• EU

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    12 June 2015

    One of the great issues of the General Election was our relationship with the European Union. Should we stay or should we go? The Conservatives promised a referendum and The EU referendum Bill has been one of the first fed into the legislative machine - it has already passed its initial stages in the Commons (Second Reading) and, at the time of writing, is expected to have passed its detailed examination (Committee Stages) by Thursday 18th June. At the same time the Prime Minister is engaged in an intensive programme of meetings with the leaders of each of the other EU states – working right at the centre of a process for the renegotiation of our terms of membership – these new arrangements to be put to the British people prior to the referendum vote. There were some before the last election who said that David Cameron would never deliver on his referendum promise – they were wrong – in short order that process is in full swing. Love it or hate it, the EU is a big player. It produces a quarter of the world’s goods and services and embraces 500 million people across 28 nations. It traces its origins to 1951 and the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community. This co-operation between 6 European countries (including Germany and France) had at its heart the idea that peace could be underpinned by free trade. Robert Shuman, the French Foreign Minister who first proposed it, said he wanted it to ‘make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible’. After a world war, based upon virulent nationalism this was a noble quest but it was also in essence true. International trade does underpin peace. On balance economic interconnectivity binds us – it gifts us an individual stake in maintaining the stability of the whole. When we joined the then EEC in 1973, of course, free trade was the heart of the offer. So far so good … but since then the EU has moved further and faster towards monetary and political integration. Monetary union has fuelled instability with one-size fits all interest rates and the inability of individual countries to devalue their currencies. Greece, despite its own history of self-induced ruin, stands as a supreme testament to the failure of the Euro and the European project. Political integration has shifted decision-making away from elected members of national legislatures (and to be fair their own unelected bureaucrats) towards unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. So we need to rebalance the EU back towards being a free market trading area and away from the monetary and political union that has been so damaging to economic stability and democracy. We are outside the Euro and will remain so but it remains to be seen whether we can negotiate sufficient to address the democratic deficit many feel within this family of nations. Either way, at last, by the end of 2017 the British people will have their say – in or out – it will be for us alone to decide.