Philip Hollobone is the Conservative MP for Kettering.
I don’t believe in ever closer European union and I don’t believe most British people do either. The fundamental principle of the 1972 Accession Treaty is not supported by a majority of people on these islands. What do we do then? Do we stay in an organisation whose fundamental principle most of us reject and do our best to mitigate the worst consequences or do we say enough is enough and we’d be better off out? I have come to the conclusion that we’d be better off out and that is why I am supporting the The Freedom Association’s Better Off Out campaign which provides the positive case for leaving the European Union.
The drive to deeper European integration is like being on an escalator that moves constantly forward. Most of our EU counterparts are actually running along the escalator in their blind enthusiasm for a European political union, others are walking along the escalator at a more measured pace, but nevertheless still going in the same direction, and some, like Britain, sometimes stop still in protest at the direction of travel. The problem is that if you stop on an escalator you still move forward – you actually have to step off if you don’t like the direction in which you’re headed!
Most people want to see enhanced trade with other European countries, we like to travel in Europe and our young people increasingly want to study there. What most of us don’t want is to be part of a state called Europe, which determines an ever increasing part of our daily lives. We don’t want our laws decided by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, we don’t want our laws decided by elected delegates from other EU countries, and nor do we wish to be obliged to pay the ever increasing bill. We want to govern ourselves. Yes, let’s co-operate with other European countries on issues of trade, justice, the environment, Third World development and other international issues, but abandoning our sovereignty in a growing number of areas with ever more qualified majority voting is surely not the destiny of our proud nation.
Britain faces an increasingly uncertain future in a rapidly changing world and our memberhip of the EU is hindering, not helping, Britain’s response. The EU is simply not up to the task of addressing the competitive challenge from China, India and Brazil. The EU has woefully let down both British farmers as well as struggling nations in the Third World with its adherence to the Common Agricultural Policy. The EU’s Schengen arrangements ensure the free flow of illegal migrants through much of the EU all the way up to Britain’s borders.
The EU is yesterday’s idea and leaving it would be beneficial for the UK. Direct annual membership costs of £12 billion would be saved and could be better spent on a combination of enhancing Britain’s beleaguered public services, providing more police and tougher border controls, and cutting Britain’s record tax burden. Of course these membership costs don’t include all the indirect costs such as complying with all the unnecessary regulations, and the loss of earnings from farming and fishing. Britain would be able to negotiate better trade arrangements with NAFTA and, whilst still trading with the EU, resume our rightful place at the centre of world trade, encouraging trade liberalisation across the planet. We would also be able to revive British agriculture and fishing freed from the shackles of having to prop up inefficient French farming and by being able to resume control of fishing in British territorial waters. It’s also important to remember that EU regulations are a burden on every UK business including the vast majority that never export at all and and those which do export, but only to countries outside Europe. The City of London would be able to reassert its authority as a global market place and liberate itself from growing EU regulatory intrusion. And by leaving the EU, the threat of being forced one day to abolish the Pound and adopt the Euro would ensure the Bank of England remained independent from the European Central Bank and end the threat that Britain’s gold reserves would one day be transported to Germany. The retort that millions of British jobs would be lost by our EU exit is simply nonsense. Given the EU’s positive trade balance with the UK, does anyone really think that the EU’s trade with Britain would stop simply because we were no longer members?
Our exit would also mean that we would no longer have to participate in the farce that is the European Parliament. Eurosceptic MEPs have done their level best to knock some sense into EU law making, but is like pushing water uphill. Our influence in the EU is declining all the time as our share of voting rights falls and as the number of qualified majority votes increases. The EU has also got its beady eye on the UK’s legal systems, which have evolved through centuries, but which increasingly face the threat of being turned upside down by the Napoleonic code system. Britons rightly treasure trial by jury, the right of habeas corpus, and of being deemed innocent until proven guilty – all these will remain under threat by our continued membership of the EU. And why on earth do we feel the need to ban imperial measures to comply with EU diktats? I don’t believe it should be illegal for a market trader to sell a pound of sausages, but under our membership of the EU this is now the case. Leaving the EU would restore the authority of Westminster as our national Parliament and encourage higher turnouts in general elections as people were reassured that their vote would actually make a difference.
Our proud country needs to retain control over our own border controls and over Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. There is widespread hostility in our country to handing over immigration controls to Brussels and on the step-by-step development of a Euro Army and a EU defence establishment separate to and undermining of NATO. When Britain voted in 1975 to remain a member of the Common Market, the arguments then were all about the importance of free trade. However, since then the Common Market has changed into the European Economic Community (EEC), then the European Community (EC) and then the European Union (EU) all without any subsequent referendum. You now have to be 49 years of age to have been eligible to have taken part in the 1975 referendum and so there are millions of British people who have never had a specific vote on the European project.
In the early years of the 21st century, Britain has a wonderful opportunity to embark on a new course that will enable our country to rise to the new challenges that face our world. Our future best lies in becoming a low tax, high enterprise, well educated and vigorously independent nation with a proud heritage and confident forward-looking approach. The EU is not going to help us in this quest; indeed it has become a millstone round our neck and will hold us back until we have the courage to break free.