Hereford Times Column: EU Referendum

As a rule the policy of this column has been to focus on local issues.

On the nitty-gritty of potholes, school funding and better public services in our gorgeous county.  Not for it the commentator’s curse of lush and airy speculation about national or international events.

And certainly not, ahem, politics.

Reader, I am afraid you may experience a slight service interruption in this respect over the next few weeks.  But I make no apologies for it.  For there is one issue that is local because it is national, and national because it is international.  That is the forthcoming EU referendum, now almost certain to be held in on June 23rd.  It is, quite simply, far too important to be ignored.

Some of my colleagues in Parliament have thrown in their lot with one camp or the other, in or out, and others will doubtless follow them.

It is absolutely their right to do so, and the campaigns for and against UK exit from the EU will be livelier and stronger for their participation.

My own approach, however, will be slightly different.  I make no bones about it; I have been very concerned over the years about the lack of legitimacy of many EU decisions; about the often disastrous effects of the Common Agricultural Policy, both here and in its effects on developing countries; and, more recently, at the failure of the Schengen countries to control their borders.

But I also have concerns the other way:  in particular, that we would lose a great deal of influence, within Europe and globally; that “Brexit” might be economically highly disruptive; and that the migrant situation might get worse, not better, if we left.

And more than anything I have been struck over the past few months by three things.  One is the lack of public awareness of many of the key issues involved.  The second is the absence of any independent and authoritative guidance for voters.  And the third, I must confess, is the knowledge that I am very far from expert in this area, many aspects of which are mind-bogglingly complex.

So I think the best thing I can do, as a Member of Parliament, is to hold the ring for you, my constituents, and try to pose questions and provide facts which help you to make the decision for yourselves and on your own terms, when the moment comes to decide.