Opening salvoes have been fired in South Holland as politicians take sides in the run-up to the in-out referendum on UK membership of the European Union.
South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes is following his heart to back the UK’s exit from the EU in the vote on June 23.
Mr Hayes, a security minister in David Cameron’s Government, said this week: “I have campaigned with the slogan ‘don’t let Europe rule Britannia’ in every election that I have fought in South Holland and The Deepings – it would be quite extraordinary, therefore, if I were to change my mind now.”
Spalding sees its first UKIP organised “vote leave” event at 10am on Saturday with a street stall at The Punchbowl, in New Road.
Organiser Rob Gibson, UKIP branch manager for the EU referendum, said: “The coming EU referendum is the most important democratic decision in a generation and it’s vital the public are informed of the choices available to us.
“This is sponsored by UKIP but is not a party branded occasion and members of other mainstream parties are welcome to join us.”
We should be leading Europe not leaving it. That is why I am in favour of staying in.Former Lib-Dem prospective parliamentary candidate George Smid
A second Vote Leave event will be held in Spalding on March 12 – this time organised by Craig Jackson, a former aide to Mr Hayes, who has been appointed South Holland and The Deepings coordinator for the official Vote Leave campaign.
Mr Jackson said the venue has yet to be decided but the Take Control Day coincides with events across the UK.
Tory MPs Nick Boles in Grantham and Stamford and Matt Warman in Boston and Skegness want the UK to stay in Europe.
Two of last year’s prospective candidates for the South Holland parliamentary seat, Matthew Mahabadi (Labour) and George Smid (Liberal Democrats), have explained why they want the UK to stay in – as has Labour stalwart Rodney Sadd.
Mr Hayes revealed his decision to David Cameron before giving an interview to The Times and says he remains loyal to the PM, regarding him as a friend and “by far the best person to lead our country”.
He told the Spalding Guardian: “The British people should have the opportunity and entitlement to be a free, independent, self-governing nation, that’s our birthright.
“The EU is bureaucratic, its regulations are burdensome, it is remote and, frankly increasingly out of date.”
He says Britain trades all over the world and, in this modern world, should look well beyond the boundaries of Europe.
Mr Mahabadi said the European Union has for decades been the bedrock of peace and prosperity.
He intends to be involved in the ‘Britain Stronger In’ campaign and is busy helping young people to register for a vote so they have a say in the referendum because it’s key to their future.
“I am absolutely firmly in,” said Mr Mahabadi. “I am very definitely in. I have been in since I was probably 14 and listening to the news about the EU. I have always thought the EU was a fantastic institution.
“A lot of the things we take for granted have come from the EU – things like clean beaches, workers’ rights, maternity protection – and not to mention 57 percent of our trade is with the EU.
“If we leave Europe we are putting all of that at risk and it’s a massive leap in the dark.”
Rodney Sadd, vice chairman of South Holland and The Deepings Constituency Labour Party, said there are many reasons why he wants Britain to remain in the EU, but advances in workers’ rights alone would decide the issue for him.
He also says four million British jobs are linked to our trade with the EU.
“If we left the EU, it would be like jumping in at the deep end without armbands and I don’t think I would like to take that risk.”
Mr Sadd said the constituency party meets next week to decide strategy on the pro-Europe campaign.
George Smid said: “The reason for staying in Europe is that we are already in Europe. We cannot set sail on these islands and sail into a mid-Atlantic where we will be an independent nation full of sovereignty, trading freely with the rest of the world (solely on our terms) and guarding our borders against people, airborne pollution, rising sea levels and against everything and anything we do not like.
“We should be leading Europe not leaving it. That is why I am in favour of staying in.”
• The referendum sparked uncertainty in South Holland’s migrant community and Diana Gajek, boss of The Polish Help Centre in Spalding, says she cannot advise people on the implications of the UK being in or out because there’s not enough information.
Miss Gajek understands migrants’ in-works benefits being phased in over four years, if Britain stays in the EU, and says most Polish people wouldn’t mind that because they come here to work.
“They don’t need benefits if they have got a job,” she said.
But she says no one has so far said whether migrants who have been settled here for years will be expected to return to their home countries if the UK leaves the EU, and believes it would be unfair to ask them to go.
She said: “You can’t just tell people to ‘pack your bags and leave’ after 15 years of living here.
“They have planted their roots here, they have settled here, they have kids born here – and they haven’t got places to go back to after 15 years.”
Local MP John Hayes says if Britain leaves the EU, it will be for this country to decide “how we deal with people (migrants) who are already here and how we deal with immigration in the future”.