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Ashley Fox is Member of the European Parliament for the South West of England and Gibraltar

Screen shot 2013-07-14 at 09.41.06Like so many of my constituents, I am unhappy
with Britain’s current relationship with the European Union. I firmly believe it
has to change. I am delighted that the Prime Minister now wants to renegotiate
our membership of the EU and put that deal to the British people in an in/out
referendum.

The EU costs Britain too much money and it
does not spend the money it has wisely. Brussels has too much power and meddles
too much in our daily lives.

I want Britain to be part of a free-trading
Europe of sovereign nations, like the EEC we joined in 1973. If the
Conservative Party is re-elected in 2015, David Cameron has promised a referendum
by the end of 2017, following a period of renegotiation on our terms of
membership. I think that it is now time for us to discuss what powers should be
brought back to Britain as part of these negotiations.

In my view this should include:

  • Regaining control of
    Employment and Social Legislation
    This would include the permanent opt-out of
    legislation such as the European Working Time Directive. If we want real
    economic growth then businesses need to be cut free from the red tape and
    regulation that is so often dreamt up in the corridors of Brussels and then
    gold plated by our own civil servants.



Common Defence and
Foreign Policies
– The right to set a foreign and defence policy should remain solely with
the Member States. The EU is not a sovereign state and should not pretend to be.
It is the shield of NATO that has protected British interests for over 60 years
and I see no need for that to change now.

  • Looking again at the
    Common Fisheries Policy
    – The Common Fisheries Policy has failed both fishermen
    and fish stocks. While important reforms have been made which will almost
    abolish discards, it would be far better if national waters were managed exclusively
    by the member states.
  • Review and reform the
    right of EU citizens to claim Social Security in the UK 
    – It isn’t right that people
    from other EU countries can move to Britain and then have automatic access to
    our benefit and welfare systems. I believe that EU migrants should have to pay
    into our national Insurance system for at least two years before they are able to
    claim from it.
  • Opting out of Home
    Affairs and Immigration Legislation
    I don’t believe the EU should have any say in
    our immigration and asylum system. I also want us to opt out of measures such
    as the European Arrest Warrant. I believe that before a British citizen is
    extradited to a foreign judicial system the evidence should be presented before
    our own courts to establish whether there is a case to answer.

It
is rather ironic that whilst the European Arrest Warrant means that a UK
citizen can be deported to any other EU country without the British courts
being able to intervene, those same courts do regularly intervene to prevent
the removal of foreigners that Britain wants rid of.  I am referring of course to the long and
painful saga of Abu Qatada whom successive Home Secretaries have tried to
deport to Jordan. 

Although the European Convention of Human Rights and the
Court of Human Rights are unconnected to the EU, they are invariably lumped
into the same category – if only because they begin with the word ‘European’.

The UK joined the ECHR in 1953 in an effort to
protect fundamental rights following the atrocities of the Second World War. The
problem we now face is that judicial activism by the ECHR means the Court's
remit is constantly expanding. Thus the right to free elections enshrined in
1953 has become, 60 years later, the right of prisoners to vote. In my view it
is wrong that such a policy should be decided anywhere other than in the British Parliament.

The solution is to introduce a British Bill of Rights
which would give British judges clear guidelines as to how they should
interpret the European Convention. This was part of the Conservative Party manifesto
in 2010, but alas our coalition partners don't like the idea.

I recognise
the role that the EU has played in reconciling former wartime enemies, and the
way in which it has helped cement democracy in the former Soviet states. If the
EU spent less of our money, did less and did it rather better it would be a
good deal more popular. I fully
support the Prime Minister's aim of reforming the EU. If we are able to
repatriate substantial powers back to Britain then I believe that a majority of
British people would be content to remain
within the EU. However if the negotiations fail, then we shouldn’t be afraid to
leave.

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