Switch to remain for council leader

Tony Dignum, left, spoke of his intention to vote 'remain' but said it was finely balanced
Tony Dignum, left, spoke of his intention to vote 'remain' but said it was finely balanced

Chichester District Council’s leader switched from backing the leave to remain campaign just before today’s EU referendum.

Conservative Tony Dignum said that earlier this year he came to feel strongly we should leave due to concerns over sovereignty issues, but as the debate has continued he has now seen more clearly the risks of leaving.

He argued that while the economic impact of leaving the EU could not be forecast it would be more risky to leave than to remain, with no clear upside to Brexit, while the cost of membership as a proportion of national income was not significant against the advantages of free access to the EU market. Cllr Dignum thought an ‘unfriendly’ divorce from the EU could only have a negative effect on the UK’s international influence, while the decision to leave could have unforeseen implications.

But the Vote Leave campaign has argued that the county can create 300,000 jobs by doing trade deals with fast growing economies across the globe outside of the EU as well as taking back control of immigration, and keeping money it sends to Brussels each year.

Mr Dignum said: “The EU’s structure is fundamentally unsatisfactory, especially the ratchet mechanism which can take the EU step by step to ever closer union without treaty change, but there are protections for the UK. On their own the sovereignty arguments are insufficient reason for leaving the EU.

“The transition following a decision to leave would be unprecedented in its scope and nature with all sorts of unforeseen implications. Just to list a few: the impact on Northern Ireland, on Scotland, on Gibraltar, on universities’ research, and on the two million UK residents in the EU27.

“Yet the Government could face up to 450 MPs opposed to the principle of Brexit as it tried to make its way through the enormous range of transition tasks.

“If Britain does vote to Leave this should be the signal for a second negotiation, not the immediate pressing of the Article 50 button to Leave.”

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