This article is published on an important day – EU referendum day. Many people will read this column after the result is known.
Like most, I watched the debate over the last few months. I hear talk of Project Fear, Hitler, war, mass Turkish immigration, £350 million a day, and so on.
I try to be a considered person looking at evidence, listening to arguments then making up my mind.
I do not use extreme language as I hear others do in this debate. Such an approach – from whoever – is rarely helpful.
Many will be aware that I favour remaining in the EU. This isn’t because I fear a war or the end of Western political civilisation if we leave. I don’t believe that the EU shares the same goals as Hitler or that 68 million Turks are on their way if we stay.
We aren’t held back through restrictive trade union practices or high rates of marginal tax. We are part of a globally linked and complex trading network.
Those with the biggest clout and the most competitive outlook get the best deals.
We have that competitive outlook. Business leaders are hungry for growth, want to grab trade opportunities and employ more people so they can grow further.
But outside the EU would we have the same clout we have now as part of the world’s biggest trading bloc?
How could we? It doesn’t stand to reason that we would become more powerful in trade terms by leaving an organisation with more clout than us which is able to negotiate bigger, more profitable trade deals.
So, we get better trade deals in the EU because of the scale of deals we can negotiate as part of that trading bloc. Better trade deals means more successful businesses, more jobs and higher wages.
These in turn lead to more tax collected – more income tax from more employees being paid more, more corporation tax from more successful businesses, and so on.
This tax can then be spent on public services such as the NHS, disability benefits or pensions.
This isn’t Project Fear. It is a rational and positive argument for being a member of the world’s biggest trading bloc helping secure trade which boosts jobs which increases the tax take which is used to improve public services.
Some state that Britain would survive alone. Of course we would. But I do not just want us to survive, I want us to thrive.
I want a country that is secure and full of opportunity, that is tolerant and compassionate and does not retreat from the world-beating global reach that we have now.
There is a big difference between surviving and thriving, between growing as a nation and so getting more funding into our public services or not.
I want that extra trade, those extra jobs, that extra tax,those better funded services that being part of the EU brings in addition to those we might, or might not, be able to secure alone.
Our EU membership comes at a price although everyone seems to have a different figure. What we can definitely say though is that some of our taxes go to paying that price.
Rather than looking solely at what goes in should we not also look at what we get in return?
For instance, it costs each of us a lot of money in tax every year to fund the NHS. But we get fantastic care free at the point of delivery and this is worth the tax we pay.
In Harrogate, local households pay through council tax around £750,000 a year to fund the running of the conference centre.
Each year the conference and exhibition business brings in £60 million in trade to the district and underpins thousands of jobs – particularly jobs for young people.
Harrogate would be a shadow of what it is without the Conference Centre.
Is it worth what we pay out for the NHS, for the Conference Centre for the kind of return we get? Of course it is.
And that is how I look at our EU membership.
The Confederation of British Industry estimates that for every pound we pay to the EU in taxes for membership we get nearly £10 back through increased trade.
It is that positive agenda, that certainty of what we get by staying in, that puts me firmly in the Remain camp.
In the weeks ahead we will all be digesting the result and what it means for our country.
Whatever the result, we certainly live in interesting times and we must come together to make our future the best it can be.