By Anna Hayward
Britain has been caught up in fierce debate about whether we should be part of the European Union or not.
Two South East England Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) speak about their roles in this debate and the effect the European Union has on Britain.
Meeting an MEP who flaunts a European Union coffin in his office and another who believes Britain’s survival depends on Europe was an intriguing experience.
Despite having different views Nigel Farage and Catherine Bearder both represent the South East England at the European Parliament in Brussels.
They tackle issues and debate legislation which affects British people.
Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence party (UKIP), is a controversial Eurosceptic.
He dismisses European policy by smoking in his office and believes that Britain should stay outside of the European Union.
Nigel said: “What first made me Eurosceptic was the thought process that we need to be engaged with a world economy. There’s no point having Westminster, there’s no point anybody sitting in Downing Street. Most of the big decisions in our lives will be taken by Brussels.”
However Catherine Bearder, a Liberal Democrats MEP who is pro Europe, challenged this view.
She said: “We have to stay inside. There isn’t an option for the UK to be a viable country outside of the European Union.”
Nigel left the Conservative party in 1992 because they signed the Maastricht Treaty.
He became an MEP in 1999 and is known for his provocative speeches which attack European commissioners.
Nigel recently visited Lancing to announce that his party would be standing for every county council seat in the area and to oppose off shore wind farms saying ‘these monstrosities are an ugly and expensive blot on the landscape’.
He describes himself as an ‘untypical MEP’.
When asked about this he said: “Although I am a group leader, I came back from Canada last night, I’m here with Merkel today (Wednesday 7th) and I’m filming ‘Have I got news for you’ on Thursday. New media, you tube has been a fantastic means to get people to understand what I do.”
Catherine Bearder became a Liberal democrat MEP in 2009.
She believes environmental policies should be at the heart of the European Union and opposes short haul flights and plans to build more runways at Heathrow airport.
Describing her role as an MEP, she said: “Most of the work for an MEP is done in committee. We have a committee week. We then have a group week where we get into our political groups and bring up any issues and discuss how will support that piece of legislation.”
The South East England is affected by Europe in a number of ways.
Small businesses are vital for economic growth and Europe helps them to flourish by giving the businesses grants and boosts trade by partnering them with European companies.
Catherine Bearder stated: “A lot of the South East is involved in modern technologies and research grants are supported by the European Union. Working across the single market you can buy parts from Spain or Germany and sell to them. Of all the regions London and the South East benefit hugely from being in the European Union.”
However some EU policies are restrictive.
The Common Fisheries Policy affects the livelihoods of fisherman including those in Worthing by forcing them to throw half the fish they catch back into the sea due to unfair fishing limitations.
A British campaign against this policy ‘Hugh’s Fish Fight’, has drummed up 836,312 supporters.
Nigel Farage said: “There is no subject that makes me angrier. Do you know what the South East fleet’s quota of the cod allocation for this year is? 7% and the French have 77%. I was down in Hastings on the beach there just eight weeks ago talking to the local fleet. The fish that swim in our seas are the greatest renewable source we possess.”
The future of British relations with Europe is uncertain but Nigel Farage is hopeful about Britain’s future.
He said: “Carry on, keep calm. I am optimistic about where the UK is going over the next few years. In the late 70’s things looked bloody awful but there was a revolutionary change just around the corner and I think we are in one of those periods now.”