West Norfolk MPs divided over EU referendum

Election Count gets underway at Lynnsport King's Lynn
Elizabeth Truss and Henry Bellingham elected as MP's ANL-150805-111553009
Election Count gets underway at Lynnsport King's Lynn Elizabeth Truss and Henry Bellingham elected as MP's ANL-150805-111553009
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West Norfolk’s MPs are split over Europe after they declared they will vote different ways in the forthcoming referendum.

Voters will go to the polls on June 23 to decide whether Britain should remain a member of the European Union or not, following last week’s summit in Brussels.

And North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham this afternoon confirmed that he would be supporting the bid to leave the organisation, primarily because of immigration concerns.

He said: “Reluctantly, I’m going to be voting to come out.”

But his South West Norfolk counterpart, environment secretary Elizabeth Truss, said she was backing the Remain campaign in a social media post on Saturday afternoon, following the cabinet meeting where the deal was outlined.

She said: “I am backing remain as I believe it is in Britain’s economic interest and means we can focus on vital economic and social reform at home.”

Sir Henry said he had taken the decision to support the Leave campaign “with a heavy heart”, saying he did not regard himself as a natural Euro-sceptic.

He also praised the progress made by prime minister David Cameron on issues including the guarantee that Britain would be exempted from moves towards every closer political union.

But he said he wanted “controlled migration” into Britain and argued that the lack of progress to tackle concerns relating to immigration and benefit payments showed the reluctance of other European leaders to tackle those issues.

He also highlighted the case of a constituent who he said had been told that his wife, who is from New Zealand, had been told she could not remain in Britain despite recently giving birth to their child, because they did not meet immigration rules requiring them to earn at least £18,000 a year.

He said: “If we want controlled migration, this is the last opportunity we have to control our borders.”

The division between the borough’s MPs mirrors the wider split in the Conservative party, with dozens of their MPs, including six cabinet ministers, opposing the prime minister and supporting the leave campaign.

Mr Cameron described a vote to leave as a “leap into the dark” at the weekend, while other supporters of the campaign to leave maintain that an exit presents significant risks to Britain’s trade and security.

And Sir Henry said he understood why supporters of the Remain campaign argued that the country could not afford to take the risk of leaving.

But he added: “I’m confdient we can go it alone.”