Thursday, 9 May 2013

The future of the EU


The strong showing for UKIP in the local elections last week has reignited the debate about the future of the EU. I first got involved in politics to campaign for Jimmy Goldsmith’s Referendum Party in 1997. My first job in politics was at the anti-euro campaign and, in 1999, I was even a candidate for UKIP myself.

I left UKIP shortly afterwards partly because I was concerned that they had a tendency to undermine the very cause they claim to believe in. At the time, UKIP had started to argue that it was impossible to keep the pound and stay in the EU which is what the majority of the public wanted. UKIP deliberately undermined the case being put forward by leading businesses who wanted to keep the pound but stay in the EU because they thought it would help their own narrow party interests to do so. I thought that was wrong and we now know that their argument was false because, for the last ten years we, and several other EU countries, have been in the EU but outside the euro.

I think we should fundamentally renegotiate our relationship with the EU with the return of powers in some areas and with the role of the European Court of Justice restricted in future. At the end of that renegotiation, we should have a referendum where the British people can decide whether they want to stay in the EU under the revised terms or whether they simply want to leave altogether. This would clear the air and settle the debate. David Cameron’s speech on Europe at the beginning of this year committed a future Conservative government to do just that and was the most important any Prime Minister has given on the issue since the war. It means that if there is a Conservative government after the next election, there will be a referendum where the public will have their say.

Neither Labour nor the Liberal Democrats believe in a referendum so people will only get their say if there is a Conservative government. That is why I think those of us who want change must pull together and work towards getting a majority Conservative government. Ironically, just as in the euro debate a decade ago, UKIP is actually a counter-productive force which undermines the very cause they claim to believe in.

Since David Cameron’s speech in January, there has been a change in sentiment in other countries too. Germany now has a new and growing political movement which is calling for withdrawal from the euro and major changes to the way the EU is structured. The crisis in the eurozone means that change is on the cards like never before and David Cameron has put himself at the head of an agenda to shake up the way the EU works.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.