On Thursday 23rd June, Yorkshire and the rest of the UK will go to the polls and decide whether Britain should stay in or leave the European Union. Below are how the EU has impacted on four aspects of Yorkshire life, for better and for worse…
Yorkshire has benefited from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) which was set up in 1975 to help regenerate regions across the European Union. Throughout the UK, Yorkshire lies second behind the North East in the amount of money spent per head on regeneration projects, at £86 per person (Source Daily Mirror).
The EU has helped to fund the roll-out of super-fast broadband across the Yorkshire region. In West Yorkshire 65,000 homes and businesses were supplied with some of the fastest speeds in Europe when the project launched in January 2014. An EU backed scheme to give 95% of homes and businesses in North Yorkshire is currently in progress, as they try and cover some of the most remote places in England. The Deep in Hull, the surrounding marina and regeneration of old docklands were made possible by £7.7m of European money in a bid to bring more tourists and create jobs for the city.
South Yorkshire has benefited from over £1bn of EU cash since the early 1990s on a multitude of regeneration projects in the area, including a facelift for Sheffield train station, additions to the Peace Gardens, a new manufacturing park and other transport benefits for the area. The Fox Valley project, which has led to the creation of a large retail area and a new community swimming pool for the town of Stocksbridge has been made possible with the help of EU cash.
Sceptics of the European Union argue that the money given to Yorkshire for regeneration projects (and those all over the country) is just recycled money from what the UK pays the EU each year and so there is no overall financial benefit in these schemes overall. Moreover, there have been many reports of local authorities “losing” or mis-spending the money due to companies involved with some of these projects going into liquidation.
According to the Daily Telegraph, around £38.1m has been “lost” or unaccounted for in regeneration projects across the UK. The money which our country pays to the EU could be spent instead on regeneration projects more directly from London or local authorities, rather than coming through Brussels .
2. Economic Development
The EU has contributed £53 per head towards the Yorkshire economy (Source Daily Mirror), which is only second behind the North East in the UK. It has funded several projects across the region to aid economic development.
In 2010 work began on York University’s new business space, known as “The Catalyst.” It houses many small businesses in the IT digital and media sectors, who have full access to the university’s department research facilities.This new venture was funded by a £17.5m grant from the European Regional Development Fund and since opening has benefited small business and enterprise across the city.
In Doncaster, a new International business park, part-funded by the EU near Robin Hood airport has been developed along with an £18m contribution to a link road from the M18. Furthermore, Britain’s association with the EU has enabled large global businesses, such as Siemens in Hull, 02 in Leeds and BASF in Bradford to set up and create jobs. European money has backed the investment firm, “Finance Yorkshire,” which gives loans and financial support to small and medium sized businesses in Yorkshire.
According to the BBC, approximately 300,000 jobs in Yorkshire are linked to trade with the European Union, accounting for 46% of total exports from the county in 2015.
The EU can give products a “Special status,” which means that certain products can only be made in certain areas. For example, “Swaledale cheese” can only be made in Swaledale, according to the Common Agricultural Policy, which gives enhanced protection to unique products made in distinctive areas, such as Yorkshire.
The arguments against European economic policy say that Yorkshire and the UK can do trade deals with countries outside the EU, namely its Commonwealth and powerhouses such as the USA and China. This need not affect the operations of big business in the region and may open up more doors to trade with the world, rather than being restricted by EU red tape and bureaucracy.
According to the BBC the amount of trade between Yorkshire and the EU has fallen by 10% in the past four years and trade with the USA has increased by 47% over the same period. This indicates that the importance of the EU as a trading partner is declining. Therefore by leaving the EU, the region can open itself more readily to many more world markets.
Yorkshire’s great fishing industry has been hampered by the restrictive Common Fisheries policy which places quotas on the amount and types of fish that each member state can catch.This has led to dead fish being thrown back into the sea by fishermen so they avoid fines imposed on them for exceeding their quotas.
EU policy has meant reductions in the amount of fish which can be caught in British waters. By leaving the EU, Britain will be able to take more control over where and how much fish can be caught in the North Sea from Yorkshire’s fishing ports.
3. The Environment & Countryside
The EU has had a positive impact on wildlife in Yorkshire, with a series of directives aimed at protecting important habitats for birds and animals in the region. The EU Water framework directive has helped to improve the water quality in our rivers and these strict laws are set in stone across the Union. This has encouraged the return of the otter to the region’s waters for the first time in decades and have even been sighted on the River Aire in Leeds City centre. The EU also helped the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust win its battle for the conservation of Thorne & Hatfield peat moors, an important habitat for wading birds, which had stopped breeding here, due to peat extraction. The site was made an area of Special Scientific Interest after an appeal from the trust to the EU in 1999.
