Every year, our region sends more than £1 billion to the European Union – money which a new campaign says would be better spent on local flood defences, hospitals and education.
Business for Britain Yorkshire, a group made up of business leaders from South Yorkshire and the wider area, is campaigning for Britain to leave the EU as it believes UK politicians have given away too much control over our economy.
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the EU – seen as the biggest political decision in decades – by the end of 2017.
And the Business for Britain group is backing the Vote Leave campaign, which wants the country to exit the union.
It says since the UK joined the EU in 1975, our region has paid nearly £28 billion to the EU and sends £1.09bn every year.
This is the equivalent of a quarter of the annual schools budget for the whole of Yorkshire and the Humber, 12 times higher than the highways maintenance budget and some 24 times what is invested each year in building new flood defences – despite the devastating flooding which hit Sheffield in 2007.
Not far off a decade on, the memory of the floods which hit the city on June 25 are still clear in residents’ minds, named as the worst floods to hit the area in 150 years.
Two people were killed, extensive damage was caused to businesses and homes, and Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground was under 6ft of water following the deluge.
Carl Chambers, the Yorkshire chairman of Business for Britain, said: “If you look what is happening with the devastation of the floods – it really puts things into context.
”We’ve given away too much control over our economy to politicians in Brussels.
“I want to see powers come back so that we can make rules that are better suited to the needs of businesses in Yorkshire.”
The Business for Britain campaign questions the benefits of paying for EU inclusion, and would like Sheffield residents to understand how the money could be better spent.
This month, 62 Yorkshire business leaders and Business for Britain members came together to warn that inclusion in the EU, and the regulations implemented due to this, are making it much harder for them to perform effectively.
Mr Chambers says: “I believe that businesses in the region could thrive outside the European Union – that’s why I will be voting to leave.”
Until a referendum is called, Carl’s role will be to join discussions and debates for businesses around the region, and encourage them to become involved in the campaign in any way they can.
Mr Chambers explained why the vote is so important for the people of Sheffield.
He says there is ‘nobody better to know where to spend money than local people,’ and therefore recommends we keep the control of the economy as local as possible.
Just over 67 per cent of votes in a referendum in 1975 – two years after Britain joined the EU – were in favour of remaining part of it.
It is suggested that this time around, however, the circumstances are very different and the Business for Britain campaign believes factors such as the UK’s powerful economy could potentially sway the result in favour of an exit.
Mr Chambers said he believes ‘things have changed dramatically’ since 1975, and ‘Europe was growing and the UK had all sorts of economic issues.’
“We are a much stronger country than we were then,” he said.
Britain stronger in Europe?
The rival campaign to Vote Leave is Britain Stronger in Europe, which argues that Britain would be stronger, better off and safer in the EU than we would be out on our own.
The campaign argues that the costs of being in the EU are far outweighed by the benefits, including having a stronger economy which delivers opportunity through growth, trade, investment, jobs and lower prices.
They also argue Britain would have stronger leadership on the world stage by being part of the EU, enabling us to shape the future.
In addition, they argue EU membership offers us stronger security in a dangerous world, keeping Britain safe through its partnerships with other countries.
A spokesman said: “Of course the EU isn’t perfect – but leaving Europe would risk our prosperity, threaten our safety and diminish our influence in the world.
“To vote to remain part of Europe is to vote for a stronger, better off, safer Britain that delivers opportunity for individuals and families, now and in the future.
“To vote to leave is to take a leap into the unknown, risking a weaker economy, the prospects of future generations and a loss of influence on the world stage.”
* Visit Britain Stronger in Europe
1973: The year Britain joined the European Economic Community. Two years later there was a UK referendum in favour of continued membership.
28: The number of countries which make up the economic and political European Union
507.4: The population of the EU in millions as of January 2014
2017: The year in which the next EU referendum is due to be held in Britain