• EU

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    10 June 2016

    Recently I have spoken in packed local debates on the referendum. I favour remaining. Not that I am uncritical of the EU – far from it – there are many aspects that are imperfect. Imperfections, of course, are not unique to the EU, there are many in respect of our own parliament - an unelected upper chamber largely appointed by party leaders perhaps? But the choice on the ballot paper doesn’t ask whether the EU is perfect, how flawed it is or whether we love it not – rather it asks whether our country will be better off staying within or saying farewell. It follows that there will be strong Eurosceptics who will make a perfectly rational decision that, on balance, we are better off remaining. They will carefully weigh up the pros and cons and, despite their misgivings come to the same conclusion as myself. There are ups and downs to each choice – you have to decide which aspects matter to you and which way the scales are tipped on each. This week and next I want to share some of my thoughts on 4 key issues that we ranged across in our debates locally. This week – Sovereignty and membership costs. 1. Sovereignty. The EU sees us pooling some sovereignty but let’s not forget that in a huge number of important areas we take entirely our own decisions – in Parliament I am constantly in the division lobbies on issues around tax, education, health, defence, security, police, housing, foreign policy and much much else. The cry that Brussels makes 70% of our laws is nonsense not only in quantitative terms but qualitatively too. You surely cannot give the same weight to say a minor consumer protection directive as you do to a decision of our parliament to commit British forces to Syria. And which country has near perfect sovereignty? North Korea perhaps - in splendid isolation it pools its sovereignty with just about no one. The USA by contrast pools its sovereignty (as we do) with numerous international organisations. Take NATO, as a member the USA would allow herself to be taken to war (under Article 5) where another member is attacked. That said, there are of course examples of pooled sovereignty with other EU nations that many find difficult - but don’t over-egg the cake or overlook the benefits of working together. 2. Costs of Membership. The Vote Leave campaign states that we send £350 million a week to Brussels – their battle bus has this figure emblasoned on its side. It’s a lie. Check the infacts website at and enjoy the animated pigs flying over this misleading whopper. The actual cost should take account of our annual rebate and the payments back to UK projects including agri-environmental schemes that support our farmers. Against this cost you also need to pit the financial benefits of the single market – the cost of losing that would dwarf any net costs of membership. I’ll look at the issues of economics and immigration next week.