Syed Kamall is Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament and an MEP for London.
Whether we like it or not, when it comes to EU legislation, the European Parliament now has equal power with the 28 governments of the EU. It is no longer a talking shop.
If you don’t like that then you have two options: either change the EU so that our national parliaments have a greater say; or leave altogether.
If you want to leave altogether only one party can and will deliver an in/out referendum, and that’s the Conservatives. It is a pledge that I and my colleagues fully support, and it will happen in 2017 should we form a majority or coalition government. No ifs, no buts.
Until that referendum comes, we will have an opportunity to deliver real change in Europe. Only one party can deliver it, and that’s the Conservatives. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have shown that they won’t. UKIP have shown that they can’t. None of them try. They say that change is not possible. Yet these are the same people who said that we could never secure a cut in the EU budget, or take us out of the eurozone bailout funds, or even veto a treaty. Conservatives achieved all of these things because a Conservative Prime Minister worked with a strong team of Conservative MEPs.
You may be sceptical about whether we can achieve change in the EU. I can understand that point, but surely we owe it to Britain to try and make the EU work for us. The British people will have the final say on whether we have succeeded.
However, we can only succeed with a strong team of Conservative MEPs working with a strong Conservative Prime Minister.
You may not always hear about our achievements, but Conservative MEPs work tirelessly in the European Parliament. Whether it’s overhauling the disastrous Common Fisheries Policy, seeing off EU meddling and cutting red tape, or securing new trade deals worth billions, Conservative MEPs have led these reforms. We also delivered the EU budget cut negotiated by David Cameron. A hostile European Parliament had the power to block the deal and demand more money. We simply could not have secured this cut without strong backing for the Prime Minister in the European Parliament.
While UKIP are often absent or deliberately obstructive, Labour and the Liberal Democrats just go with the flow. They have no plan for legislative reform nor to reverse the tide of European centralisation. They have no ambition for Britain and meekly sign up to the euro-federalist agenda.
By contrast, Conservative MEPs were instrumental in introducing a language test so that foreign doctors have to speak English. We stopped attempts to regulate against our North Sea oil and gas industry. We have stopped meddlesome proposals covering everything from caravans to hairdressers. We have helped small businesses to access government contracts and EU research funding. We have changed banking rules so that taxpayers need not be asked again to bail out failing banks.
I believe that we can achieve a new deal in the EU because we are willing to work for it. Others say we can’t, because they don’t even want to try.
When other Labour or Lib Dems or UKIP politicians tell me we can’t achieve change, I’m reminded of the adage, ‘Those who tell you something can’t be done are showing their own limitations not yours.’
With a plan for change, we will negotiate a new deal with the EU and then give the British people an in/out referendum. Reform, renegotiation, referendum. It is a practical and persuasive prospectus for an election which really does matter.
The choice at these elections is clear: if you want no change in Europe and no referendum then vote Labour, Liberal or UKIP. Labour and the Liberals don’t want change in Europe nor a referendum. UKIP cannot deliver on its promises. If you really want the EU to change for Britain and if you want a say on whether we remain within it, you have to vote to make it happen. You have to vote for a strong team of Conservative MEPs to work alongside a Conservative Prime Minister.