My views on the EU referendum

The European Union referendum has been exercising my thoughts for a number of months.

My stance has been that I will see the outcome of the Prime Minister’s renegotiation and then decide. I was open to persuasion because although my first instinct is to be Euro-cautious, I can see the economic benefits of the Single Market of 500 million people that we Conservatives helped to create.

Following the renegotiation, I believe it is in the UK’s best interests to remain a member of a reformed European Union. I know many constituents will be interested in how I have come to this judgement so I think it is only right I set them out.

You will inevitably have noticed that there has been much comment in the newspapers about the deal the Prime Minister has reached. Many of my colleagues who have always been keen to remain have believed that renegotiation and referendum would damage and destabilise our relationship with Europe – this is not so. Equally many from the Leave campaign who criticise the deal have always been committed to leaving the EU and no deal would have been enough for them. Both are principled positions which I respect, but their view of the merits of the renegotiation are inevitably jaundiced.

We Conservatives have been rightly complaining about the “superstate of Europe” for some time. Our Prime Minister has come back with a deal which exempts us from “ever closer Union”; a recognition that we can have a different destination to other European nations and that our country “is not committed to further political integration into the European Union”. I think we should recognise that this is a huge achievement. The Prime Minister’s deal gives the UK special status within the EU. We get the benefits of trade and jobs, protecting our economic interest, while not being a part of the things that are not right for the UK.

I remain convinced we must never join the Euro and have always believed the Eurozone countries must not be allowed to set the economic framework and make the economic decisions for the whole EU. This deal ensures this won’t and can’t happen. This deal gives us the ability to protect the City of London, especially from more regulation and interference, with its status as the premier global financial centre. It will also protect jobs in service industries in which we have a surplus with the EU and want to protect.

The uncertainty of leaving the European Union weighs heavily on my mind. We have no idea what out would look like, and different leave campaigners have wildly different views on what it should look like. We must retain good access to the European Union’s market. Therefore would we be a member of the EEA like Norway, and be subject to most European Union regulations anyway with very little influence over them? Or would a different arrangement be come to? Whatever happens British businesses will still have to comply with EU rules in order to do business in the EU. I believe we should retain a formal influence over the composition of these rules if our companies are going to be bound to them.

In a globalised and interconnected world our country will be affected by many issues that are outside of the control of one Government alone, be it global pollution, the threat from terrorism or the conduct of the world’s financial markets. Therefore, I believe we must continue to work together on these external issues to ensure that the UK can continue to have influence over how they affect us.

I love the United Kingdom and I do not love the European Union. There is much about the EU that irritates and annoys me. I would also accept that the Prime Minister’s deal does not make the EU perfect. I will never say that the UK could not survive outside the EU. However, should we leave a reformed EU which gives us access to the single market, stops ever closer union and political integration out of irritation and pique? I do not think such a move is in our national interest.

However, the most important point to make is that the decision on the UK’s future within the EU is up to you, you have one vote on this issue just as I do. I am proud that this Government has delivered this long overdue referendum, for it is only right that British citizens make a decision of this magnitude directly.

I know I will have large numbers of constituents on both sides of the debate, just as I have many colleagues whose views differ on this. This is an issue over which reasonable people can strongly disagree, and while I have set out my views above I will not seek to convince any constituents who disagree with me.