SPARKS flew as council leaders debated whether Portsmouth would be better in or out of the European Union.
At last night’s full council meeting, councillors agreed – marginally – that the city would ‘be better off outside the EU’.
If it’s allowed to continue it will drive Portsmouth into the ground through overregulation, unemployment and social decayCouncillor Stuart Potter, Ukip
However, the motions – raised separately by Tory and Ukip councillors – angered the city’s Liberal democrat boss, Gerald Vernon-Jackson.
He said up to 3m jobs could be at risk, if the UK left the union, and argued debating the EU was ‘not appropriate’ for the council as there were more pressing local matters.
His amendment, calling on the council simply to urge the city’s residents to vote in June 23’s referendum – and not say the authority was opposed to remaining in the EU, was defeated.
‘We should not be telling the people of this city how they should vote,’ he told councillors. ‘It’s not our job and it’s a bad thing to do.’
However, Tory leader Donna Jones said Britain was forking out £55m a day – of £20bn a year – just to be in the union and that the UK was making a ‘net loss’ in trade.
She said EU chiefs in Brussels were passing ‘silly rules’ which the UK was forced to abide by, without having any real say in the matter.
Likewise, councillor Colin Galloway argued EU directives were hitting businesses, while fellow Ukip councillor Stuart Potter claimed Portsmouth’s economy would suffer if Britain remained in the EU.
He told councillors EU regulations would prevent emerging businesses from expanding and that growing pressure from the union had already hit Portsmouth’s commercial fishing industry.
‘If it’s allowed to continue it will drive Portsmouth into the ground through overregulation, unemployment and social decay,’ he said.
However, Labour leader councillor John Ferrett wasn’t convinced and backed the Liberal Democrats’ view.
Hitting out at Ukip, he said: ‘This motion is hogwash. It’s a clear example of what happens if Ukip tries to stray into the political issue rather than whipping up prejudices and hatreds to win votes.’
Lib Dem Lee Hunt added the Tories were ‘split down the middle’ saying the city’s Conservatives’ views were against the PM’s own calls to stay part of the EU.