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RARichard Ashworth is leader of the UK's Conservative Group in the European Parliament and 
is an MEP for the South-East.

Do you want a vote on our relationship with
Europe? Then the Conservatives are the only credible choice to deliver a
referendum. However, during next year's European Elections,
voters will have three choices:

  • Elect Conservative MEPs, who will work tirelessly
    for British interests, and start the Conservatives on the path to a majority in
    2015;
  • Elect Labour and Liberal, SNP or Plaid MEPs
    who will side with the federalist agenda;
  • Or elect UKIP MEPs, who leave Britain's chair
    at the EU table empty, and increase the chance of Red Ed entering Downing
    Street.

Between now and the referendum in 2017, seminal
shifts will have to occur within the EU. Changes being made in the euro zone
will redefine the relationship between the non-euro nations and the EU. The 'one-size-fits-all'
status quo will not be an option. Here is our opportunity to create an EU that
works for Britain; to focus its efforts on opening markets, on ceasing the
endless meddling in our lives, and accepting that often powers are better
exercised much closer to the those affected by them.


At the end of the next few years the British
people will determine whether they wish to remain members of the EU. But in the meantime, we need people in Brussels
fighting to get the best possible deal for UK PLC.

Labour MEPs have a record of following their trade union paymasters and other socialist MEPs. They have voted for
job-destroying employment legislation; for a greater European role in
immigration; for further EU control over taxation, and so on. David Cameron
secured the first ever cut in the EU budget, in contrast with Tony Blair's
surrender of £7 billion of our rebate. Labour took us into the Eurozone
bailout fund, leaving us responsible for bailing out members of a currency we
decided not to join. Thankfully, David Cameron took us back out of it. Do the British people really trust Labour to
stick up for their best interests, when they so often capitulate and follow
their European socialist colleagues?

Likewise, Liberal Democrat MEPs have not only
signed up to much of this federalist agenda, they have been leading it! Whether
it be efforts to create pan-European political parties, or to forge a European
Public Prosecutor that would override British courts, they have been at the
forefront of some of the most integrationist measures. The leader of their
wider grouping in the European Parliament is former Belgian Prime Minister Guy
Verhofstadt. He is not shy in calling for the abolition of the 28 nation states
in favour of a common European one. And he's quite happy to frequently attack
'Her Majesty's Government', with LibDem MEPs sitting idly behind him.

The direction Labour and the LibDem MEPs
advocate is a dangerous, sclerotic and undemocratic one. However, they do turn
up and give their point of view. Unfortunately, when it comes to UKIP, they
turn up only when the cameras are switched on. They fail to do the work they
are being paid to do by the British taxpayers. When they do turn up, their
incompetence has led to them voting against British interests, clearly failing
to even read what they are voting on.

I understand the point they make: that people
elect them to 'expose' the EU, not to get into the minutiae of parliamentary
work. But to me that just sounds like a lazy cop-out. Our experience has shown
that when a good MEP dedicates his/herself to delivering a cause, with a bit of
tact and a lot of skill, they can deliver a much better outcome for Britain.

It may not always be in the limelight in the UK,
but the European Parliament does matter. At present, it has equal weight to
national governments in delivering legislation that impacts on all of our daily
lives. Unfortunately, the UK goes into so many negotiations, votes and debates
with a hand tied behind our backs, because a sizeable proportion of our MEPs
have no intention of getting a good result for the country. In fact, UKIP has a
vested interest in delivering a bad result because it is likely to increase
disenchantment and gain them a tabloid hit.

If you want to leave the EU, that's a fair point
of view. Only by voting Conservative will you get your chance. But surely,
before that happens, you want every person we send to Brussels to be fighting
for Britain's national interest? And Conservative MEPs have a strong record of
delivery. Time and again, we have rolled up our sleeves, making use of the
variety of skills, expertise and experience of our MEPs. This has secured
results, such as:

  • Delivering the cut in the EU budget and
    defending our rebate;
  • Leading a major reform of the calamitous
    fisheries policy;
  • Protecting our offshore oil and gas industry
    from overzealous regulation that would have pushed up fuel prices;
  • Spearheading free trade agreements with Korea,
    Japan and the USA;
  • Shelving plans to force mothers to take 20
    weeks of paid maternity leave at a cost of £2.5 billion to British business,
    and;
  • Opening up the Single Market to create more
    opportunities for entrepreneurs.

The list could go on. Our successes don't sell
newspapers quite like failure, but rest assured we are delivering success every
day.

In the European Conservatives and Reformists
Group – the new group we founded after the last election – Conservative MEPs
have grown in influence, and are able to achieve more than we would have by
being just a medium-sized delegation of MEPs in our former bloc. From my own
experience as Budgets Spokesman for the group, I have had a seat in the
so-called 'Contact Group' which led the negotiations to deliver the long-term
budget.

That seat enabled me to be a 'thorn in the side', representing those
governments calling for budgetary restraint. Without our group, there would
have been no internal opposition in the European Parliament, as it called for EU
taxes and a review that would effectively see the UK lose its budgetary veto.
Our new group has given us a seat at the table, and it has been put to good use
by our MEPs. One dissenting voice can make a difference and muster support from
others, not least other national governments. And the UK is not alone in demanding change in
the EU. Mr Cameron has allies for his agenda. Germany, the Netherlands,
Sweden and other powerful countries are on our side. Only more Conservative
MEPs will help to deliver that agenda. More protest votes will undermine it.

Now that we have chosen our list of candidates for
the Euro elections, I can say with confidence that the Conservative delegation
in Europe will continue to have the skills, experience, and ability to deliver
for the United Kingdom. These candidates come from all walks of life, but they
are all connected by the same goals: to deliver a better deal for Britain, to
fight eurofederalism, and to give the people a say on their future relationship
with the EU.

So in May 2014 people will have a choice. Do
they want to support the Party that can give them a say on Europe? Or do they
want to make a Labour government in 2015 more likely by 'lending' their vote to
UKIP? Do they want MEPs that work to deliver real
change and reform for Britain? Or will they support parties that cannot and
will not deliver a referendum, who advance a federal Europe, or whose laziness
ties Britain's hands?
Returning Conservative MEPs to Brussels, and a
Conservative government to Westminster is the only way to deliver our national
interests, and to be sure of getting a referendum.

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