Yorkshire prepares to choose envoys to Brussels

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IT was her experiences campaigning for coalfield communities and pressing to secure European cash to help grow the South Yorkshire economy that led Linda McAvan to decide that she wanted to represent Yorkshire in the European Parliament.

Its workings are little understood by most UK voters, even those who consider themselves pro-European, but 16 years after first being elected, Ms McAvan is in no doubt the Parliament does important work.

“I work on very practical things at European level like food labelling, breast implant regulation, things that have an impact on people.

“The push by Europe to have targets for recycling is the kind of thing that brings investment into our region.”

European election campaigns tend to focus on the UK’s membership of the EU, much to Ms McAvan’s frustration.

“When people are voting they are voting for who best represents their views on things like the environment, food safety - it is not a referendum on whether we should be in Europe it is about who best represents you.”

Turning the elections into a referendum on Europe has been at the heart of the UK Independence Party’s campaign.

Lead candidate Jane Collins said: “It is a very odd thing, applying for a job you hope to lose.

“We will be there to represent people in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire who have misgivings about the EU, we are their eyes and ears.

“People are not aware of MEPs or how the EU functions and it is our job to make it more transparent and show how it has become a big out of control beast.”

For three of Yorkshire’s MEPs, this week is certainly their last in the job as they stand down. Liberal Democrat Rebecca Taylor is returning to the masters degree interrupted by the resignation of Diana Wallis in 2012.

“A lot of what we do can be quite detailed but it is the details that matter. I worked on medical device legislation which, if it didn’t go the right way, would have cost the NHS millions.”

The Lib Dems are alone among the major parties to run have a campaign overtly positive about EU membership.

“We are not saying everything is perfect and nothing needs to change but if you want change on things like the Commons fisheries policy you do that by building alliances and persuading people it is the right way to go, not by withdrawing,” Ms Taylor said.

Former Olympic rower and Conservative candidate Alex Story, said the referendum on EU membership his party has promised in 2017 is “as important as Magna Carta in 1215”.

“I don’t feel particularly proud I will be a member of this institution. I believe in the history and glory of this country.

“I believe in Westminster and I want Westminster to be brought back to what it used to be, in other words a place where you and I can send people to make laws.”