I FULLY understand that the UK’s participation in the European Union is of major concern for many of my constituents, as it is for me. Our membership certainly means something entirely different today than it did in 1975, and it is appalling that the overwhelming majority of people in the UK have never had an opportunity to vote on any of the changes that have been implemented.
I am in favour of allowing the people to decide, via a referendum, on the future of the UK’s relationship with the EU. However, I believe that the timing of the referendum proposed last Monday was quite wrong, particularly with the crisis that is currently engulfing the Eurozone.
The Government must focus and put all its energy into resolving the economic crises, stimulating growth and creating jobs in the UK. We must bring back key powers and resist the further transfer of powers to the EU by using the referendum block.
An in/out referendum or a confusing and unclear three-way referendum would do nothing to advance these objectives but could provide a dangerous distraction to the real issues at hand.
While there is no doubt that the EU needs reform, our prosperity and standing in the world could be seriously damaged if we were to leave. An estimated 40 per cent of our exports are to other countries within the EU. If we left, we would have no influence over the rules governing our largest overseas markets. We must engage with the single market.
Furthermore, with 2.6 million people currently unemployed in the UK, I do not think we should risk any further jobs within our economy. Currently, 10 per cent of UK jobs rely on exports to EU member states and UK households are estimated to benefit from EU trade by as much as £3,300 per year.
Having said this, we do need to ensure that we curtail, and in some cases, reverse the movement of power from Westminster to Brussels. Over the last 13 years power has been blithely handed to Brussels without any consultation of the British people. In its first year of office, the Government passed an extremely important law to prevent any further transfer of powers to Brussels without a referendum. This was a major milestone in our relationship with the EU, ending once and for all the creeping powers of Brussels.