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Let the people decide
05/07/2013 12:49:00

 
 

I normally spend Fridays in the constituency, but today I am in Westminster to support the Private Member's Bill introduced by the Conservative MP for Stockton South, James Wharton, which would require a referendum to be held on our membership of the European Union.

Our future relationship with the EU is an important issue - not as pressing as getting the economy growing, getting people into work and helping people cope with the rising cost of living - but important nonetheless and it's plagued British politics for years. It divides all three of our main political parties so it's difficult to resolve via a General Election. Many people weren't old enough to vote back in 1975 so have never had a chance to have their say - and many of those who were old enough say that today’s EU is very different from the Common Market they were asked to vote on then.

Whatever your own views - whether you couldn't conceive of us leaving, are desperate for us to get out or, like me, would prefer us to stay in but aren't happy with the current relationship - I hope you agree that it's time we asked the British people for their view again.

That's the Conservative Party's position as set out by the Prime Minister in a speech he gave in January. But the choice that we put to the public should be a genuine one: to leave or to stay in the EU on the best terms that we can get. The Government needs time to negotiate those terms - and indeed there is a real opportunity to do so at the moment with the EU having to change in the wake of a Eurozone crisis - so the right time to hold a referendum is in a few years' time. The Conservative manifesto at the next Election will therefore include a pledge to renegotiate our relationship and then to put the deal we secure to the British people in an in/out referendum.

I know many people will feel that they’ve heard promises like this before. To underline the strength of its commitment to giving people their say, the Conservative Party has therefore drawn up a draft bill to require a referendum to be held, which James has now introduced as a Private Member’s Bill. I hope that this will help to convince you that we mean what we say.

And I hope that some Labour MPs will vote for James's Bill today as well, despite the fact that as usual Ed Miliband can't make up his mind. After all, as Kate Hoey, the Labour MP for Vauxhall, said during the debate it is clear from the polls that Labour voters want a referendum as well. It was disappointing to see my fellow Croydon MP Labour's Steve Reed describe the idea of letting his constituents decide as "bonkers".

Ultimately this is about trust. Do we think that only we politicians understand this issue so only we can decide or do we trust the British people? I know where I stand.

Comment on this blog

 

Readers' Comments

On 05/07/2013 15:28:00 Jim wrote:
Trust? After he fought tooth and nail to block previous referendum attempts? Sorry I don't believe Cameron at all, he has contempt for people that have UKIPesque views and has said he wants to stay in the EU. No parliament can bind a successor parliament. If he "trusted" people, he'd call for a referendum now instead of embarking on this cringe-making plan to re-negotiate in Europe. He won't allow a referendum if there is a possibility of a "get out" vote.

"I know where I stand" - I think I do - from your other entry: "Does he agree that the long-term aim should be an EU from the Atlantic to the Urals..." (forgive the selective quoting...)

I'm horrified by such a concept. Gavin... have you joined UKIP already? This kind of thing will surely win votes for them.

I just see this whole thing as a stunt. Meanwhile public debt grows, and grows, and grows, and grows..

 
On 17/07/2013 19:11:00 Emma wrote:
Also thinking we should be having the referendum now. David Cameron made a promise in 2009 that if people voted for the Conservatives it would be guaranteed to get us a referendum - where Gordon Brown at the time was failing. Yet, on this, things have gone in just the same direction as when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister. There was talk of a draft bill being drawn up back then too. Yet it's now already 2013, and we're just being given more of the same talk and being told the referendum will now be happening in another few years? At this rate, I'm only going to believe this is going to happen when I see it.
 
 

 

 

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Gavin Barwell, House of Commons, SW1A 1AA, Tel  020 8660 0491      © Gavin Barwell  2017       Promoted by Ian Parker on behalf of Gavin Barwell, both at 36 Brighton Road, Purley, CR8 2LG