Mr Redwood’s speech on the debate on Europe, 30 Jan

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Who governs? That is the fundamental question before us in this mighty debate today. At what point does a self-governing country have to say it is no longer self-governing because the body of European law and the wide-ranging body of European decisions are so fundamental that Ministers and this Parliament can no longer effectively govern the country?

Too many of us have watched and seen as Governments have given away mighty powers of self-government from these islands and from this once great Parliament to the European institutions, and we have worried greatly. This has been done in the name of the British people, but it has not been done with the consent of the British people. There has always been an excuse not to trouble the British people, and so often outside this House political parties have misled the British people.

The British people were told that they were joining a common market. It was very clear from the treaty of Rome onwards that they were joining a political, economic and monetary union in the making. They were told that they just belonged to a single market, needed to guarantee jobs in certain export industries. There were two misleading things there. First, we do not need to belong to the EU to export to the EU. Many other countries outside it export much more successfully than we have done from inside it. Secondly, it was always a far bigger and more noble venture in the eyes of its architects, its fathers and mothers, than a mere single market or internal market.

I ask Members of this Parliament to look around and see what has been done in their names—to see how difficult it is now for Ministers of the coalition, future Ministers, Conservative or Labour Administrations to do many of the things they would like to do or their electors wish them to do, because so many powers have been given away. The bigger the corpus of European law becomes, the more constrained are not just our Ministers, but this once-great Parliament.

Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that the cars exported from the UK to mainland Europe today are a result of foreign direct investment to the UK because the UK is within the European Union, not outside the European Union?

Mr Redwood: No. That is a trivial point compared with the issues that I am raising, and it is entirely wrong, because there are many countries outside the EU that attract as much as or more inward investment than we do. I want, as does the hon. Gentleman, to keep those jobs, and we will continue to attract and support that inward investment as long as we have a satisfactory enterprise economy here and a decent market. We have a very large market of our own. That is why those investments come here.

The hon. Gentleman needs to look around and see how many powers have been taken away. We can no longer have an agricultural policy of any kind unless it is the approved one from Brussels. Our fishing grounds are completely controlled and regulated from Brussels. Our energy policy is greatly circumscribed by a large amount of European legislation, regulation and price control, and many more decisions coming along on climate change and energy, which means that it is very difficult to have an enterprise-oriented energy policy in this country.

We find that we do not control our own borders. We have no say over who comes here from the continent of Europe, and they have come in very large numbers in recent years. Many of them are welcome, but a sovereign country has the right to decide who comes and on what terms. We were always assured by Governments that we kept control of our welfare policy—that that was a matter for domestic consideration. We now find that the EU presumes to instruct us to whom we give benefits and what benefits we give them.

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): This is a grand opportunity to ask the right hon. Gentleman, as I asked the hon. Member for Stone (Mr Cash), to outline what position he would take and on what issues he would vote to leave the EU—on a matter of emotion, or can he give me some specific issues that he says should persuade his party and his Government to vote no when it comes to a referendum?

Mr Redwood: I wish to help restore democracy in our islands and to do that we need to regain the veto. We should not have sacrificed 100 vetoes at Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon. This Parliament needs to be able to decide whether a new law goes forward or not; otherwise we will find that in ever more areas—I am just beginning to illustrate some of them—we are a fax or an e-mail democracy. We receive the e-mails or the faxes from Brussels and this Parliament has to put through the measure, whether we like it or not. That creates a tension within our democracy. Successive Governments bring measures to this House and recommend them to this House. They are very fundamental measures, but they often sneak them through this House, or sneak them through upstairs, because they fear they are unpalatable to us. However, they know that there is nothing that the House of Commons can do once the agreement has been made in Brussels—and very often it is made without the wholehearted consent of the British Minister. In the case of this Government, it may often be made against the wishes of the British Minister, but this House is still expected to put through these measures come what may.

That is why we need a Government who resolutely negotiate a new relationship for us with our partners in Europe. Of course, I give no ground to anybody in wanting to maximise jobs and investment in this country, and my recommendations would increase that rather than reduce them, as we find with non-EU members already. However, I also wish to see the Prime Minister’s great speech used as a platform for setting out how we recreate a democracy and secure the right in this House to say no to European laws if we do not like them. We have waited a long time for a Prime Minister who would say honestly that this country does not share the aim of the treaties and of many of the member states of the European Union because we do not wish ever-closer union.

