Vote Leave is deceiving people over the impact of immigration on public services. The independent House of Commons library report, a study by the Full Fact organisation, and other academic studies show that immigrants from the European Economic Area – which includes all EU countries – make a positive net contribution to the British economy, and are less likely to claim benefits, use NHS services, or live in social housing, compared to British nationals.

“The choice comes down to voting for facts or fear. I urge you to choose pragmatic and relevant facts to make an informed decision, and to reject the deception, fear, and prejudice promoted by Vote Leave.”

Labour is campaigning for a ‘remain’ vote and Councillor Frank Radcliffe is the leader of the Labour group on North Herts District Council.

He said: “The concern for me is that if we leave we’ve got two million British people living abroad who are going to want our health care provision. As someone who has direct experience of the Lister Hospital recently, it is likely to be swamped by UK migrants coming back to the country.

“We keep talking about an increase in immigration if we leave, but I don’t see a massive impact in that respect. We’ve got 52,000 EU nationals working in the National Health Service. Who is going to fulfil their jobs if they leave the UK?

“Our local farmers get subsidies from Europe and the aerospace and technological industries will be affected by uncertainty if we leave. This is something that affects a wide range of issues locally. We are stronger in Europe.”

Although Prime Minister David Cameron is pushing hard for a ‘remain’ vote, veteran Hitchin & Harpenden MP and former cabinet minister Peter Lilley takes a different view: “I love Europe, and in 1975 I campaigned to keep us in the Common Market. But Europe is not the EU, and the EU is not the same as the Common Market.

“This referendum is about democracy and prosperity. In a democracy, if the government fails to deliver prosperity the people can chuck it out, but the EU is not like that. Its government – the Commission – is unelected, and you can’t vote it out.

“This is our opportunity to take back control of our laws (around half our laws originate in Brussels), our money (we could spend our £10 billion net contribution to the EU on the NHS) and our borders – we should be able to decide how many, with what skills and from where people come.

“This is not a choice between status quo and change. The EU is moving towards a centralised European state – its original objective.

“If we remain, we will be under pressure to adopt the Euro, join Schengen, and become part of this European state – just like Texas is part of the USA. If we leave we can be more like Canada – trading freely with our neighbours, but free to make our own laws, spend our own money, and make our own decisions on war and peace.”