The Final Countdown
The biggest decision in a generation on the EU Referendum is now only a days away and the debate has been heated on both sides. I want to share my thoughts and my experience ahead of Thursday’s vote as someone who has had a front row seat on the workings of the EU for over 10 years – seven of which elected as a Member of the European Parliament.
Like many of you I have some very real issues with our membership of the EU. I have seen how the EU operates from the inside, and it isn’t pretty. I have witnessed first-hand a European Union which is power-hungry, resistant to change and stuck in the past.
Having always been Eurosceptic, when elected I committed to testing the machine and fully engaging with the system; monitoring every report and amendment and following the work of the three committees I represented closely. I wondered if you paid close enough attention if you could stop the craziness, or if when you were finally in the closed room negotiations perhaps you would understand the how and why decisions were made and deals were done. Perhaps, more sophisticated and higher knowledge leapt upon you as you were locked “in camera”? But there simply isn’t anything to learn and if anything, it is more terrifying.
It’s the minutiae that kills you. I have sat in rooms deciding if a Twix is one portion or two, whether chicken is a meat and arguing over the minimum font size on a packet of chewing gum. I have listened with painful ear on discussions on how they can build a sense of European Identity, ingrain the EU into our children through our education system, or ingratiate the people more to the EU through displaying the EU flag on our national athletes’ shirts. If I didn’t laugh, I would have cried. But it’s not funny. Is this what the good people of the UK elected me to do? Is this really the important decision making the people want or even need, especially in the face of economic crisis, terrorist threats and mass migration? Of course not. This is not a union we can entrust to make the big decisions for us.
And it only gets scarier. They are serious about wanting our seat at the UN, about creating a European Army and EU courts want to limit our intelligence agencies acting for our own security. Sadly not fiction, this is fact. They want more money, more power, more control.
It is experiences like this and many, many more that have confirmed my belief that the United Kingdom is better off out of the EU. Despite our fiercest efforts and my continual defence of UK democracy the EU encroaches further into our lives. Lines of EU competence are pushed constantly and clear areas of subsidiarity invaded. The EU seems hell bent on having its say over every element of our lives. Everything from tax on tampons, what we can eat or how we recycle, from what light bulbs we can use, to what our farmers can grow. We on the front line try our best to defend British interests, but more often than not we win the argument but are outvoted. In the true British spirit we keep calm and carry on, adopting legislation that we have argued sternly against in a spirit of trust and compromise. But the other Member States don’t implement it despite the fact that they have argued and voted for those proposals in the first place! So much for the level playing field.
I hellishly lament this lack of common sense from the supposed “democratic” institution of the European Parliament. (so democratic are we that Presidential votes are pre-agreed, procedures rewritten or overruled to suit the elite and back room deals are the norm.)
Yet alas even in the EU Council 72 measures the UK has opposed have all gone on to become EU law. So much for our British influence. The current situation continues despite the fact that we are the second largest contributor to the EU budget and a supposed “major” player in the EU.
Sadly the renegotiation process shows just how much the EU listens to the UK and our concerns. If anything the small concessions given to the Prime Minster (of no fundamental substance at all) only proves that the EU is reluctant to change, unwilling to reform and completely deaf to British concerns.
So what reforms have been offered? Sadly, there is very little on the table. The deal contains no return of powers to the UK, no full control of our immigration policy and no treaty change. Without treaty change, the small tweaks that form the renegotiation ‘deal’ cannot be legally binding. This deal is simply not going to deliver the fundamental reform the British people want and deserve.
You may have heard of the “Emergency Break” on in work benefits to migrants? In principle, it sounds good to have a hand on an emergency ‘brake’; but we need the majority of 751 MEPS to vote to change regulation to even let us have a hand on that brake in future. Then we have to ask for permission from the EU to pull it, and then a time limit begins on the use of the ‘break’ and the reduction of payments to migrants. It doesn’t allow us to restrict numbers.