I have heard very few Labour Members say that they want ever-closer union, because they know that that means political, monetary, fiscal, economic and every kind of union known; it means the creation of a united states of Europe. Those who wish to join that, I wish well, but it was never Britain’s view that we wanted to be part of a united states of Europe. The British people, if asked, would say no to that idea. It is up to us now, at this late hour, to say that too many powers have gone and that they need to be returned if we are to restore this once-great Chamber to what it once was.

This Parliament wrestled power from over-mighty monarchs. This Parliament took on those who wished to dominate the continent of Europe and rejected the imperial ambitions of first Spain, then France, and then Germany. Because of the work of our predecessors in the House of Commons, we as a nation said to Europe: “We want a Europe of the free. We want a Europe of independent nations. We want a Europe where people’s sense of local belonging is respected. We are against a tyranny. We are against an over-mighty Europe. We do not believe that Europe can be governed as a whole.”

How proud that vision was, and how right it is that our Prime Minister has reminded us of the foundations of our beliefs: no to ever-closer union, yes to more democracy; no to restrictions and too much centralised government from Brussels, yes to greater freedom to breathe and to decide and to choose among all the smaller countries of western Europe. I suspect that many countries out there and many politicians in them respect that vision and are rather impressed by its boldness. We should all join together now in rallying the peoples of Europe to say yes to friendship, yes to trade, yes to co-operation, but no to centralisation and no to authoritarian interference.


  1. Ken Hall
    January 31, 2013

    Mr Redwood, you have not answered my question concerning the practicalities of the EU referendum which your leader proposed. I am not concerned at this time with the individual powers which he would seek to recover from the EU, as these can be debated at a later, more appropriate time.

    I am concerned, however, with a central premise of the actual “deliverability” of such a referenda as proposed by Mr Cameron at all.

    A simple ‘in-or-out’, ‘status quo or withdrawal’ referenda could be delivered at any time as both options are actually deliverable and obtainable.

    We could hold such a plebiscite at any time and if the country voted to stay in the EU, then we would remain as we are today and be inevitably dragged, as demanded by the terms of the ratified treaties of the EU, into full integration in time.

    If the country voted for withdrawal, the Government of the sovereign Parliament of the UK could invoke article 50 of Lisbon to withdraw from the EU and repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and we would become a free nation able to obtain our rights under the UN Charter to self-determination and we could have our own Independence Day to celebrate every year.

    Currently, the hazy offer which Mr Cameron is using to attempt to trick UKIP voters into voting Conservative (for a party who will now spend 5 years campaigning to remain INSIDE and SUBJECT TO the EU), shows that Mr Cameron has not been entirely honest in revealing the attainability of what we would actually be voting on.

    Let me explain my concern.

    As I understand it, IF the conservative party wins a majority in the next Parliamentary elections in 2015, then a Cameron led Government would try to renegotiate the terms of our membership of the EU. Indeed, he even stated that the conservative party would be seeking a mandate at that election specifically to do that.

    So, given that in incoming conservative government were elected to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU, then IF he is successful in that renegotiation, and gets everything he wants and we get a deal which would be the equivalent of the “Common Market” which we voted to remain in, back in 1975, what would happen in 2017, at the time of the referendum?

    The situation would be one where Cameron has got a deal, BUT that deal would have to be written into a new treaty. That treaty would then have to be ratified by ALL 26 of the other EU member states.

    The fact is, Mr Redwood, that you know, as well as I do, that there is no way that such a treaty would be ratified, by all member states, by the time of a British referendum in 2017.

    It took 10 years, 3 failed referenda, renegotiation and another referenda for a constitutional treaty to be ratified as the Lisbon Reform Treaty.

    So what will happen in 2017? Will Cameron indefinitely delay any such referenda UNTIL the amended relationship with the EU is codified in EU law through a fully ratified treaty and THEN give us the referendum? Because such a treaty may NEVER be ratified and then we would NEVER get the membership referendum, leading to further charges of betrayal and broken promises.

    Or will we get a referendum in 2017 on a treaty position which could be rejected by any one of the other EU states, which would render OUR referendum outcome moot, (should we all vote to stay inside such a renegotiated EU membership)? And what would be the outcome then? Would we then withdraw from the EU? Or would we be dragged into the fully integrated EU as the position currently stands under the terms of Lisbon?

    We need to know the answer to this before the next general election, Mr Redwood. Otherwise Mr Cameron’s promise of an ‘in or out’ referendum (on a reformed EU) is grossly dishonest. IF he cannot actually deliver a reformed EU, will we get a vote or not? Will we remain inside the EU? Or will we withdraw from it?

    Mr Redwood, you are one of a very few conservative MP’s I have any time or respect for at all. Please do me the courtesy of a reply with an answer to this central and crucial question which cuts to the heart of any credibility of such a referendum promise by Mr Cameron.

    Thank You for your time.

    Reply: There is no official position on these issues as yet – work is being done on the negotiation and how it might work out. Clearly the UK could either vote on the assumption that other countries would ratify a Treaty their governments had agreed, or could wait for our vote until others had ratified and endorsed, where there would be need to be a timetable. There are of course hazards with Treaty changes as you say. If the public thought at the time of voting that a new deal would be voted down in other states it might affect the way they voted.

    1. Alan Wheatley
      January 31, 2013

      Ken Hall raises an interesting question.

      In the normal course of friendly relationships if someone says they have a deal with the other party in terms as laid out then the presumption would be that the other party would deliver on that deal. Else, in reality, there was no deal.

      However, when it comes to the EU, a “deal” is what you choose to make it. A rule is a rule only as long as it doesn’t inconvenience the rule maker. So nothing can be taken on trust.

      So here we have a Catch 22 situation. There can be nothing of sufficient substance upon which to hold a meaningful referendum until there is a treaty change. And there is unlikely to be a treaty change before a referendum, at least not on the stated timetable.

      It will be most interesting to see what comes out of the work that is being done!

    2. Manof Kent
      January 31, 2013

      Dear Ken,

      I share your concerns which boil down to how trustworthy is Cameron ?

      At PMQs on Wed he was pressed on his party broadcast claim to ‘be paying down our debts’ .
      His reply was on the lines of ‘well we’re dealing with the deficit which is phase 1 of paying down the debts left to us by the party opposite ; so it’s all the same thing ‘.

      It may play in the House at PMQs but I felt disillusioned by the sophistry involved.

      Count the spoons before ,during and after 2015.

  2. Old Albion
    January 31, 2013

    Bravo John. A thoughtfull and very welcome speech to Parliament.

  3. David Langley
    January 31, 2013

    John, your thoughtful comments are welcomed as usual. I like probably many others will now want you to put some meat on the bones. What do we do to get back to the condition we were when we were first lied to? Are we going to allow others to dictate our rights then, or do we take the initiative and do what we should have done years ago and leave the EU rules and dictats on the doorstep.
    Many countries are sent the same faxes and e-mails and have ignored them, indifference will blight the strongest suit.
    If that is not to be the solution then you have to vote now and all your members vote now for out, as prevarication and delay is both expensive and pathetic. No inquiries or commissions etc, no long grass. Cameron should go to the country while our contempt for Labour is strong and disregard for the Liberal chancers is current. Ask the people now what we think of the current ever increasing union and while you are at it, throw in foreign aid. You know its got to be done soon.
    Your response is predictable, there is no Parliamentary appetite for it, they would not vote for it and there is the answer, we are stuffed.

  4. Bert Young
    January 31, 2013

    Excellent speech . It covered all of the emotion and detail the Eurosceptics have and , you put it across with the determination we have come to expect of you . I think Ken Hall raises the doubts that lurk on the renogotiation issue and the futility of having to wait for such a long time . I believe the only practical solution is an “In/Out” referendum as the first condition and not as a second . I am not prepared to wait five years .

  5. Graham Hamblin
    January 31, 2013

    Well said JR. I just wish my MP had the same grasp of the subject. I have pointed him in the direction of your blog.

  6. badger bill
    January 31, 2013

    A very good speech with many good points that needed to be brought to parliament’s attention.

    There is an email going around that states that after 2014 the Lisbon Treaty kicks in and any referendum would have to be first approved by the EU for one to be held. Is this true?

  7. Alan Wheatley
    January 31, 2013

    Bravo! More like that is what is needed.

    Could the time be a coming for EFTA to make a comeback?

  8. Manof Kent
    January 31, 2013

    I watched and was impressed with your speech which was a couple of notches up from the mostly parochial level of the opposition benches.

    It seems that if a labour MP can get a new village hall in his/her constituency, paid for by the EU, out of UK taxpayer money , then that shows what a wonderful organisation it is.

    Congratulations on your contribution.

  9. Tad Davison
    January 31, 2013

    Well said John,

    And it’s important that we plebs recognise your efforts on our behalf, otherwise the other side will think we’re indifferent to the problem, see it as an endorsement, and will press on with further with their lunacy.

