With just days to go before Britain goes to the polls to decide whether we remain part of the European Union, the Gazette put 10 key questions to former North Devon MP Sir Nick Harvey and national UKIP chairman Steve Crowther. Having listened closely to the main arguments during the last few months, we wanted to hear their thoughts on the cost of membership, the value to Britain or otherwise and what life would be like if Britain voted to opt out. Weve asked if the money Britain spends on the EU could be spent on the NHS, whether North Devon fishermen could fish local waters, or if there is a danger of recession if we left. Sir Nicks answers here are unedited and appear in full. To see Steve Crowthers responses, click here.1) How much does EU membership cost Britain and what do we receive in return? The cost varies each year, depending how the economy is doing, as its partly based on how much VAT the Treasury takes in. But the net cost, ie what we pay in minus what we get back, is about £8billion. That is less than half of one per cent of our national income. The OUT campaign makes it sound a huge sum by dividing it into a per-day figure. But the benefit of EU membership, opening trading opportunities for us around the world, is at least 10 times that much (possibly far more). At just half a per cent of our economy, our EU membership sub is actually great value.2) So if we leave the EU, will we be able to spend our membership fee on the NHS, for example? No. Remember the money we get back from Europe each year pays British farming subsidies (£3 billion) and regional economic development grants (almost £2bn). So its all very well saying we could spend the money released by coming out on the NHS. But where does that leave our farmers and our economic development programmes (which benefit North Devon)? Unless we slash those, there is really far less available than is being claimed. And it would vanish overnight if turbulence from leaving the EU dented our economic growth. And anyway, we spend £140bn on health care: another £3bn wont solve all the problems!3) Isnt there a danger Britain could slide into recession if we leave the EU? Yes. Voting OUT would cause an economic storm with Britain at its centre. Recession is a danger, the pound would suffer with interest rates rising to prop it up, hitting mortgages. However, markets do adjust to new realities: that storm wouldnt last forever. But short-term turbulence isnt the real problem. Our decision on June 23 is forever. The disaster of leaving is long-term. As well as open access to European markets, we benefit from 50 years of EU trade deals around the world negotiated as a big powerful block. It would take many years to sort new deals (the recent Canada\/EU deal took ten years). Wed have a weakened negotiating hand, and weve lost skills after 40 years of the EU doing it for us. But without deals, British exporters would face trade barriers, like export quotas or financial tariffs. That hits jobs, and if we retaliate in kind, would inflate prices too.4) What about house prices? Would they be affected if we left? Probably though arguably thats no bad thing. The upheaval of re-setting trade terms with Europe, and making new deals around the world, would depress our economy. Wed see less foreign investment in Britain once were outside the EU market. All this would hit economic activity, pushing down on house prices. However, fewer Brits could work abroad, and some British ex-pats in Europe might have to come home. So more people competing for limited housing would push prices the other way. To balance our housing market, we desperately need more houses. The Chancellor should stop dismantling sensible planning controls, instead addressing construction industry capacity, shrunken after two recessions. And with unemployment now so low, what it needs above all, is more fit, capable, hard-working young Eastern Europeans!5) But we would be able to make our own laws and have more of a say on our border controls if we leave, right? We make our own laws and control our own borders now. Europe doesnt govern our schools, hospitals, buses, taxes, benefits, policing, criminal law, culture, sport, defence or foreign policy. Europe only dominates trade, environment and agriculture, where we negotiate deals with our neighbours, so everyone adopts the same standards. But our Parliament decides how this gets enacted into British law. On borders, unlike mainland Europe, ours are closed. But we must let Europeans work here, and in return Brits can work in Europe. Two-way traffic: 2.2million Brits live in Europe, and 2.3m Europeans in Britain. Our economy needs more workers. Why is Germany admitting so many migrants? Have they gone soft? No: they desperately need more workers and with an ageing population, so do we. As for refugees, how many more will land on our shores without EU frameworks at least trying to help us?6) Would we still be able to trade with EU member states if we leave? Yes. But to sell into the EU freely, wed have to negotiate a new deal. And we would have a weak hand. Although Europe sells slightly more to us than we do to them (by volume), were under 10 per cent of their export market, whereas theyre almost 50 per cent of ours. So theyd have us over a barrel. And even without being vindictive, they cant treat us too kindly or others might follow our exit and it could fall apart. Any country selling into the EU has to obey all its regulations, however tedious even superpowers like America and China. Look at other non-EU countries like Norway: in return for allowing them to sell goods in the EU, they have to accept all EU regulations, free movement of workers and make huge contributions to the EU budget. If we leave, we end up with all the drawbacks but have no say in setting the rules.7) What about the environment? Dont we have the EU to thank for clean beaches? Yes and drinking water, sanitation, conservation, habitats for birds and wildlife, controlling climate change emissions and much more. Of course, we could adopt such policies for ourselves anyway. But remember that British governments of both colours ignored foul beach waters for decades. Britain was called the dirty man of Europe before the EU forced us to action. The natural environment knows no national boundaries. The great thing about working together with others is that everyones standards improve, wildlife everywhere benefits, and we all face the same burdens just like with workers rights, nobody gains advantage over each other by avoiding the costs.8) Would North Devon fishermen be free to fish where they want? No. To secure a wider trade deal with Europe, wed have to strike a compromise on fisheries. In theory, if we leave we could control fishing out to 200 nautical miles from our coastline, or the half way point with another country. The map shows us that Ireland, France, Netherlands, Germany EU members push that line much nearer to home. The European Fisheries Policy is a huge failure of the EU, despite its best intentions. But leaving the EU wouldnt spare us grappling with the same issues, trying to conserve fish stocks yet sustain the fishing industry. There are no easy solutions.9) How would travel in Europe be affected if we leave? Would we still get free healthcare in EU countries? Holidays shouldnt be affected much, though we might need better insurance. Its unlikely wed still be part of the E101 healthcare system, though its a bit wobbly anyway and not exactly free in some countries. But travelling to Europe to live or work could be very different: if we closed our borders to EU workers, you can bank on them doing the same back. And buying villas and apartments in Europe might be subject to new restrictions. Also, if we lose the EUs trade deals around the world, Brits may lose the right to go and work in many other countries well beyond Europe.10) What would the world think of Britain if we voted to leave? They would think wed gone completely mad! Today we live in a global village, where news, rumours, opinions, images, fashions and campaigns swiftly trend around the globe. More dangerously, cyber-crime, terrorism and pandemics spread equally fast. To try and tame these forces and ensure a safe and civilised world, we must work with others.The old-fashioned nation state is side lined. We cannot turn back the clock and reclaim total national sovereignty. Thats pie in the sky. Not even America or China has that any more. Britain is uniquely placed, as a leading member of the UN, NATO, the Commonwealth and above all the worlds largest economic power, the EU. We punch above our weight. Were taken far more seriously than a small island in the north Atlantic might expect to be. Opportunities open the world over to British companies and workers on advantageous terms. To quit that economic powerhouse really would be insane! Click here to return to our homepage for more North Devon news.