I recently argued that Brexit would be good for the forestry and timber sector at a cross-party meeting in Parliament.
My fellow Conservative MP and leave supporter Anne-Marie Trevelyan and I, told the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry (APPGF), that the UK government would continue to support rural industries, including forestry, if it was outside the EU. We argued that good trade relationships with our European neighbours will remain in the event of Brexit.
During the discussion I argued that the UK had a tendency to 'gold-plate' EU regulations, making life harder and more bureaucratic for business people - including the forestry and timber industry.
I believe the forestry and timber sector has a brighter future outside the European Union - especially because it is one of the industries most blighted by over-regulation by a bloated and unreformed European super-structure.
The National Forest has played a significant role in growing tourism and providing jobs lost during the decline of coal mining in the South Derbyshire constituency - and grant support would continue in the event of a vote to leave.
Seven MPs and two members of the House of Lords took part in the Westminster debate, with representatives from the forestry and timber sector attending and asking questions.
Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of the forestry and timber trade body Confor, which organised the meeting, said: “This was a very important debate and it was great to see a high level of engagement from politicians across the UK and across the political spectrum. There are very big issues on the table ahead of the EU referendum in terms of regulation, grant support, trade, the labour market and plant health. Heather Wheeler was extremely knowledgeable about forestry and made a terrific contribution to the debate.
"Confor's role is to facilitate debate and provide information so our members can make an informed choice about the future of the forestry and timber sector within or outside the EU and what both alternatives mean for their business.”
Confor distributed a discussion paper on the EU referendum and forestry ahead of the event and has also carried out a poll of forestry interests on the June 23 poll. It currently shows that 55 per cent of those polled want to remain in the EU and 45 per cent want to leave.
It is really important to get these issues on the table and I think people in South Derbyshire and beyond can be persuaded before June 23rd that leaving the EU is the best option - for forestry and for other business sectors.