Wells debates the issues in run up to EU referendum

From left, Vicky Ford, Alastair Ogle and Toby Coke at tonight's debate in Wells.

From left, Vicky Ford, Alastair Ogle and Toby Coke at tonight's debate in Wells. - Credit: Archant

More than 60 people attended a public meeting on the referendum in north Norfolk tonight.

A fisherman at Wells makes his views known on the EU vote. Picture: Chris Bishop

A fisherman at Wells makes his views known on the EU vote. Picture: Chris Bishop - Credit: Archant

Wells and District Churches Together organised the event, chaired by Alderman Peel High School head Alastair Ogle, at the town's St Nicholas Church.

Organiser David Sheppard said: 'It's a chance to give local people the opportunity to hear the arguments, ask questions and hopefully have a bit of a debate.'

County councillor and UKIP member Toby Coke presented the case for a Brexit, while MEP Vicky Ford spoke in favour of remaining in the EU.

Mr Coke said Britain had no control of its borders, while it was ruled by an 'unelected Brussels elite'.


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'Just as the leave side cannot say how things might look if we brexit, please don't think by voting remain, you are voting for some benign status quo,' he said.

'The EU is holding back a raft of measures until after the referendum that pose a significant risk to our economy and our security.'

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Mrs Ford said the EU gave British businesses access to 500m customers in 28 countries.

She said businesses like Dow Chemicals, at King's Lynn and Aviva, in Norwich, depended on EU trade, along with the East of England's world-leading scientific research.

'Europe is not perfect, I see it for all its failings but we will not make it better if we walk away.'

Asked how a leave vote might impact on our economy, Mrs Ford said nine out of 10 economists predicted a 'significant recession' were Britain to leave.

'Nine out of 10 economists said we should join the ERM, the Euro,' said one man from the floor. 'Weren't they wrong.'

Mrs Ford said a major agricultural employer supporting 5,000 jobs had told her it would have to move its headquarters from Ely to the Netherlands in the event of a vote to leave.

Mr Coke said: 'For every industrialist who says they're quitting, you get another who says the opposite.

'The single market is not really a single market. The pound going up against the Euro is far more damaging than any tariffs we might have to pay if we couldn't negotiate a free trade agreement.'

One man in the audience said: 'The fishing shed in Wells has a large sign on it which emphatically states we would be better if we left.'

He added a local fishmonger said he faced a £1,000 fine if he sold local sea bass, adding: 'Are all these people crackers, Mrs Ford?'

Mrs Ford said the issue of local fishermen not being given enough of the quote was down to UK, not EU authorities.

Mr Coke said: 'Brexit would rejuvenate the fishing industry. Local people are far better conservationists than some bureaucrat from Brussels.'

Another man in the audience said Britain's deep sea fishing fleet had 'virtually disappeared' since we joined the Common Market.

'The deep sea fishing fleet employed tens of thousands,' he said. 'If you go to Lowestoft of Grimsby, they're poverty-stricken towns.'

Questions included how pensions, migration and the environment could be affected by next Thursday's vote.

A straw poll before the meeting got under way showed those attending were narrowly in favour of remaining, bucking today's polls. Most of the audience were in their 60s and 70s, with a hand full aged under 50.

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