    A couple of items on the pages of Open Europe also deserve a mention. Quoting directly:

    ‘FAZ’s Brussels correspondent Nikolas Busse argues that “the British are the first people that will redefine their place in the EU. Others will follow.”

    I believe that is right, indeed I have said as much myself. It stands to reason, that if Britain were to rid itself of the restrictive practises espoused by the rest of the EU, and thereby make itself more competitive, others would see the error of their ways and follow suit, or go under. And effectively, that’s what’s been happening already, with the rest of the world. It also happened on a smaller scale right here in the UK in the 60s and 70s. Big, unwieldy, nationalised industries became uncompetitive, and rather than make money for the state, lost it hand-over-fist, and became a liability rather than an asset. I have never yet seen a horse win a race, when it’s tethered to a weighty cart.

    And the pro-EU people always argue that we need the plethora of EU protectionist laws, so reminiscent of our unproductive past, so that we may have a fairer society. Fine, a noble thought, but again, ‘A job’ is better than ‘No Job’, and I wonder how many unemployed people in places like Spain, would now be prepared to sacrifice some of these false ‘safeguards’ for a job of any description?

    To help us understand the mind-set of the Brussels bureaucrat, here’s another quote from today’s OE:

    ‘Italy’s caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti has threatened to veto the 2014-2020 EU budget at next week’s meeting of EU leaders. He told a conference in Brussels yesterday, “The orgy of cuts that certain countries want to apply [to the next long-term EU budget] is inconsistent. Therefore, I’m not sure it would be irresponsible for a country to disagree with a budget proposal which is inadequate.”’

    So there we have it. The place is all-but skint, yet the head-in-the-sand bureaucrats will fight against necessary cuts anyway. I liken that to Hitler fighting defensive battles in 1944-45 with paper armies that no longer existed. Neither has a true grip on reality, and neither can be woken from their impossible dream.

    Another analogy would be to liken this to a marriage of two incompatible partners. One can try for years on end to make the other see reason, but if after years of getting nowhere, perhaps then, the only recourse is divorce.

    And whilst I’m quoting people, Andrew Neil made a good point on the Daily Politics show today, when he made a comparison between ourselves and Europe, and the free-trade area in North America which has no political ties, but does co-operate in areas of mutual national interest. Let’s just say that the pro-EU respondent was less than convincing, in his reply.

    Tad Davison


  10. Barbara
    January 31, 2013

    Well said, and the house should be grateful they have someone so understanding of the publics view on Europe. We can see from the interchanges Labour had little to say. Its this I’m worried about, if we wait for the referendum after the next election and the Conservatives don’t win, it will leave this nation in quite a bind, and divided. If we see Labour and the Lib Dems in power we can expect to be landslided into Europe without consultation, and the blame will lie with the Conservatives for not holding it before the election, perhaps during the latter six months of the coalition. I fear we will be left with Clegg and Miliband and all that goes with it, I despair I really do.

    1. Gwen
      January 31, 2013

      Not that it will be of any consolation to you, but I really do despair too. We need to get our referendum IN/OUT this parliament, this way we would be likely to get a successful ‘out’ vote, but John says it cannot happen in this parliament. Feel free to campaign for the – they need at least a million signatures to convince the government to sit up and listen!

  11. Patti Lee Salter (@L
    January 31, 2013

    Mr Redwood, I love you, the only Conservative that understands the British public and the dangers of the EU. Please either join UKIP or stand as the next Conservative Prime Minister, either way you get my vote.

    1. Gwen
      January 31, 2013

      @ Patti Lee Slater Ahhhh – me too! Support the with your signature.

  12. Antisthenes
    January 31, 2013

    A very excellent speech. Punctuated as to be expected by the lefts usual inane remarks that demonstrate a total lack of understanding of matter EU or any others come to that.

  13. Gwen
    January 31, 2013

    sorry that was meant to say Salter.

  14. fkc
    January 31, 2013

    How I agree with all you said during this debate we need to address this situation. Our democracy and Government is being threatened by stealth. This has going on for too long and the country has become used to Europe telling us how to do things when it should be our own Government should be doing its job of governing us!
    Good luck with the new system it could have a sting its tail!

  15. margaret brandreth-j
    January 31, 2013

    Ken Hall explains the reality and difficulty of the situation we have got ourselves into and John highlights the reasons why we need to get out of the situation. A thought though ,are there not other member states who want the same conditions in Europe as ourselves and if many member states make similar propositions then ratification may be more achievable.

  16. Immigration Lawyers
    March 21, 2013

    When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added”
    checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get several e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?

    Thank you!

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