Monday, January 18, 2016

The EU Referendum - Leave or Remain

The dominating political debate over the next six months will be about the approaching In-Out EU Referendum. There will probably be a few blogs before decision day. This one might be described as a bit of a 'loosener' on Test Match Special. I've written a 'Politically Speaking Column' for my local County Times along much the same lines. My opinion is not yet settled. Many of my constituents tell me they share my uncertainty. We know we will be faced with a very important decision, but feel unsure about it. Personally, I find it difficult to commit to either 'Leave' or 'Remain' at present. Hopefully, the fog will clear away, when we know what reform the Prime Minister has agreed with his EU partners, on what date the referendum will be held, and we've been able to listen to the arguments.

 I've always been Eurosceptic, in the general sense. My first venture into national politics was in 1975 when I campaigned for the UK to leave the European Economic Community (later renamed as the European Union). And I don't subscribe to the often expressed claim that we were misled into joining a 'political' union rather than just an 'economic' union. We were well aware of what joining the EEC meant. It meant "ever closer union". That was why many of us were so sceptical. It was always intended to be a political union. My antipathy was inspired by a belief that we were creating a massive undemocratic bureaucracy, to be run by faceless officials in Brussels. The UK would eventually cease to be a sovereign nation, with meaningful decisions being taken in Brussels on behalf of what would effectively be a European 'state'. It's turned out much as expected. This remains the case for voting to leave the EU.

 But it's nothing like that simple. I may not want to be part of a European 'superstate', but like many Eurosceptics I do think it sensible to trade and work in partnership with our European neighbours on many issues, where we are stronger working together. The UK can and does lead in many policy areas, particularly relating to the economy, trade and climate change. The issue is about how we move from where we are now to where I want us to be.

 Leaving the EU would be a very difficult negotiation. I read and hear opinions suggesting the UK could just "walk away" from the EU. No way could we do that. Everyone would lose out. If we were to vote to 'Leave' there would begin a process of negotiation. The weakness of the embryonic 'Leave' campaigns is there is no clear obvious process by which we could give effect to a vote to leave. And if we approach the referendum with the 'Leave' option being seen as a "leap into the unknown", the British people will not vote for it.

 David Cameron promised and will deliver this In-Out Referendum. I must admit I was no supporter of it, even if it was inevitable. I did and do support the idea of a public vote but would have preferred it to be linked to treaty change. And treaty change there will be, even if we vote to 'Remain'. Since the Eurozone block was created, it’s seems clear to me that there will eventually be a two-speed EU. The Eurozone countries will develop common monetary and fiscal policy - effectively becoming a single state. The recent experience of Greece demonstrates the de facto end of Greek democracy, as we understand it. Fairly soon, this will have to be agreed by treaty change. By default, the UK's relationship with the EU would be changed into one I'd be much more content with. 

 This will be much the biggest issue of this Parliament. I want to give constituents the chance to tell me what they think. When we have a referendum date confirmed. I will arrange 'community meetings' around Montgomeryshire where we can discuss opinions and ideas. Hopefully, this may help those who attend as well as me to decide whether we want the UK to remain part of the EU or leave.


No comments: