I am sending this open message to fellow Conservative MPs today:
Be true to your electors! If you told them you were Eurosceptic, then vote to leave the EU in the referendum. Your supporters backed you because they want our democracy restored, with powers of self government returned. They will feel very let down if you do not help them get the UK out of the EU at the referendum.
This referendum will be a defining moment for MPs. We will be judged for several Parliaments to come by what we do and how we vote. Some colleagues have implied that as it is the people’s choice their vote can be a private matter. This is unrealistic. If you claimed to be a Eurosceptic to get selected and elected you now have to vote to leave. It is important to listen to the members of our party who turned out to help you win your seat.
We live in an age when traditional political parties are mistrusted by many electors. One of the main reasons is their fear – or in the case of some parties their experience – that promises are not kept or important views are overturned once in office. It is crucial that we do the right thing by our voters on this most important of matters. This is a time to put country before party, and the public interest before any personal interests. Brussels is a bureaucracy run by bureacrats for bureaucrats. Many of those who voted for free trade with the EEC dislike the excessive regulatory interventions of the single market, and never imagined they were voting for a government of the EU with its own currency, anthem, President, borders, foreign policy and soon to have its own Treasury.
We know more than enough about the prospective deal to know that it falls far short of the words of the Prime Minister’s Bloomberg speech, where he rightly talked about restoring Parliamentary control over the things that matter to our voters. His well meaning efforts to negotiate a compromise that the UK can live with has simply illustrated the sad truth that the UK can no longer decide for herself the most basic things like how much we pay in benefits, who we invite into our country or what taxes we levy.
We Conservative Eurosceptics have rightly highlighted the dangers of having to ask permission to make even modest changes to our spending plans, our taxation and our borders. Those of us in the Commons at the time united to oppose the Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon treaties that gave away far too much of our power to govern ourselves. David Cameron himself led us in our opposition to Lisbon. The deal before us does nothing to change a single word of any of these treaties. Not a single veto is returned to the UK that was wantonly given away. In future without a veto the UK government, Parliament and people can be outvoted by other EU states, giving us laws, taxes and policies we do not want. The well intentioned efforts to give us a bit more freedom over the payment of benefits in certain circumstances is not proof against a European Court case reversing it, nor against a future change of policy by a majority of EU members.
There is no half way house or middle way. The vote is simple. Stay or leave. If like me you want to be governed by a democracy, where government is of the people, by the people, for the people, there is only one option. UK democracy is incompatible with EU membership. Your voters and your party members look to you now to lead them. They will watch carefully, and will expect to see you now do what your words at the selection conference and at the election implied you would. We cannot just be Eurosceptic for the election.