I was pleased to secure a change of Conservative policy during the last Parliament with the help of some others. We persuaded David Cameron that the UK’s current relationship with the EU is not satisfactory, and should be improved. We also persuaded him that UK voters should have their say on the new relationship, as the EU can only work if it enjoys the consent of those in it.
We have no wish to damage or limit trade with the rest of the European Union. Nor, I am pleased to report, does the rest of the EU wish to reduce their trade with us. The UK has for many years run a large balance of payments deficit with the rest of the EU, so they have more to lose than us. The German Finance Minister has confirmed that whilst he would like the UK to remain within the current EU, he would want a free trade arrangement with the UK if voters decide to leave in the referendum. Whatever happens, Germany will want to sell us her cars and France will want to sell us her wines and luxury goods, on the same terms as today. That means that UK exporters will also be able to enjoy the same terms for their sales.
So why do we need a new relationship with the EU? The UK joined the European Economic Community in 1972, and voted in a referendum to stay in in 1975, to secure better trade with our partners. We did not wish to join a United States of Europe, and did not seek the “ever closer union” of the Treaties. Since our entry the organisation has been transformed, with far more powers being exercised in Brussels, and with a huge law code extending into many areas of life that voters did not expect or want. Today people in the UK want the UK Parliament to be able to decide our borders and migration policy, our welfare policy, our energy policy and our tax policy. Increasingly the EU influences or dictates in these important areas.
I will support a renegotiation which seeks to restore UK democratic control over borders, tax, welfare and energy. The UK accepts that the Euro area members need to complete a political union. They will want a banking union, common taxes, common welfare and the free movement of people throughout the currency zone. As a non Euro member the UK neither wants nor needs these extensive extra powers for the European institutions.
It may be possible to do a deal based on the UK offering consent to political union for Euro members in return for restoring to us the democratic powers we need over important areas of public policy. If it proves impossible, as some think, then UK voters will have the chance to vote to leave. Exit would trigger the need to secure a trading based relationship, and to sort out the many links and issues between the UK and the rest of the EU.
Only the Conservative party in this election offers a renegotiation of our relationship to one based on trade and co-operation, followed by a referendum. Anyone who cares about UK democracy should want this. Anyone who understands the way the EU is going should see that we do need to sort out a new relationship now, as the EU rushes towards political and monetary union.
Published and promoted by Thomas Puddy for John Redwood, both at 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU