23rd February 2016
It has always been my view that we should be given a choice regarding our future relationship with Europe and I am proud that after decades of democratic deficit my Government passed the Referendum Act that will finally give a voice in charting our destiny with an In/Out Referendum on June 23rd 2016.
After assessing the deal that the Prime Minister has secured for the UK, I decided that, I will vote to remain IN the European Union. My decision is based on three factors:
- First, while of course the United Kingdom could survive economically outside the European Union, it is my belief that the greatest economic growth and prosperity will be delivered by remaining inside the Union. This position gives us full access to the Single Market representing the world's largest trading bloc of 500 million people. Many of those campaigning to leave Europe suggest that we will be able to leave and negotiate access to the Single Market but it is the case that no other country has signed an agreement to access the market without either contributing financially to the EU or accepting free movement of EU people. Indeed Norway, which is often held up as a model as a country outside the Union but with access to the Single Market, is subject to EU regulation with no ability to influence the process, pays to support the EU budget at a rate not much lower than Great Britain (per head of population), and takes in twice the level of EU migrants. There is no Single Market "free lunch".
- Second, in an increasingly uncertain world with an unstable Russia, the Middle East riven by dissent and civil war, I believe that we are better to face these threats collectively. I am convinced that we will be safer in Europe, and able to work with other countries to fight cross-border crime and terrorism. There is strength in numbers in a dangerous world. There is also the non-trivial matter that for more than 50 years, we have not had a European war, as a result of the tighter and more interdependent relationships that Europe brings. Like all families, there have been tensions, but ultimately I think we are safer and stronger together.
- Lastly, the Prime Minister has secured a deal that gives Great Britain permanent special status within the EU. We have protected the pound, secured a permanent exemption from 'ever closer union'; set up unilateral benefit restrictions for migrants to this country and repatriated powers like the ability to deport criminals. For the first time, as a result of this deal, other Member States have recognised that countries do not have to share a common goal to be in the EU. I have no doubt that there will be more demands for reform from other countries over the next few years and this deal shows that we can drive the direction of that reform in a way that most benefits our national interests. Europe will change further and I want Great Britain to have a prime seat at the table while those changes are happening.
These are the main reasons I have decided to support the Prime Minister and vote to remain in Europe. There is, however, no Conservative Party position in this referendum and ultimately MPs are just a tiny number of the 45 million people eligible to vote in this vital referendum. While I have reached my view, I know that many others are still undecided and so I see my role in the next few months as helping my Constituents be confident in their voting decision in June so that we have the biggest possible turnout for what is, in my view, the biggest political decision we may ever make. There will be lots of opinions and positions aired in public and I think it is imperative that we have access to the facts as for too long this debate has taken place in a fact-free vacuum. Therefore, if you are undecided and feel you need some information to help you reach a decision, then please do let me know and I will do whatever I can to help you get the answers you need.