As the Prime Minister announced the date for the EU referendum, Bedfordshire MPs have set their stalls out at opposite ends of the in-out forum.
North East Bedfordshire MP Alistair Burt has announced he is backing the campaign for the UK to remain in the EU, while Bedford and Kempston MP Richard Fuller is all for voting out on June 23.
Mr Burt said while the Union is not without room for improvement, only by retaining membership after the referendum can the UK shape its future.
He added: “I welcome the forthcoming Referendum, where David Cameron has delivered on his promise to give the people of the UK the chance to express their view on whether or not the UK should remain in the EU.
“I will be supporting the position to remain, based on my belief that our membership of the EU is best for us economically and politically for our security and stability in the years to come.
“The EU has helped significantly to contribute to a Europe in which the wars of many centuries between European nations are now unthinkable, and build economies and opportunities for all our citizens to benefit from.”
In a letter to constituents Mr Fuller has outlined his argument to leave the EU.
He cites his experience working with businesses around the world - in countries including Australia, South Korea and the United States - prior to entering Parliament as a key factor in believing we will thrive going it alone.
He said: “Without hesitation, I believe that the economic future of our country will be more secure, not less, outside the EU. In many countries I found a deep respect for the United Kingdom – our laws, history, peaceful society and, yes, our common sense.
“Our identity as a country is on a secure footing – we need not be afraid of being excluded or of our voice diminishing. In fact, I believe our voice will be heard more clearly.
“In many cases, we have allowed ourselves to take a back seat in international business – permitting the European Union to take a ponderous lead, hoping that our country’s priorities can somehow be fitted in to the same bargain alongside those of Germany, France and 25 other countries.”
He added: “Those who make an economic case for our continuing membership of the European Union do so based almost entirely on fear – fear of the alternative, fear of the ghosts and goblins that will immediately appear if the United Kingdom reverts to its traditional status as an independent nation.”
Mr Fuller also believes a no vote will strengthen democracy as the public have very little ability to hold the European Parliament to account, and will enable the UK to draw on the talents of people from around the world without having to give preference to Europeans.
He said: “Bedford is a traditional market town with a diverse and distinctive population. People from Italy, Poland, India, Bangladesh, the islands of the Caribbean and from Pakistan called Bedford home well before the UK joined the European Union.
In recent decades, people from other nations have been drawn to Bedford, in part, because we welcome people from all nations – as long as they are prepared to work hard.
“So, as MP, it is very hard for me to justify to my constituents why legally we have one set of rules for people from the countries of the European Union, and another rule for the rest of the world. Family connections, job opportunities, educational visits, business ideas are all sifted into two piles – with the EU pile automatically favoured.”
Mid Bedfordshire MP Nadine Dorries is also backing “brexit”.
“I will be campaigning for Britain to leave the EU,” she said. “I will be doing so because I believe in Britain. I think Britain is better than squalid backroom deals and the bland compromise of consensus between 28 countries squabbling for their share of a communal pot.
“I believe our potential is being held back, we are not cooperating with our European partners but being shackled to the consequences of their poor economic decisions.
“We went through a renegotiation of our terms of membership because the status quo wasn’t working. We got almost nothing and the status quo still isn’t working.”
She addeed: “Outside the EU, Great Britain will continue to trade with Europe, we will be free to trade more with other parts of the world, we will control our own borders, make our own laws and we will be stronger as a result.”