European Union withdrawal would risk hundreds of Borders jobs, claims MP

Calum Kerr, the Borders’ new SNP MP and his party’s Westminster spokesman on rural affairs, claimed this week it would be an “absolute disaster” for the region if the UK comes out of the EU.

Commenting on the eve of the EU Referendum Bill being presented to parliament, Mr Kerr said withdrawal would risk hundreds of local jobs.

He said: “The simple fact is that European funding plays an important part in funding our vital industries in this part of Scotland and we would almost certainly lose money if we were to withdraw. We receive millions of pounds worth of assistance, helping to pay for everything from support for our farming industry through to payments to help our farmers, aid for rural businesses via the LEADER programme and transport infrastructure projects.

“Those who wish to take us out of the EU are simply playing fast and loose with the future of the Borders.”

Mr Kerr has also waded into the row over Prime Minister David Cameron’s insistence – set to be opposed by Labour and the SNP as the bill progresses – that 16 and 17-year-olds should be excluded from the referendum vote, along with EU citizens resident in the UK.

“The UK Government already fails to support us properly when it comes to funding from Brussels,” claimed Mr Kerr.

“For instance, the payments it allocates to our farming communities under the Common Agricultural Policy are disgracefully low.

“Now it seems Mr Cameron is prepared to compromise us further for his own narrow political ends and his grubby attempt to sue for peace with UKIP could end up causing the biggest economic decline in the Borders for decades.

“We now learn he is not only prepared to put our future at risk, he is happy to subvert democracy itself by refusing to let EU citizens in Scotland, as well as 16 and 17-year-olds, vote.

“If we must have this referendum – and I don’t believe we should – then we must do so with the widest possible franchise.”

Mr Kerr said he and his SNP colleagues at Westminster would continue to fight, as the bill progresses, for the introduction of the so-called double majority cause, meaning that withdrawal from the EU could only take place if every one of the UK’s constituent parts –England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – voted by a majority to leave.