“There is no moment to lose” - campaign to remain in the European Union catching up with eurosceptics

Britain Stronger in Europe executive director Will Straw

Britain Stronger in Europe executive director Will Straw - Credit: Archant

A campaign to stay in the European Union is catching up with 25 years of euroscepticism and does not have a moment to lose, its director has said.

Will Straw - a key player at Britain Stronger in Europe - said regional visits were being planned and the group was hiring 'field directors' in every region.

It comes after the UK Independence Party orchestrated a series of debates about the European Union referendum across Norfolk and Suffolk last year, and Business for Britain held a launch event in Norwich this week.

Questioned about whether the UK Independence Party and eurosceptic campaigns like Business for Britain were stealing a march on the remain campaign, Mr Straw said the campaign had visited Scotland and Wales, and had dates in the diary to visit other regions. He said the had also had huge regional activity with volunteers opening their homes and one to one meetings with businesses and charities taking place.

But added: 'What I think is fair though is eurosceptic side of the debate campaigning to leave the EU have been making their arguments for 20 to 25 years, whereas successive governments have used the EU as a bit of a whipping boy. It is only since this referendum's starting gun fired that we have seen the positive and patriotic case for Britain's membership of the EU being made by our campaign and other people campaigning to stay in the EU.

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'To that extent it is fair to say we are catching up with 25 years of negativity about the EU and that is why there is no moment to lose,'.

He said that about one third of the electorate were undecided, and it was the swing voters they were targeting.

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'Making the economic case about the benefit the EU brings to the cost of a shop, a holiday and a phone bill when away from home and the role the EU has played in creating jobs in every part of the country is made more real by the local examples. So when we can break down the statistics about the cost savings at a local level and highlight local businesses big and small that benefit that is one of the things we will be doing over the course of our campaign.'

But John May, regional chairman of BfB East of England, who has been an independent director on the boards of more than 50 companies, said big business with offices across Europe may wish to stay in the EU, but an unreformed relationship with Europe may not be in the interest of SMEs which may not even export to Europe.

'It goes back to this issue that we do send this money to the EU and we do not get back what we spend. How that money is spent is decided by the EU and not by the UK, or regional and national policy. It is about us regaining control over how that money is spent.'

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