After months of campaigning, there is now less than a week to go until voters will have their say on whether or not the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union.
It’s a subject which has dominated the letters page of this paper for weeks, with readers passionately stating the case for both sides of the argument.
The referendum vote will take place on Thursday, June 23.
It has been frequently described as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people to have a say on the future direction of the country – and polls published last week suggested the vote was too close to call.
British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK are eligible to vote, along with UK nationals living abroad who have been on the electoral register in the UK in the past 15 years.
In this special feature, we ask the five Members of Parliament whose constituencies fall in the Mercury’s circulation area to explain how they intend to vote in the EU referendum and why.
IN – Nick Boles, Conservative MP for Grantham and Stamford
Next Thursday the British people come to a fork in the road. If they vote to Remain in the EU, businesses will start investing again, creating new jobs and offering working people the prospect of sustained growth in wages. The government will be able to deliver the extra money which the NHS needs, meet our promises to protect pensions and carry on creating 3 million new apprenticeships. We will be able to look forward with confidence and optimism. If we vote to Leave, any joy at the prospect of disentangling ourselves from Brussels will quickly be replaced by anxiety and retrenchment. The uncertainty over our future trading relationships will cause an economic shock and punch a hole in the public finances which will have to be filled by tax increases or further cuts. For the sake of all those who depend on a strong economy I hope you will vote to Remain.
IN - Sir Alan Duncan, Conservative MP for Rutland and Melton
I believe Britain should remain in the EU to ensure we do not lose the economic advantages we currently have.
Our membership brings real benefits such as access to the single market and the ability to travel easily and cheaply for work and leisure, but we are being asked by the Leave campaign to throw those advantages away without a plan for the future. They want us to take a leap into the dark without any idea of where we will land.
They tell us we should ‘take control’, but all they really have to offer is fake control: either we would be outside the single market at huge economic cost, or we would be trying to trade with it without the ability to influence its future direction. A vote to Remain allows us to keep the economic advantages and the political clout to shape the future of the EU.
A vote to leave would see us lose both.
OUT - John Hayes, Conservative MP for South Holland and The Deepings
Power should be closely associated with its effect; laws made by those the people choose to represent them.
Now, too often, decisions are made for us by unelected Eurocrats, foreign judges and politicians who we neither know, nor hold to account.
So, the coming referendum is about who decides for our country and how we check their power.
Giving far more money to the EU than we get back, our national priorities are often ignored and the EU stops us deciding who and how many immigrants arrive here.
In 1973 we thought we joined a trading bloc, but over time the EU’s become more bureaucratic, less accountable, and -with the Euro crisis and migrant influx- more chaotic.
It’s time to take control of our country’s future, to look beyond the ghosts of Europe’s past to a brighter wider world.
June 23rd is Britain’s last chance for a new start. A chance to honour our birthright and shape our national destiny.
OUT - Tom Pursglove, Conservative MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire
The Mercury asked Tom Pursglove MP to contribute to this feature, but he failed to do so.
However, as a founder member of the Grassroots Out campaign, it is clear he wants the United Kingdom to leave the EU.
Grassroots Out, or GO for short, is made up of politicians and supporters from across the political spectrum, with a single aim: to get the United Kingdom out of the European Union.
GO says it brings together existing ‘leave’ campaigns and gets them to work as one in local areas. The organisation says on its website that it unites people from all political parties, and none, into one effective anti-EU ground campaign, which is working towards winning the referendum, “door by door, vote by vote”.
In an article published in The Daily Telegraph earlier this year, Mr Pursglove, former Labour minister Kate Hoey and Ukip leader Nigel Farage wrote the EU referendum vote “represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the UK to throw off the shackles of EU membership and stand proud again in the world”.
IN - Shailesh Vara, Conservative MP for North West Cambridgeshire
My decision to vote to stay in the European Union has not been an easy one.
After much thought, I believe that on balance it is in Britain’s best interests to remain in the EU.
Staying in means our businesses continuing to have access to a free trade area of 500 million people, helping to protect three million British jobs linked to exports to other EU countries.
It also means lower prices and greater financial security for British families. And there will be greater security as we continue to work closely with our counterparts in the fight against crime and terrorism.
We will also benefit from the deal struck by the Prime Minister giving Britain Special Status.
There will be restrictions on EU migrants and their ability to claim benefits.
We will never join the Euro, never be part of a European army and Treaty references to “ever closer union” will not apply to Britain.
Finally though, this is a vote by the people of Britain in which everyone has an equal say.