A Strong Voice for Croydon Central - Gavin Barwell MP
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Prime Minister offers British people the chance to determine our relationship with Europe
23/01/2013 18:07:00


This morning, the Prime Minister gave his long-awaited speech on Europe (he was due to deliver it on Friday, but he rightly postponed it given events in Algeria).

Our relationship with the rest of Europe has dogged British politics throughout my lifetime. Everyone agrees that we want to have good relations with our neighbours and that there are many issues where it makes sense to co-operate. But people have very different views of the European Union as an institution. Opinion polls show that a significant proportion of the electorate want us to leave.

Some people worry about how many of the laws that affect us are agreed not by our Parliament but in Europe. They also worry about the cost of the EU and the amount of regulation it puts in place, which they argue is making it harder for Britain to compete with the emerging economies of the East (Europe’s share of world output is projected to fall by almost a third over the next 20 years). Others say that the time of the nation state has passed, that we can achieve more if we pool our sovereignty. They warn that were we to leave, we would still want access to the single market and that would mean we would still have to make a financial contribution to the EU and obey the rules like Norway and Switzerland do, but we would no longer have any say in making those rules. They warn that businesses would leave the UK. And whilst they admit that the EU isn’t perfect, they argue that if we engage rather than carping from the sidelines we can reform it.

Why are we more sceptical about the EU than other European countries? It probably has something to do with geography, being an island just off the continental mainland. We are Europeans, but a little apart. And it probably has something to do with history too. The EU’s origins lie in the aftermath of the Second World War, in a determination in Germany and France to bind their two countries closely together so that they would never again go to war – Robert Schuman, the French Foreign Minister at the time, said the aim was to "make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible". If you are a continental European, the lesson of the Second World War is that nationalism is a dangerous thing that had to be constrained. But if you’re British, the lesson is different: it was our national spirit that helped us to fight on alone. Of course, we don’t have to be a prisoner to either our geography or our history, but we’d be daft to pretend that they haven’t influenced our attitudes.

Whatever the reasons, there’s no disputing that we are more sceptical about the EU than other members. And this isn’t a left/right issue – it divides all three of the main parties, particularly my party.

We need to settle the issue once and for all. People under the age of 55 have never had a chance to have their say and many of those who did vote in the 1975 referendum argue that the current EU is very different to the Common Market they voted for. So I think the Prime Minister was right to say that we should have a referendum.

He was also right to say that now is not the time for two reasons.

First, the EU is going to have to change profoundly over the next few years. The Eurozone countries have learned what those of us who opposed the single currency warned - you can’t have monetary union without fiscal union (in layman’s terms, if you are going to share a currency, then you also have to have common rules over borrowing). They are going to have to integrate more. We don’t want to be part of that. In the past, our policy in such a situation would have been to try to block further integration - to avoid a two speed Europe with the UK in the slow lane. But this time, things are different. It is in our economic interests that the eurozone sorts out its problems – we need them to integrate further (but we also need to make sure there are safeguards so that the other members of the Union can’t be out-voted if the Eurozone members start to vote as a bloc).

Second, the fact that there are going to have to be treaty changes anyway provides an opportunity for us to renegotiate the nature of our membership.

Most people share this analysis, but some say the Prime Minister shouldn’t be raising the possibility of us leaving. There is a paradox here. It is clear from his speech that the Prime Minister doesn’t want to leave the EU - he wants to change our relationship with it, but remain a member (as do I). But unless he convinces his opposite numbers that us leaving is a real possibility, they may not agree to the changes to our relationship which he is going to need if he is to win the referendum.

I know some will react to this speech with cynicism - they'll say he promised a referendum on getting out of Europe before the last Election and hasn’t delivered. Actually, he didn’t promise anything of the kind - he said there would be a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty if it wasn't ratified by the time he became Prime Minister and in the event it was. This is one of those situations where the truth doesn’t matter however - it’s perception that counts and the perception is that he didn't keep his promise so he needed to be specific today to convince the cynics. Here - in his own words - is what he said:

“The next Conservative Manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative Government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament...And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice. To stay in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether...Legislation will be drafted before the next election. And if a Conservative Government is elected we will introduce the enabling legislation immediately and pass it by the end of that year. And we will complete this negotiation and hold this referendum within the first half of the next parliament”.

This was a really important speech. As I said at the start, it's an issue that has dogged British politics for years. It needed to be resolved and now the leader of one of the main parties has promised to do just that. Ed Miliband was hopeless in the House of Commons - unable to say what his position is, despite having had plenty of notice of what the Prime Minister was going to say. So voters in Croydon Central who feel strongly about this issue now know that if they want to have their say, they need to vote Conservative at the next Election.

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Readers' Comments

On 23/01/2013 22:18:00 Roy Simpson wrote:

this has nothing to do with the common man in the street.

Here is a prime minister play at vote rigging in the next election.

So scared that people will remember the MESS the TORYS have got us into.

Increased job losses, increased suicides, increased attacks on the sick elderly & disabled.

in the same old tory way "LETS KICK A DOG WHEN ITS DOWN"

it looks good in the papers.. And sounds good on the nick Ferrari show after all he is the conservative mouth piece of the London lets grind them down society

let him spend a day in my shoes then we would see what happens.

