EU Referendum

This week saw a much-publicised vote in the Commons on whether to hold a referendum on withdrawing from the European Union.  After serious thought, I decided to vote with the Government of which I am a member, and against the motion, which was defeated.

I have long believed that too much power has been transferred to the EU and that this process not only needs to be halted but also now put in reverse, returning powers to national parliaments where they belong.  I also believe that the public need to be given a say in this process.

I do not, however, agree that Britain should leave the EU; rather, I believe in renegotiating the terms of our membership. 

Since taking office seventeen months ago, the Government has already halted the passage of further powers to the EU and instituted a ‘referendum lock' that requires a vote to be held, by law, on any further transfer to Brussels.

New opportunities are in sight for real reform.  France and Germany have suggested a fundamental change in which a tighter core of Eurozone nations would have deeper economic integration in order to make the single currency viable.  Clearly Britain could not be a part of this.

The idea of a ‘two-speed Europe', where some countries could have a lesser level of integration than others, has been rejected in the past but is now a real option.  The negotiations that this would require give Britain an important opportunity to promote our national interest and secure the return of powers.

I also had concerns about the timing of the Commons motion.  If European economies were further destabilised by a proposal from one of their largest member states to leave, I believe the repercussions would affect us all.  Business confidence in our own country would be prejudiced at a time when it is needed most.

My vote was certainly not cast on the basis that I disagree with the principle of asking the public for their view, but because of my concerns about the motion, the timing and the question. 

The Prime Minister said this week that he remains "firmly committed to bringing back more powers from Brussels."  This is what I want, and I believe it is what the British people want, too.


Christopher N Howarth