Last Friday MPs at last had a chance to vote for a referendum on the EU. The Commons Chamber was packed, an unusual sight on a Friday. It soon became clear that if we wanted to get a vote and a decision before the end of business, some of us had to be willing to miss out on giving a speech.
A few Labour MPs and one Liberal Democrat MP argued that we should not be going on about the EU. They thought we should concentrate on issues like jobs, the economy, welfare and immigration instead. The truth is we cannot sort out all those issues in the way we would like unless we negotiate a new relationship with the EU. The EU has so much power now to dictate policy to us, thanks to the big transfer of authority engineered under the last government in the Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon treaties. Those of us who want cheaper energy for our homes and businesses, who want to be able to deport suspected criminals to stand trial elsewhere, who want to control the numbers of new migrants into our country, and wish to set fair and sensible benefit rules, need to change our relationship with the EU to be able to do these things.
They argued that offering a referendum would be bad for our country, as it created uncertainty. Gisela Stuart, one of Labour’s Eurosceptics, pointed out to them that on that argument we would never have a General Election, as that too creates uncertainty about our future government! Most speaking in the debate realised two central things. The first is that as the UK does not wish to join the Euro, we need a new relationship with the Euro bloc. To try to get their currency to work better they are going in for much more centralised government of a kind we cannot accept. The Euro forces us to find a new way of trading with them and being friends with them. The second is a majority of people in our country want a say in all of this. It is high time MPs let them have one.
The Bill achieved its second reading easily, with 304 of us voting for it, and none against. Liberal Democrats and Labour stayed away from the vote, implying they do not feel strongly that a referendum is a wrong idea.
Recently I have met senior management of both the local Health service and the local police, to pass on the comments and feedback I have received about these important public services.