CommercialFleet

Transport conference speakers clash during EU exit vote debate

EU referendum, Microlise Conference.

More than twice as many transport operators say a Brexit would have a negative effect on the transport and haulage industry than positive.

However, a greater share of the 1,000 delegates asked at the Microlise Transport Conference, at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on May 18, said they will vote for the UK to leave the EU than remain.

When asked in a Brexit debate what impact leaving the EU would have on the UK’s haulage industry, 43% said ‘negative’, 21% ‘positive’, 7% ‘no impact’ and 29% of respondents were not sure.

However, 43.7% of delegates said they would vote ‘leave’ in the referendum, with 40.7% voting ‘stay’ and 15.6% unsure.

Their views are important as many have businesses that operate across EU borders, so potentially will be affected most by the Brexit decision.

Vote Leave was represented by Andrew Baxter, managing director of Europa Worldwide Group, a freight operator that employs 600 people and has a turnover of £100 million.

Construction business owner and former Tory MP Paul Uppal represented the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign.

During the debate, neither speaker directly addressed how the outcome of the EU referendum, which will take place on June 23, would affect the transport industry.

LEAVE

Andrew Baxter told the conference: “75% of my turnover is related to the transport of goods between the UK and the EU. So why do I think it is in the interests of our country that we leave the EU? The answer is this: the leadership of the EU is seeking to create a superstate.

“Not only is it seeking to create a superstate, it is doing so without the democratic consent of the people.

“The very least it should do is ask the people of Europe through referendums in every country if they want to remain an independent country or become part of a single European state.

“The reality is it will never ask that question. Why? Because if it does, it knows many countries will vote against it.

“Therefore, it is seeking to combine all those elements of a single state, such as single currency, combined armed forces, single immigration policy, etc. until it has effectively created a single state.

“That, in my view is a naive, misguided concept. Not only is it undemographic, but it is fundamentally immoral.

“It is certain to end in tears, with huge social and economic consequences. We have nothing to fear from leaving the EU. Don’t believe the scare stories that are being put about.”

REMAIN

In reply, Paul Uppal said: “There is no secret here. Post world war two, it has always been an aim for a closer European union.

“One important point which is often missed is that, when the PM came back from the EU reform talks, he came back with an opt-out of ever closer union.

“If we leave, we are going to go through a period of great uncertainty, I don’t think anyone can deny that.

“We pretty much know what we have at the moment. It may not be fantastic, but at least we know what we have.

“When I was an MP I met with representatives of Tata Group around the decision whether to open an engine plant in Wolverhampton, or keep it in India.

“It was made very obvious to me that the reason it opened the Jaguar Land Rover engine plant in Wolverhampton was very much because of the trade agreements we have with our European partners because we are members of the EU.

“That was a £1.5 billion decision and, when you put the multiplier effect of that into the supply chain, thousands of jobs were created on the back of that.

“Despite the EU’s faults, we should be at the centre of it and we should be driving the agenda and the debate.”


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