THOUSANDS of people will head to polling stations across Bolton on Thursday to decide their representatives in the European Union.
The elections — the first for five years — have been the subject of intense debate, with headlines dominated by UKIP leader Nigel Farage.
However, while Bolton and Brussels are hundreds of miles apart, a lot of EU legislation directly impacts on the town’s businesses and its people.
Following EU legislation, Bolton residents can live and work in any other member state, access emergency healthcare if they fall sick while abroad and make cheaper phone calls when on holiday.
The EU funds energy projects across Europe in a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and also co-ordinates efforts between member states to fight organised crime.
But parties such as the UKIP argue the EU is too expensive and bureaucratic and is calling for the UK to leave.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives have promised an “in-out” referendum in 2017 — if they are still in power — and the Liberal Democrats have fervently campaigned for Britain to stay in the EU.
Labour MP for Bolton North East David Crausby said: “There’s a whole generation of people who haven’t had a say at all about Europe — when the referendum took place in 1975, it was a Common Market, it wasn’t the European Union. It’s been 40 years since.
“It’s important that we have representation in Europe, and people should vote on Thursday, regardless of their opinions, because it is true that more and more legislation is moving towards Europe, and we do need to get a hold of it.”
However, UKIP’s deputy leader Paul Nuttall, a current MEP who is standing for re-election on Thursday, argues that British money is wasted in Europe. The party’s member base has exploded in recent years, with the group now hoping to return three MEPs this week.
Mr Nuttall said: “We’re campaigning on a range of issues against the EU, including it having the power to open Britain’s borders to a large number of people across the continent.
“All we want in UKIP is the power to reclaim our borders — to introduce a points-based system, which would create an equal playing field for people coming to the UK.”
Manchester-based Laura Bannister is standing for the Green Party in the North West.
She said: “A lot of people feel a bit disengaged with the European elections, but we have the EU and we have MEPs representing us, so if we are going to have it, it’s a question of who do you want to represent you.
“We currently have two Green MEPs who are working extremely hard to make it a social Europe, a Europe that protects social rights.
“Parties like UKIP say immigration is inevitable, but if you make the EU so it serves ordinary people and working people, all these perceived problems disappear — and that comes from political choices.”
- The European elections take place on Thursday, May 22, the same day as the local elections, and will choose the members of the European Parliament.
- The European Parliament is the only directly elected institution in the EU.
- Voting is by a ‘closed list’ system — so people vote for a party, rather than an individual. Each party selects who is first on the candidate list, and the ones at the top are most likely to be elected.
- Who has won will be revealed following the count on Sunday.
Full list of candidates:
An Independence From Europe
British National Party
Socialist Equality Party