Opinion: The EU helped Sheffield - we can’t leave now

Sheffield Town Hall, Sheffield city centre
Sheffield Town Hall, Sheffield city centre
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Immigrants are pouring over the borders while Brussels bureaucrats suffocate the UK under an avalanche of red tape, if you believe the rhetoric pumped out by anti-EU tub-thumpers.

But there is no doubt in my mind that the EU has been a huge benefit to Sheffield.

You can’t walk through the city centre without seeing a development made possible through £1billion of EU money since the 1990s: the Peace Gardens, Tudor Square and the Advanced Manufacturing Retail Park, the Winter Garden, the Millennium Gallery and much of Sheffield Station.

As you read this, construction continues at West Bar, where a £3.6million Grey to Green scheme is set to modernise the area.

The sign in front of the diggers has an EU flag on.

EU cash helped turn things around after the decline of mining and steel in the 1980s.

Detractors will say regeneration money is EU taxation handed back, but the EU pumped a disproportionate amount of cash into the region when we needed it because we were so down on our luck.

Looking to the future, the key will not be regeneration, but trade freedom.

Sheffield is now home to countless international firms which rely on easy export trade to do business.

It wouldn’t be impossible to trade with Europe as a non-member, but it would be more difficult - a particular problem for the region’s countless start-ups facing higher export charges and missing out on EU trade agreements.

Yes, there is a valid debate to be had around immigration and its impacts on cohesion in areas like Page Hall.

But throwing up the barriers and isolating ourselves from Europe is not the answer any more than cementing yourself in your house is a protection from burglary.

It’s easy to scaremonger anti-EU feeling or manipulate patriotism to create an argument to leave Europe.

But, as clichéd as it might sound, we are better together.

It’s better for businesses, it’s better for jobs and, as has surely been proven, the EU is better for Sheffield.

It was there when we needed it. It would be wrong to walk away now we’re back on our feet.

Is the EU perfect? Not by a long way, and there is plenty we could and should be doing to try to cut red tape, confront immigration issues and address sovereignty levels on key decisions.

But we’re better off fixing that from the inside – not left out in the wilderness.