A leading Sunderland businessman says the city would be better off if the UK votes to stay part of the EU.
Paul Callaghan CBE, chairman of the University of Sunderland and the Sunderland Economic Leadership Board, sets out reasons for voting ‘Remain’ in a statement released today.
Sunderland is a proud city with a manufacturing history that reaches back centuries. More importantly it is a modern 21st Century manufacturing powerhouse that, with the right economic climate, will continue to grow jobs and prosperity into the future.Paul Callaghan
“By Friday morning we will know whether or not the UK will remain part of the European Union.
“Estimates suggest that about 25% of the electorate have already expressed their choice by postal vote and of the remaining 75% of voters who will put their cross on the ballot paper on Thursday, many will have already made their decision one way or another and will not be swayed by the claims made by either sides over the final few days of the campaign.
“As a defender of our democracy I respect the right of our citizens to chose either to vote Remain or to vote Leave and I hope that all voters will have carefully weighed the pros and cons in coming to their decisions and I would not wish to criticise their right to choose either way.
“That is what democracy is all about.
“I am from Sunderland and passionate about this place and for most of my adult life have tried to build businesses here and to improve the city’s education system, economy and its cultural life and, with that objective, I am currently chairman of both Sunderland University and the Sunderland Economic Leadership Board.
“The views expressed here reflect my own personal perspective on the EU referendum.
“Growing a successful university is one of the most significant aspects of developing a modern and prosperous city.
“As chairman of the university I know precisely how important the UK’s membership of the EU is in achieving this.
“Our university needs to recruit both students and staff from other EU member states and has benefited enormously from the EU funding of key buildings and projects.
“Importantly, this helps make Sunderland University a better place for students from Sunderland. If we leave the EU, this will prove much more difficult as European students and staff will face a much more difficult visa regime and for students, higher fees, if they wish to come here and European funds will no longer be available for our region.
“All the UK universities believe it would be better to remain within the EU and this is the case for our university here in Sunderland.
“To emphasise this, the Vice Chancellor Shirley Atkinson has just issued a joint letter with the other four Vice Chancellors of the North East’s universities expressing their personal collective view that it is better to remain within the EU.
“Sunderland is a city that is currently seeing a level of economic investment far greater than anything seen in my lifetime.
“The 3, 6, 9 Vision for the city that was launched by the Economic Leadership Board last year identified more than £1.2 billion of investment coming into Sunderland over the next few years.
“Some of this is already evident with public infrastructure projects such as the new Wear Bridge and Keel Square but there is also much other visible evidence with new hotels, a new college campus in the city centre and new university buildings.
“Less visible, but of real significance, is the investment being made by the Automotive and Advanced Manufacturing Sectors in existing facilities and the potential for more major investment in the International Advanced Manufacturing Park now developing next to the A19 near the Nissan Plant.
“Much of this current and potential investment comes from companies based in the United States and the Far East. They chose Sunderland for a number of reasons: our workforce, our productivity and significantly because we are outside the Euro but inside the European Union.
“If the pound is strong against the Euro, it means our products are competitive in Europe and, while we are in the EU, there are no tariff barriers or trade restrictions to prevent free movement of our products into a market of over 500million consumers, the biggest single market in the world.
“Economically we have the best of both worlds. We control our own currency and have access to this huge market.
“From a foreign investor’s perspective it makes the UK in general and, Sunderland in particular, a good place to build their factories and create jobs.
“The economic argument that manufacturing benefits from being in the EU has been made by many of these companies.
Nissan, Hitachi and others want the UK to remain.
“Significantly the most well-known of the Leave Campaign’s economists, Patrick Minford - who was a leading advisor to the Thatcher Government - concedes in an article in the Sun on March 15, 2016, that ‘Over time, if we left the EU, it seems likely that we would mostly eliminate manufacturing, leaving mainly industries such as design, marketing and hi-tech. But this shouldn’t scare us.’
“Frankly, it scares me.
“Sunderland is a proud city with a manufacturing history that reaches back centuries. More importantly it is a modern 21st Century manufacturing powerhouse that, with the right economic climate, will continue to grow jobs and prosperity into the future.
“I know to speak out in this way will attract criticism from those who are passionate that we should leave.
“We have witnessed a campaign characterised by claim and counter-claim, insult after insult and, most tragically of all, the events of last week leading to the murder of Jo Cox.
“I respect the right of all to express their views and to vote as they decide and would hope that others with differing views respect those rights for me.
“The choice the county will make on Thursday is for many a matter related to control of our laws and our borders and if that counts more with the majority of voters in Sunderland than our growing economic prosperity then the vote may be to leave the EU but I know that if we do leave my roles in helping to grow both a successful university and a prosperous city will be so much harder and that is why I will be voting ‘Remain’.”