We who live in Horsham are fortunate in so many ways.
About 1,000 people move to our town every year, mainly families with children, attracted to a pleasant market town with good schools, restaurants, close to Gatwick and Crawley, within commuting distance of London and with a low crime rate.
Unemployment is lower than average for South East England which in turn is lower than Great Britain as a whole. A short walk through the town centre usually shows several shops advertising in their windows for staff. Horsham’s economy is doing well.
Yet the town is changing. increasingly we hear foreign voices amongst the shoppers in Carfax. Do eastern European accents behind the counter in Costa or Nero mean that our world is danger?
The ‘EU migrant’ in Horsham is about as likely to be an expat professional sent to England by their company on a two or three year contract as they are to be one of the young staff smiling back at you behind a coffee counter in West Street. Spending their salaries and paying their taxes here they are boosting our local economy.
At the moment, the number of people working in the UK is higher than it ever has been. The national unemployment rate, at about 5.1 per cent is lower than it has been for a decade. Without the young people who have come to work in this country from the EU, job vacancies would be unfilled and the economy would be substantially smaller than it is at the moment.
In 2015, long before this referendum, the London School of Economics showed that new jobs are being taken mainly by native (UK born) British workers in proportion to their share of the population.
The idea sometimes floated that migrants are taking most new jobs at the expense of the locals is shown not to be true. Indeed work by researchers in UCL in 2014 showed that the average EU migrant contributes more to public coffers than the average native Brit. EU migrants are here to work, not to take benefits.
Taking workers in general in the Horsham District, about 40 per cent of us commute to jobs outside the District. Some take the train to London each day. Crawley and the general Gatwick gravitational field are also major commuting destinations.
These are areas which benefit hugely from trade with the EU. In February Stewart Wingate, the chief executive of Gatwick Airport, signed a letter saying that ‘We believe that leaving the EU would deter investment, threaten jobs and put the economy at risk. Britain will be stronger, safer and better off remaining a member of the EU’.
Many well respected institutions have published forecasts of the economic impact should we leave the EU and they all agree the impact on our financial well-being will range from bad to very, very bad.
The Treasury have estimated the impact on our economy over the longer term to be the equivalent of £3,200 and £5,400 for each family.
Let us not forget that this is the same Treasury that advised against joining the Euro both in 1997 and 2003. They clearly are not EU stooges.
The fiercely independent Institute of Fiscal Studies has calculated that, far from saving us money, the loss of tax revenue in leaving the EU would cost the public finances between £20bn and £40bn a year - after the saving of our contribution to the EU is taken into account. This will particularly hit Horsham’s less well off, the sick and pensioners.
We don’t have to work in London or Crawley to be worse off as a result of leaving the EU. Piano teachers and plumbers, traders and builders all depend on the incomes of their customers to make a living.
There may be just as many leaking pipes after Brexit, but there will be fewer bathroom refits or upgraded central heating systems.
As John Donne said 400 years ago, ‘No man is an island’. We all depend on each other.
If we leave the EU, no-one will be better off. We will all be poorer.
Bedford Road, Horsham
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