A few words about Europe, more specifically the referendum on whether the UK stays in the EU or floats off to outer space. This has been discussed by both our Economy Scrutiny Committee,who received presentations both from Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and Industry and from the Institute of Directors, where in both cases member surveys indicated roughly 2 to 1 support for staying in, and the Executive Committee, in the current meeting cycle.
Votes in scrutiny committees are rare but when they do happen they are always free votes. At their meeting, Economy Scrutiny agreed to ask the Council to take action to explain the benefits of EU membership to the public and recommended the Executive to commit the Council to supporting the " In " campaign with only one vote against.
The Executive unanimously agreed to support the " In " campaign but for a number of reasons that have not figured greatly in the national campaigning so far. For the most part we see the Prime Ministers renegotiation and all the stuff around benefits and immigration as a diversion from the real issues. For us it is about jobs and the quality of those jobs. High value jobs where workers get at least some legal protection from exploitative conditions. Notwithstanding the woes in the zero zone, Europe is still our biggest trading partner and allows us to benefit from trade agreements all over the world negotiated from a position of economic strength.
There are lots of moans about regulation, but much of that regulation we would have to follow any way even if we were outside the EU ( look at Norway and Switzerland )to be able to trade with the rest of Europe, and much of that regulation makes life a lot safer for British workers. Not all regulation is bad.
Earlier this afternoon I took part in the launch of Syngenta's Global Operations Centre in Didsbury. The centre which is a satellite of their HQ brings 200 new, good jobs to Manchester with the potential for more. In some respects it is a homecoming as Sygenta was born out of Ciba-Gigy and ICI. Indeed both the head of Global Operations and the head of the centre worked at ICI Blackley in years long gone by. Key reasons for being here include the availability of workers with the right skills and the science friendliness of the UK. They already have a strong relationship with the University of Manchester, and there is already a strong Agri-Tech sector in the region. But as Swiss-base company operating globally how keen would they have been to come here if we were outside the enormous market place that is the EU?