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Interesting times, in the EU or out

Three weeks from now, we should know if the UK’s future is to be inside or outside the EU. ‘Should’ not ‘will’ because, as with Ireland and Denmark, we cannot rule out a repeat referendum if the poll backs Brexit and the powers-that-be look to reverse the popular vote.

So far, there has been little to instil enthusiasm in a debate that has typified the arid approach of both the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ camps. The waste management sector has barely registered in any public pronouncements, but the result will matter to us.

As an example, a senior manager of one waste company told me that, without the growth of refuse-derived fuel exports, his business could well have failed. Will those exports be possible if the UK is outside the EU? On the other hand, the dead hand of regulation from Brussels (albeit invariably approved by British ministers in the European Council) can stifle innovation and prevent much-needed growth.

It has been an interesting exercise to assess opinion and there appears to be more people within the industry preferring ‘in’ to ‘out’. Do you agree? We’ll be happy to reflect responses to our news and comment articles on both the MRW website and in the magazine in the coming weeks.

Those of us old enough to recall the debate in 1975 on whether the UK should stay in the European Community must surely be disappointed at the tone and content of the opposing arguments this time around. I don’t think that is a rose-tinted observation.

In 2016, the leading ‘Brexit-eers’ seem driven by implacable opposition to the EU on principle. And yet there appears to be an absence of principle for ‘Remainers’. When does one of their leaders ever justify membership by referring to a European ideal of co-operation and mutual benefit?

We will all vote on whatever we individually believe to be the key issues. In practical terms, it is undeniable that EU Directives have been a big factor in the growth of the waste sector. It is unlikely that a British Government outside the EU would have introduced a similarly robust regulatory framework, perhaps relying instead on voluntary deals.

Brussels has undoubtedly shaped resource management in the UK and, if that is to change, we will have very interesting times ahead.

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