EU referendum vote is crucial to Norwich - make sure your vote counts
- Credit: James Bass
Today's decision is the most momentous the people of Norwich have faced for a generation.
You will help to choose which path we take, whether it be one in which we continue to be part of a formal union with European neighbours, or one where we give up our membership of the political institution.
In our city, like elsewhere, passions have run high on both sides as campaigners have painted their vision of the future.
The vice-chancellor of our university has strongly argued in favour of remain. The University of East Anglia's David Richardson believes we are better able to collaborate with research partners from across Europe and it makes us a more attractive destination for global talent.
The debate around immigration is also as pertinent in Norwich as it is elsewhere.
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At the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, 10pc of the medical staff are from another EU country and 5pc of the nursing staff are citizens from elsewhere in the European Union. Migrant workers from the EU also staff our nursing homes.
But their children require school places, they need homes and to be treated when they are unwell and the extent to which immigration puts pressure on our services is hard to quantify.
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The MP for South Norfolk, Richard Bacon, argues our membership of the European Union prevents us from making our own laws, setting our own taxes and taking control our own borders.
And he argues that trade occurs when sellers provide goods and services that others want to buy at prices they are prepared to pay, with governments getting in the way.
For Peter Colby, owner and managing director of Sprowston-based Saint Vincent Holdings, a business which owns smaller companies specialising in commercial property, engineering and vehicle sales, there is a belief that the sooner we get out the better.
He claims the EU imposes unnecessary regulation and costs and a vote to leave will make the small and medium-sized business industry more efficient.
But others, like Jeremy Clarke, the director the city business Computer Service Centre, argue 'businesses and their employees benefit massively from being able to trade inside the world's largest single market', claiming leaving the EU would mean 'uncertainty for our firms, less trade with Europe and fewer jobs'.
The questions for voters as they head out to vote is who they believe, what matters to them. It has been 41 years since we, the people, last delivered a verdict on our relationship with our European neighbours.
Each and every vote will have equal weight in this contest where, unlike a general election, constituency boundaries are irrelevant.
Nobody knows exactly what is around the corner and what will happen in the years ahead, but we hope that we have gone some way to inform our readers of the arguments and facts on all sides of the debate in a campaign which has been passionate and often vehement in its tone.
This publication has a long tradition of remaining impartial at election time.
We continue with that custom today, simply urging you to exercise your democratic right in what is the most important decision this generation has faced.
• People are being urged to vote in good time today and to avoid the busy early evening amid predictions there will be a high turnout for the referendum.
The warning comes after the Electoral Commission revealed a record number of voters will be eligible to vote today, with provisional figures showing 46,499,537 people are registered.
Voter registration in Norwich is at its highest level since individual electoral registration was introduced in 2015, with 96,081 people now on the electoral roll.
Norwich counting officer Laura McGillivray said the number of people who had registered to vote showed what a politically engaged population there was in Norwich, but warned there could be long queues if people left it too late to vote.
Traditionally, polling stations are at their busiest in the early evening. In previous years, other cities have seen long queues just before the polling stations close at 10pm – the time when no one else can join the queue.
Ms McGillivray said: 'We are fortunate to have a politically engaged population in Norwich, as demonstrated by the number of people that have registered to vote.
'To help reduce the likelihood of long queues on the day, we are asking voters to vote early and avoid arriving at polling stations during peak times, if possible.'