It will be a ‘once in a generation’ referendum.
The question of whether Britain should leave the European Union will be posed to residents in South Yorkshire, and the rest of the country, on June 23.
Debate has already begun, and is set to last several months as the two campaigns go head to head.
Here Conservative MEP for Yorkshire Amjad Bashir and Sheffield MP Paul Blomfield argue both sides of the story - and Sheffield shoppers give their views.
Amjad Bashir, Conservative Member of European Parliament for Yorkshire, is for leaving the EU.
“We must recognise that David Cameron is giving us the referendum that he promised.
This renegotiation only took place because he had the integrity to stick with his pledge of giving us a true say on our relationship with the EU for the first time in a generation.
Though I trust he is genuine in his belief that he got a good deal, his demands were quite modest.
His continental counterparts, who do not share our appetite for the deep reform the EU needs, let him down. In trying to address some of the EU’s glaring weaknesses, he was not met with engagement but inaction.
As Conservative spokesman on small business, I must take issue with him over the best prospects for our great nation’s future. I have seen first-hand the voracious appetite of the European Commission and continental MEPs for one-size-fits-all regulation and red tape.
If we stay in, I fear what lies ahead for British enterprise. Our established businesses could be held back and our entrepreneurs stifled.
By leaving the EU we would regain our sovereignty and swiftly put our Parliament back in charge of our country.
We could cut trade deals with the likes of America, Canada, Singapore and New Zealand much more quickly. We would look out to the global economy instead of being constrained by the EU’s inert navel-gazing.
More importantly, by leaving we could regain full control of our immigration policy. It would allow us to manage our borders how we choose, without having to answer to anyone else.
I came to the UK as a young boy more than fifty years ago. I know first-hand how generous and welcoming the British people are. And my background makes me confident that if we were to manage this policy area ourselves again, it would be firm, yet compassionate, taking into account our requirements, our resources and our relationships with the rest of the world.
There are good and sincere people on both sides of this debate, but my conscience, experience and sense of fairness tells me that our continued membership of an unreformed EU must end as soon as possible.
“I will be sticking to my long-held conviction that Britain’s future is best-forged outside the EU and voting to leave on June 23.”
Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, is for staying in the EU.
“In just 16 weeks we will cast the most important vote in a generation. And that decision on our membership of the European Union on June 23 will be final. Unlike General Elections, we can’t change our minds after five years.
The EU is vital for jobs. Trade with countries like China is important, but it’s dominated by imports, from clothing to steel. Exporting is what counts and we sell more to Belgium than China, and more to Holland than all the Commonwealth. Leaving would put many of the four million jobs dependent on EU trade at risk.
David Cameron has been forced into this referendum by the old-time ‘Thatcherites’ in his party – the likes of Nigel Lawson, Iain Duncan Smith, and Michael Gove – cheered on by UKIP’s Nigel Farage. Their reason is simple. They want an end to regulation, leaving Britain ‘simply trading’ with the rest of Europe.
What are the regulations they want to get rid of? Rights like the entitlement to a minimum of four weeks’ paid holiday, a day off each week and equal treatment for part time workers. They want Britain to become Europe’s offshore centre of cheap labour. Increasing profits at the expense of ordinary people.
Many people I meet have real concerns about migration. But these issues will not be solved by leaving Europe. The ‘leave’ campaigners want to continue to trade in the EU without barriers, but that will only be possible if we strike a deal like Norway and Switzerland – involving free movement of workers. And the refugee crisis won’t go away. We need to work together in solving all these issues.
And there’s more at stake. Centuries of war between European countries was only brought to an end after World War Two, when politicians agreed that creating economic and political interdependency between the nations of Europe would make war unthinkable. And it’s given us 70 years of peace for the first time in our history. We are stronger together, not only in maintaining peace, but in meeting the big challenges of our time.
The EU has led on environmental protection, with rules that have cleaned our beaches and set tough standards for air quality, and we are working together to stop climate change. The EU’s not perfect, but turning our back on our neighbours would leave Britain weaker and less able to build a secure future.”
Sheffield residents were divided by their views on the referendum.
Masters student Teresa Flack, aged 36 and from Nether Green, wanted the country to go it alone.
She said: “I think we should go out the EU, it might help us to grow if we do. I did a geography degree though so I can see some of the arguments to remain in.”
But Jack Philips, aged 22 and a volunteer coordinator from Stannington, said: £We should definitely stay in, I think it would be pretty stupid to leave to be honest.”
Pals Nick Barfield and Marie Keane, who were visiting Sheffield from Buxton, were split.
Nick said: “I think anyone ignoring the economic arguments to stay in the EU would be foolish, people react more to issues of sovereignty and immigration, it’s a knee jerk thing but for the good of the country we should stay in the EU.”
Mum Marie added: “We should stay in, I’ve got children in their 20’s and I want them to grow up in Europe.”
Like many people, retired dad Neil Gledhill, from Fulwood, was undecided/
The 63-year-old said: “I’m very undecided at the moment but I am verging on out because of the way money is spent badly by the EU. Also to protect our borders and I don’t like the fear factor that is going around at the moment.”