The “Red Card” on future legislation also sounds good as an idea but this “red card” requires 55% of Member States – that is 15 countries – to vote in their parliaments that they too don’t like a piece of legislation proposed by the EU. And then once the red card is used its goes onto an agenda for discussion at the next meeting. Hardly the red card we want to bring bad legislation to an end. The bloated machine will continue to tie us up in endless red tape. The EU focuses inward on itself and not outward to the rest of the world leaving us uncompetitive in a global marketplace.
But perhaps what really sums up how I feel about the EU is the concept of ‘ever-closer union’. We thought we were joining a Common Market for trade and jobs. What we have now is very different. EU political integration has become the sole objective of the EU. So tied to these words and this objective they refused to delete them.
We need to be clear – the EU has not been reformed. Its direction has not altered. This is just a mere blimp on the road to a United States of Europe. And further, there is a whole raft of legislation being held back to hasten and deepen this political integration just as soon as our referendum is over. There is no ebb or flow here, just a tsunami of more bureaucracy.
We are diluting our decision making and our future in the EU. An EU that is firmly committed to building a full federal United States of Europe. An EU that looks inward and not outward to the rest of the world that provides such exciting opportunities. Because of this narrow view, the EU remains stagnating as the only region (other than Antarctica) in the world not growing economically – and it doesn’t look like changing any time soon.
I was elected as a young politician. I wanted to represent the views of our younger people and fight for the future I want for them and for us all. But the 49% of youth unemployed in Greece, the 46% in Spain and the 42% of young unemployed people in Portugal tell us all we need to know about this project. The EU is not working. It’s failing. It’s failing this generation let alone the next! They deserve better, they live in a modern 21st century while the EU clings to its plan from the 1950’s. We need to wake up.
In the face of crisis – and there will be more to come – the EU buries its head in the sand. It has over the euro crisis, over the mass migration, over repeated majority votes for one single seat for the Parliament, and in the face of repeated referendums across the EU voting no to “More Europe”. And now in the face of one of its major players departing. We Britons need to keep our head and see the bigger picture.
Many of the Remain arguments to stay are based on a fear campaign and are deeply unambitious for our great country. What disappoints me most is the lack of belief in a country as strong and proud as Britain to make its way in the world. So what’s the alternative?
In a globalised world, the UK has a wealth of opportunities outside of the EU, and I am confident about the future of our great country. We are the fastest growing economy in the EU, and the 5th largest economy in the world. We should have solid trading relationships with nations like Canada, India, the US, Australia and New Zealand – with which the UK have a shared history and strong relations – but with whom the EU has no free trade agreements with.
Free of the shackles of an overly bureaucratic European Union that thinks differently from the way we do on many important issues, I believe we can have a brighter, more secure and truly democratic future. Let’s expand our horizons and foster strong ties across the globe. This will do more for our economy, our country and for future generations to come.
This future is one I am prepared to vote myself out of a job for because it is the right decision for my country. I will continue to make these arguments but I am clear that it is for the British people to decide the fate of our relationship with the EU. And I will live by that decision. I give credit to the Prime Minister for giving us this referendum despite us being on opposite sides of the debate. This is a long overdue, a once in a lifetime vote that will reset our relationship with the EU forever – remain or leave.
We have the chance to cut ourselves free from this sinking ship. A ship that has ignored and continues to ignore all warnings.
Be sure and confident in what you are voting for. This is the final fork in the road. Whatever your choice, it should be for the right reasons; for a positive vision of the future.
I hope the final days of the campaign bring clarity for those who need it. This has been a passionate campaign and it has engaged the British people fully in our relationship with the EU and in the fuller meaning of our democracy. Whatever the result our overarching duty is for the good of our country, and we cannot forget that post-June 23rd.
When we rise on the 24th June, I hope that we will have begun a process by which the UK will have started, the path to a brighter future for our great country. Able once more to determine our country’s destiny. At the start of a freer, more democratic and prosperous United Kingdom.