About 6,000 people in Boston and Skegness depend on jobs created by the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, according to the Liberal Democrats.
MEP candidate Bill Newton Dunn, the longest serving member of the European parliament, visited The Standard office today (Wednesday) to speak to reporter Daniel Jaines about his party’s European election campaign.
The Liberal Democrat, who is fighting to retain his seat in the European Union, said he believed there were two parties making a particular effort ahead of May 22’s vote – UKIP and the Lib Dems.
He feels the election is mainly about the ‘in or out’ argument, and said the two ‘older’ parties were ‘not saying much and are keeping a low profile’.
He said: “For us it’s a no brainer. The EU, the single market, is the biggest market for Britain. That means an awful lot of jobs both ways and if we leave we put them at risk.”
Liberal Democrat local representative Ralph Pryke said that, although numbers weren’t precise and changed on a daily basis, a recent House of Commons figure said 6,000 jobs in this election constituency are dependent on membership of the EU.
Mr Dunn said Britain did have a role to play in the decision making process in Brussels and that if the country left the European Union, it would end up isolated and be in a similar position to Norway and Switzerland who have to pay into the EU.
“They get very frustrated because no-one listens to Norway or Switzerland,” he said.
“Do we want to put all those jobs at risk? Do we want to lose the influence in the shaping of decisions?”
He said Britain, with France and Germany had ‘infinitely more say than Latvia, Malta or Greece’.
Mr Pryke added the EU was a ‘shared sovereignty’ where the Government had agreed to share decisions between other countries.
Mr Dunn then said that if Britain wasn’t part of the EU it would be ‘just another country’ to the rest of the world.
“If Europe speaks as one voice we have a much better chance of being listened to by China, Russia and America.
He pointed to the protections against trade bans that Britain had, pointing the BSE outbreak when France wanted to ban British beef and Brussels overturned it.
“If we were to quit then the French or Germans could say they don’t like English fruit and could ban it.”
He added if the country wasn’t in the EU trade would diminish and that the trade linked to the jobs was ‘very important’.
Mr Dunn defended his fellow candidate’s Issan Ghazni’s comments sent to The Standard that the party needed to get more Eastern Europeans voting.
The party is campaigning through a variety of leaflets, including letters written in a variety of languages to appeal to Boston’s various nationalities.
He added: “The Lib Dems stand behind the principal of free movement between European countries - that’s the fundamental principal. Latvians, Lithuanians are all entitled to come here by law and we defend our rights.”
He said Poles and Portugese people he had spoken to while campaigning were ‘incredibly worried’ about the rhetoric that was being used during the election.
“These people have been here for years, paid taxes for years and worked,” he said.
Mr Pryke repeated recent comments that if there were no migrants Pilgrim Hospital would struggle to continue, while Mr Dunn said there were as many Brits working elsewhere as there were migrants in the UK.
Mr Dunn said he had also spoken to a farmer who had reiterated the often trotted out line that he hires migrant workers because ‘no Brits want to apply for the jobs.’
Explaining his role in the EU, he said his job was to take the messages and complaints of our residents to the EU and then inform his constituents about what the EU was doing. He said this is difficult because there are 3.5 million people in the East Midlands.
He said he also used his contacts, built up since he was first elected to the EU in 1979, to get people to the right places to have their say on issues or apply for EU funding - for example the Stump could apply to a new ‘historic buildings’ grant.
In terms of Boston, he said he felt the town can place more emphasis on its tourism - for example celebrating its links with America and the coastal history further – and he felt if that happened hotels could invest in the town.
He also said that if he took a delegation to the EU to campaign for trade or tourism for Boston, he would not favour Lincoln, as is often the local perception when it comes to funding.
He said the biggest issue facing the world is climate change and said it is really serious - disputing UKIP MEP Roger Helmer’s more sceptical take on the phenomenon.
“In the future, our grandchildren could look around and ask, ‘why didn’t you do anything?’.”
He said the focus should be on renewable energies such as wind and tidal energy.
When asked about issues affecting local fishing such as cockle fishing and EU Regulations - he said there was often an issue in British Parliament where ministers would ‘gold plate’ directives.
This means adding extra details that go further than needed. He said an EU directive is a very general order, and it was left to the respective countries to fill in the details and it was then up to local politicians to fight any details that may affect their constituencies.
However, he said the Westminster system wasn’t working very well and ‘the trouble is backbenchers want to become ministers’.
The European Election takes place on May 22.
The East Midlands candidates are:
An Independence from Europe: Chris Pain, Val Pain, Alan Jesson, John Beaver and Carl Mason.
British National Party: Catherine Ann Marie Duffy, Robert Malcolm Brian West, Bob Brindley, Geoffrey Williams Dickens and Paul Hillard.
Conservative Party: Emma McClarkin, Andrew Iain Lewer, Rupert Oliver Matthews, Stephen John Castens and Brendan Clarke-Smith.
English Democrats: Kevin Sills, David Wickham, John Dowle, Oliver Healey and Terry Spencer.
Green Party: Kat Boettge, Sue Mallender, Richard Mallender, Peter Duncan Allen and Simon Edward Hales.
Harmony Party: Steve Ward.
Labour Party: Glenis Willmott, Rory Palmer, Linda Woodings, Khalid Hudadi and Nicki Brookes.
Liberal Democrats: Bill Newton Dunn, Issan Ul-Haque Ghazni, Phil Knowles, George Smid and Deborah Violet Newton-Cook.
UKIP: Roger Helmer, Margot Parker, Jonathan Deryck Bullock, Nigel Mark Wickens and Barry Joseph Mahoney.