The cliffs at Flamborough Head and Bempton are home to Europe’s largest breeding ground for Puffins and Gannets. These birds need a constant supply of sandeels to feed their chicks with. The Marine directive framework plus the Birds and Habitats Directive seek to help the population of these fish and in turn provide the seabirds with plenty of food in order to survive.
The EU has invested in our nature reserves too. The Huxter Well Marsh extension at Potteric Carr Nature reserve near Doncaster has increased the number of breeding Bitterns, an endangered species.
European money has helped with alternative energy projects in Yorkshire. A biomass plant near Drax power station, which can supply power to 630,000 homes across the region was set up and funded by the Union in 2014.
The Think Low Carbon centre was built at Barnsley College in partnership with the EU, who contributed £2.75m to the project. This building of the future is equipped with solar panels and built with energy efficient materials. It provides an example of how a building could be built in the future and hosts workshops, consultations and research into energy efficiency.
Farming has changed under the European Union. The UK receives a subsidy from the EU for its farming and the Common Agricultural Policy, which are a set of rules which apply to all member states seeks to keep food prices stable. This helps to protect localised products (such as Swaledale Cheese) and encourages land management to help wildlife prosper. In 2015 British farmers were given £2.4bn in subsidies for the year and access to a pot of £4bn for development projects. (Source The Daily Telegraph)
It has been argued that the common agricultural policy has become deeply unpopular with some Yorkshire farmers. The CAP rules are seen as restrictive, stunting growth and competition amongst economies to trade outside the EU. It can lead to the over-production of food, (wine lakes and butter mountains), with subsidies falling into the hands of the wrong people and ultimately failing to protect small farmers in the process.
The strict nature of the bureaucratic Common Agricultural policy, which dictates to farmers how many crops they may farm, having to leave 7% of their land untouched and what produce they can/cannot sell has had a detrimental effect on the farming industry, especially small holdings.
Those who wish to leave the EU argue that Britain could set its own agricultural policies which better suits the British farming industry and would have the power to give them more money than the EU does in subsidies, which is the case in Norway and Switzerland.
Helping wildlife in their habitats can be done by British organisations such as The RSPB and local ones, such as the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust from a centralised environment policy based in London and/or local authorities.
The freedom of movement enabled by EU law has enabled people to live and work in any member state of the Union. The results of this has seen some British people head abroad to live in countries across Europe.
Consequently, the rule has meant that people from other EU nations settling in the UK, including Yorkshire. The region has had a long history with immigration from the Commonwealth Countries, especially from the Carribbean and South Asian countries. The arrival of people from Europe has added to the diverse mix of people found in parts of Yorkshire, especially in the West Riding.
In 2014 it is estimated, according to the BBC, that there were 179,000 EU nationals living in Yorkshire. According to a government report they have brought many benefits to UK businesses. This includes skills to fill gaps in the labour market, helping Yorkshire businesses to grow and interact easier with their European neighbours. An EU worker was more likely to be fluent in multiple languages than their British counterparts, which is more useful to higher skilled business operations. EU workers in lower skilled jobs have been in some cases able to fill roles which have seen a lack of interest from British workers. Furthermore, EU workers, along with those from across the world have been able to readily fill skills gaps in the National Health Service.
The European Arrest Warrant has been established throughout all member states. It enables criminals who have committed an offence in one country to be pursued, captured and held by the police in another EU country. This has been used to track criminals who have committed a crime in Yorkshire and have then fled the country to another EU state.
According to BBC figures, there were 179,000 EU workers living in Yorkshire, an increase of 42% from an estimate of 126,000 in 2010.
Campaigners for Brexit argue that the EU freedom of movement laws have seen an influx of workers moving to Yorkshire, increasing the population, which in turn has put an extra strain on public service, such as schools and hospitals. Many argue that some have come here to take advantage of the British benefits system and their presence in the labour market has led to high unemployment among British workers and driven down wages. Being part of the EU has enabled employers to recruit directly from other EU member states, often overlooking available local workers for jobs. A Bank of England report suggested that a 10% increase in EU workers in low skilled jobs can result in up to a 1.9% loss in wages to native workers.
The European Arrest warrant some argue should not be an important weapon against crime because EU policy allows foreign criminals into the country and that with control over UK borders they would not have been allowed into the country to commit their crime in the first place.
The EU referendum will take place on Thursday 23rd June 2016.
*I’m from Yorkshire is a non-political organisation who wish to seek debate on issues affecting the region and has no affiliation to the Remain or Leave campaigns.
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