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BURNET Michael

Michael Burnett was a Conservative MEP candidate for the West Midlands in 2014.

“Europe is in crisis, so it’s time for all of us to be open to new thinking and new solutions, and not to remain wedded to ideas developed in the very different environment of the mid 20th century.

“I want Britain to play a full role in the transformation of the EU.

“Britain is a European nation. Personally, and with great respect to our friends across the world, I never feel more European than when I’m outside of Europe looking in.

“Britain is in the EU because it is in Britain’s interest to be there and it’s in the EU’s interest that we are there. So I want Britain to stay in the EU by voting Remain in the referendum on 23 June.

“But let me be clear about two points.

“Firstly, Britain can survive and prosper outside the EU. But I strongly believe that we can do better working together with our EU partners. In short, Britain and the EU are better together.

“Secondly, Britain wants and needs an EU that works. It is our closest neighbour and one with whom we would share land borders if we left, in particular with Ireland, with whom we have deep historical, economic, cultural and personal ties.

“Europe is our continent, our home in the world. As Europeans what we have in common is far more than our differences. A shared history, shared culture and, above all, a common interest in making the EU work.

“We are faced with competition from strong nation states such as the US, China, Russia, India and Brazil. We can’t afford to become the Holy Roman Empire of the 21st century, pulled apart by the economic interests of others in the same way, for example, as strong neighbours on its borders interfered in Germany in previous centuries and made it the battlefield of Europe.

“So we have everything to play for to make the EU work for all our citizens.

“Britain makes a major contribution to the EU: to the European pillar of NATO; to strengthening the Single Market by strongly advocating a market economy; and as a bridge to the Commonwealth, one third of the world’s population, in particular with our shared cultural ties with India, the world’s most populous democracy.

“Perhaps our most significant contribution to the EU is our vibrant, adversarial democracy, sometimes asking difficult questions which others don’t want asked.

“But being in a club gives a member the right to ask questions and propose changes to club rules. And when the club isn’t working as well as it could, it’s a very important time to propose changes to help it work better, not just for Britain, but for the survival of the EU in a turbulent world.

“I believe that in Britain we have a vision of a Europe that will work better for all in future, and I want to see solutions which work for all of the EU, not ones where in Britain we allow to others to go ahead provided that we aren’t part of them.

“I don’t want to see different classes of EU member. I want Britain to be part of the renewal of the EU making it fit for the 21st century

“My vision is of an EU beyond the Single Market, key though that is to why Britain wants to belong to the EU.

“It’s of an EU built on practical co-operation where it works, such as the Single Market, environmental co-operation, strengthened border controls, and more effective shared contributions to European defence, and not on the mid 20th century theology of a single currency.

“So does this mean in practice for the future working of the EU?

“Firstly, for the EU to deal effectively with the Eurozone crisis, where the most difficult barrier seems to be to recognise exactly how much of a crisis the creation of the Eurozone has created.

“Secondly to promote growth in the EU, particularly in the distressed Eurozone economies.

“Thirdly, and vital to the referendum result, to deal with migration. Free movement within the EU, and the Schengen Agreement, is under severe strain in an age of mass (often illegal) migration, especially as the EU’s external borders are so porous.

“It’s causing tension within the EU, both between states and for citizens.  And mainstream parties must talk about it and not leave the floor open for fringe parties to set the agenda.

“It’s hard for some to discuss, because free movement of peoples is one pillar of the Single Market, and a core principle of the EU Treaties.

“But it’s time to face reality – the Schengen agreement, conceived for a smaller EU with greater similarity of economies, no longer works. And recent months have shown that external migration policy can’t deal with large numbers of migrants.

“And, we need, together, to build security for the EU in a changing world and, in particular, defence capability and energy security.

“The first duty of a state is to defend itself, both in collective security systems like NATO as well as at national level. Europe needs to enhance its security in dangerous world from military, terrorist and cyber attacks.

“The EU is as rich as the US, so it is demeaning to depend on others for something we can afford to pay for ourselves.
All EU Member States should contribute to Europe’s collective security, by committing to joining NATO and to increase defence spending to an agreed percentage of GDP, framed now at two per cent.

“And Britain will continue to use its military and intelligence capability to help secure Europe’s defence.  It will continue to collaborate closely on defence matters with France.

“Secondly, we need energy security, reducing external energy dependency and vulnerability to external pressure. We need better energy supply and demand management to minimise our exposure. Britain stands ready to play a role in these collective arrangements.

“So Britain has a vision of the EU’s future: not of a special status based on the idea that Britain is a distant offshore island, but of a Europe that works for all.

“A Europe adapting better to a changing globalised economy, secure within its borders and confident with how it deals with the rest of the world, not one which pretends that the world of the early 21st Century is the same as that of the mid-20th Century.

“It’s an EU which builds a European demos, with shared identity built gradually over time from practical co-operation which works.

“It’s an EU in which Britain will play a full and active part for the foreseeable future after we have voted Remain, for the good of Britain and for the good of our continent.”

26 comments for: Michael Burnett: The pro-Remain speech that Cameron should make

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