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In or out: What does the EU mean for Lincolnshire?

April 2nd will see the second TV debate between Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and the leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage. The battle of ‘in versus out’ may be a political spectacle for some, but the issues it will address mean so much more to the future of our country.

The main reason the Lib Dems want us to remain in Europe is to protect British jobs. Only by securing jobs can we create a stronger economy.

Last week’s debate was a lively and clear contrast between Clegg and Farage. However, this debate turned into more than just whether you think Britain is better off in or out of the European Union. This was also about what sort of country we want to be.

Do we want to be a modern, open, tolerant and diverse country that is co-operative with its neighbours and comfortable in the 21st century world, or do we want to be an isolated, divided and fearful country? I know which side I’m on.

The Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) has estimated that 4 million jobs are linked to exports to the EU. In the North and Midlands, nearly 1 in 6 jobs are related to the EU in some way. By threatening to pull out of the EU, UKIP and the Conservatives are playing roulette with jobs, jeopardising billions of pounds of investment and could lead to the decimation of our recovering economy.

On our doorstep, here in Lincoln, one of our largest employers, Siemens, announced in 2013 that if Britain left the EU, they would find it difficult to continue to invest in their UK factories.

The money European businesses spend in Lincoln contributes to our local economy and creates employment opportunities in our city, to put that at risk would be a massive step backwards. Other firms, which employ hundreds of thousands of people in the UK, such as Nissan, Kellogg’s, Tata Steel, BT, Vodafone and DHL, have all shown their support for staying in the EU.

UKIP say that by leaving the EU, the UK can still have a trading relationship with the other countries individually, like the Norwegians and Swiss have currently. That is true, but has one very large flaw: the UK would still need to abide to all the EU standards and law but have no input into those whatsoever. We would still have to pay large sums of money to the EU for this pleasure. Even the Norwegian Prime Minster has warned us not to follow their example.

By being part of the EU, we have 500 million people that we can openly and freely trade with. This facilitates business growth, therefore creating more jobs and improving the economy, which improves all our lives. Being in the EU also gives us tremendous influence and clout when we negotiate trade deals with major economies such as the US, China, Brazil and India.

By being alone in Europe, we would lose a substantial amount of leverage created by many nations working together. For example, Iceland, as a non-EU country, has recently finished negotiations on a free trade agreement with China, but it took them close to six years to reach. UK business cannot afford that length of time to reach agreements in a globally competitive market.

Don’t wait for a referendum. Use May’s elections to say you are IN. If you want to show your support for staying in the EU on twitter, use #whyIamIN