Every nook and cranny of Britain will have its reasons for wanting to stay in or leave the EU, so let’s find out Scunthorpe’s reasons
There are 83 days (from Friday) until Britain decides its future. If you haven’t discussed, debated or argued the issue of the EU you will soon. For each part of the UK the EU has a different impact, whether positive or negative. Before the vote, I aim to write about as many places, talk to as many people and listen to as many campaigners as possible. I’d also like to ask you to take part, by recording the views of the people where you live and explaining how the EU affects your abode, and then sending them in to shoutoutuk@ . My target, though admittedly a bit ambitious, is to have either articles, videos or interviews from 50 different places. Come on lets aim big! If David Cameron can visit the four different countries in the UK in one day, we can easily do this!
My EU Referendum campaign journey starts in my local town of Scunthorpe. As you leave the neighbouring village of Messingham grey plumes of smoke from the steelworks’ imposing towers fill the surrounding skyline. The smoke stretches far from Scunthorpe and so does the works’ influence. ‘When the smoke is not seen, Scunthorpe is not alive’, says a local resident. Smoke, usually seen as a sign of fire and evil, here is a sign of security, jobs and money. Four thousand people rely on the plant for a job. The Steelworks is the town’s heartbeat.
If I was a doctor diagnosing this town’s heart, it would be a bleak outlook and the latest news that Tata Steel will sell all its UK plants, including Scunthorpe, makes the lifespan of Scunthorpe shorter. Whether the government buy out the plant, or another private company buys it, either way the future of the Steel Industry is shortening.
Nic Dakin, the local Labour MP and Shadow Schools Minister, sitting on a majority of 3,000, today echoed calls from Jeremy Corbyn to recall Parliament. Although many here blame the government’s lack of action and what they see as ‘cuddling’ up to China, the majority seem to blame something else too — the EU. Why? I asked one worker. ‘Tariffs’, was the short but simple answer. Vote Leave campaigners say it would be easier to impose anti-dumping tariffs on China and by leaving we would be able to rescue failing steel plants with public money, something the EU commission doesn’t currently allow.
In the local conservatory company, the owner tells me ‘the EU is restricting me from growing my business’. It is largely accepted that the EU favours larger companies rather than smaller ones. In a town where 8,000 people are self-employed, leave campaigners can expect votes from a large part of the town’s workforce.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the remain campaigners. There is possibility to gain votes from the residents of nearby villages and towns, where most work outside their place of residence. In Bottesford voters tell me how the EU offers them job security and confidence for their youth in the future.
As with many UK northern towns, immigration is a deepening issue. One voter blamed the huge influx of Polish people to the town for ‘taking (her) job’. Another blamed an increase of crime and unemployment on immigration.
In a recent YouGov poll Scunthorpe was classed ‘as a leaning Eurosceptic’. When reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins, writes … (I must confess I can’t remember the author!). Economic and job security reasons will be overpowered by the emotional blame that comes from the town’s heart being attacked, by ‘steel dumping’ from China. Inevitable heartache and a pitiful lack of hope will be the result of job losses. Such a situation has the strong possibility of making the people of Scunthorpe blame the EU for their losses and choosing to vote Leave. As the smoke and the influence of the plant affects everyone in the town, the emotion and anger from its workers will influence everyone’s vote.