As for its all labours fault yes they have to admit 50% but the banks are the main culprits if it wasn't for the labour government propping up the crooked banks then there would have been hundreds of thousand's people loosing all their savings, homes, and jobs,

just as Maggie Thatcher done when she was prime minister and the bank went bust local councils were left penniless as we as pension fund holders what be she say "THOUGH"

and who sold the northern rock to Richard Branson for half its value 740Million instead of 1.5 billion saying "it's the best deal we could get" never mind the poor will take the cut and make up the difference.

So why don't we learn from his"TORY" lets sell it of cheap then we can Blame some one else when the country is on it knees again.

One last thing it was the great Kenneth Clark that introduced the FUEL escalator in 1993 not the labour government.

don't worry be happy

On 24/01/2013 12:04:00 Tim Duce wrote:
Dear Gavin,

The US. and China are not part of the EU but export more goods to it than we do.

Our trade with the EU is about 43% of our TOTAL volume (NOT over 50% as is often claimed) and we have a negative balance of trade with them, so it is our trade with the rest of the world which is keeping our economy afloat. (ref. 1 below)

The idea that being in the EU gives us a voice is an illusion. Most decision making comes directly from the unelected Commissioners and BYPASSES the European parliament. This is particularly worrying... a dictatorial bureaucracy acting behind a front of pretended democracy! (ref. 2 below)

The Euro was NOT created for economic reasons. It was created for political reasons against the advice of the EU's own fiscal planning experts. (ref. 3 below) Indeed the problems in Greece, Spain and Ireland cannot get better as long as they remain in the Euro. If they had their own currencies:

a) They could devalue which would make their exports cheaper

b) They would be able to lower their interest rates to facilitate the creation of new business.

Please note that the EU commissioners' greed for power far outweighs any compassion for the peoples of Greece, Spain and Ireland. They will do ANYTHING (including running up appalling debts to China) rather than allow these countries to leave because if they did, they would thrive and there would be a stampede to follow them.

Do you want to be ruled by a bunch of corrupt, self serving bureaucrats whom you can NEVER vote out of office, who had the chutzpah to award themselves lifelong legal immunity from prosecution regarding their activities as commissioners (yes, I know it beggars belief!) and to be part of an economy which by its very nature CANNOT work? I don't.

Best regards,

Tim Duce

Finally, I can't resist the urge to quote myself. Regarding the EU's treatment of Greece, Spain and Ireland:

"Watch how someone treats others. One day, that's how they'll treat you." Tim Duce


(1) The Office of National Statistics, a government body

(2) "The Castle of Lies" Christopher Booker & Richard North

(3) "The Rotten Heart of Europe" Bernard Connolly, ex EU Head of Fiscal Planning

On 24/01/2013 14:25:00 Jim wrote:
This idea is crazy. We are just inviting humiliation as the UK gets told where to go. Cameron has come out as a euro-phile - he won't even promise to vote for leaving if he doesn't get what he wants. From the point of view of other EU countries, why should they negotiate with us if after all that we could end up voting to leave anyway?

This is yet another field day for civil servants as they buzz around Brussels discussing yet more schemes/opt-outs/whatever. It's another Heathrow expansion job - why decide something today when we can put it off until some day in the future.

Gavin, you write "So voters in Croydon Central who feel strongly about this issue now know that if they want to have their say, they need to vote Conservative at the next Election." The Election IS about people having their say and there is only one party that has as its policy leaving the EU. Cameron really has become a recruiting sergeant for UKIP in my opinion - and not just on the EU issue. That's a pity.

On 25/01/2013 11:53:00 Ian russell wrote:
A concise and easy to understand article.
On 25/01/2013 17:24:00 Matt Miller wrote:
I thought David Cameron's speech was spot on. I would like Britain to remain in the EU if we can get a deal with a more flexible arrangement which suits us. It is only right that British people get a vote on Europe because our parents and grandparents only voted to join a European Economic Trading Community (EEC). They didn't vote to join a Federal United States of Europe. The two things are very different. I agree that the Eurozone needs to integrate more closely now to save the Euro. I am not surprised that the Eurozone got itself into such a financial mess though because the EU was stupid in trying to merge the currencies of too many different economies in one go. They should have just started off with a single currency for France, Germany, Austria and the Benelux countries and then gradually allowed other countries to join the currency as they met stringent tax and spending targets etc. We were right not to join the Euro. It is like a straight jacket. I look back to my own experience of leaving university in 1992 when Britain was in recession. I couldn't get a job because we were still tied to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) and that was making it difficult for employers to take on new staff. Things began to improve when we came out of the ERM c. 1993. I think Germany will be fair and encourage the other European countries to return some powers to us. France, however, has made some appaling comments this week. It seems that all Mr Hollande and his cronies want is to suck us into a Socialist United States of Europe.
On 26/01/2013 08:03:00 Gavin Barwell wrote:

Unemployment is down since the last election and the number of people in work is at a record high. Don't let the facts get in the way of a good rant though...


It is true that only the Commission can initiate proposals but they have to be agreed by either all Member States or a qualified majority depeding on the issue.


Of course people can vote UKIP but they're not going to win are they? If people like you vote for them, the result will be the election of a Labour MP for Croydon Central, making it less likely that there will be a referendum.




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