PROBABLY one of the most interesting and enlightening parts of the EU hustings event was the candidates’ introductions on themselves and what they stood for.
First to the floor was Liberal Democrat Phil Bennion who said: “We are economic liberals and social liberals.”
He added he had ran his own farm for 29 years and had diversified into other areas.
He said the Lib Dems worked hard to get the best deals for small businesses from the EU, defended human rights and took climate change seriously.
And he said, if re-elected for the next parliament, the party would focus in investment and development, looking at all regulations to ensure they were fit for purpose – especially for small businesses.
Next up was Nikki Sinclaire from the ‘We Demand a Referendum Party Now’ party.
She said she believed passionately about getting an in-out referendum for the United Kingdom.
“I think this argument has been going on for 25 years and it is both damaging to our country and to the European Union.
“We need to grasp the nettle as a country and make that decision as a country – whether we should stay in the European Union and fight from within and make it work for us or, as I believe the correct way, leave the European Union and make our own way in the world – as we have done in the past and can do in the future.”
She highlighted the fact she, in her five years as an MEP, had been out and about listening to residents and campaigning for the West Midlands.
Conservative Alex Avern said her party’s campaign was centred around ‘three Rs’ – ‘reform’, ‘renegotiation’, and then ‘a referendum’.
“The EU does need a reform, it has changed considerably since we last had a say over this and we want to renegotiate to try and get a better deal out of the EU and then put that to the British people.
“It’s high time you had your say because I’ve never had my say on Europe and nobody in this country has ever had a say on our current relationship with Europe.”
Labour’s Lynda Waltho said she had lived and worked in the West Midlands for the last 35 years as a teacher, in business and as a politician.
She said that had taught her how important the European Union was to the West Midlands, to the economy and, more specifically, to business.
“The most recent survey from the West Midlands Chamber (of Commerce) said 60 per cent of the businesses in the region actually believed Europe was important for their future, for their prosperity and for the wider West Midlands.
“That was followed up by the CBI which also surveyed its members and out of all the SMEs (small and medium enterprises) up to 78 per cent said to stay in Europe was important and to have a more productive relationship with Europe was equally important.”
She concluded by saying Britain needed to stay in the EU to ensure its long-term economic growth.
UKIP candidate and small businessman James Carver told the audience it was important to look back at when Britain joined what was back then The Common Market.
“We joined on that great promise of that land of milk and honey, but that has never materialised.
“Instead of that, all we have had is regulation, regulation, regulation.”
He said Britain had reached a crossroads and had to decide which way to take its relationship with the European Union.
“UKIP is clearly the only mainstream political party that can equivocally say that Britain’s future is outside of the European Union.”
He said that was a positive message and declared residents would hear people saying Britain could not live outside the European Union, but those were the same people who said if Britain did not join the single currency, it would end in tears and doom and gloom.
“Inside the Europe Union, our future is a clam, but outside the world’s our oyster.”