EVERY time an MP tells me that the EU referendum is turning people off politics, I tell them they’ve clearly never been to North Yorkshire.

Making a decision this big about the future of our country was never going to be easy. But every time I speak with local people about which way they’re voting I’m blown away by how passionate and well informed (often more so than the folk down in Westminster!) they are.

Of course, that doesn’t stop people being hungry for information, and this week I’ve been trying to do my bit to answer the questions that people still have about the referendum. Each evening I drove to a different town in the constituency to hold a public meeting to give local people a chance to put their questions to me on Britain’s future in Europe.

In just four evenings I managed to speak to more than 500 people and, as ever, was deeply humbled by the vibrancy and intelligence with which people on both sides of the debate engaged in the democratic process.

As regular readers will be aware, my own belief is that we should vote to leave the European Union. The best thing about this referendum, however, is that my vote will count exactly the same as everyone else’s and – in that spirit – I tried my best to answer questions by putting forward the facts in a balanced way rather than trying to persuade people of my opinion.

For those of you who couldn’t make it, the best way I can think of explaining how I came to my own decision was by breaking the question down into five categories: the economy, immigration, UK contributions to the EU budget, security, and sovereignty.

Whatever campaigners on either side may tell you, all five of these topics hold their own risks, benefits, and uncertainties whichever way we vote. The decision we all now need to reach is which of these issues matters to us most.

As well as mulling over the big national questions, I‘ve also been soaking up some of the wonderful local events that this year’s Swaledale Arts Festival had to offer.

Thanks to the space provided by Tennant’s of Leyburn’s brilliant new Garden Rooms, the festival – for the first year ever – saw the inclusion of a full symphony orchestra: the incredible Hallé Orchestra.

As well as a whole host of other artists, the festival saw a performances by Benjamin Grosvenor (the astonishingly talented 23-year-old pianist who recently played the prestigious solo slot on the last night of the Proms) and world famous Soprano Dame Emma Kirkby.

On Friday I was lucky enough to meet the dedicated group of organisers and supporters that made the festival possible and thank them for all the work they do for our area. All I can say is that if you thought this year’s line-up was incredible, wait and see what they have in store for us for 2017.