I was both happy and proud earlier this week to sign a letter originated by John Baron MP to the Prime Minister urging him to place on the Statute Book before the next Gelection a commitment to hold a referendum during the next Parliament on the nature of our relationship with the European Union.
George Osborne and his handpicked MPs have recently told any journalist who would listen that the next Conservative manifesto will contain a promise of a referendum in the next Parliament. Why anyone would believe this is baffling, given the number of U-turns that governments of all persuasion seem to perform these days, As political messages go, however, it was a good one and some were convinced.
But not only do some manifesto promises never materialise, but governments also introduce substantial pieces of legislation which have never touched the print of a manifesto document. There was no commitment to Lords reform in the last manifesto – so put under the probing light of reality, a manifesto promise just doesn’t cut it.
This week, the Prime Minister asserted his authority at the EU summit and very clearly stated his position – namely, that there will be no in-out referendum either in this Parliament or as a manifesto commitment. That made Mr Osborne’s recent statements look rather silly. Scarcely a day later, we now learn that Mr Cameron may believes that the time for a renegotiation referendum is coming, that there could be a manifesto commitment.. The sum of all this is less than clear – other than it looking like yet another U-turn.
The British public haven’t had a say with regard to our relationship with the European Union since 1973 and the Europe we find ourselves a part of today bears no relationship to the one the British people voted for, back in that day. An entire generation has been born into an ever encroaching and invasive system of control and governance without any input whatsoever.
It is hard to find many people who agree that hard-working British taxpayers should be bailing out the economies of southern European basket case countries or that membership of the Eurozone offers any degree of economic security to British families. As I have written on this site before, the argument that UK trade and jobs are dependent upon an increasingly tired, dated and failing old European model is one which, if believed and adhered to, will only inhibit the development of trade with the new and exciting emerging economies.
Singapore and China are where it’s at, not Spain and the Czech republic. Israel is one of the most innovative countries I have recently visited. It is storming ahead in terms of technological achievement and exports. The security sensors surrounding Buckingham Palace which keep the Queen safe in her bed were invented in and are exported from Tel Aviv. Israel isn’t inhibited by other governments dictating its laws and economics.
Other countries performing well and free from the black cloak of the European depression are Norway and Switzerland, both of which have a unique relationship within the EU. Many Brits are unaware of the Norway model, they don’t understand what is unique about Switzerland and they need to be informed of the cost of British membership to the EU in its full and frightening entirety. This is why we need to set a date for a referendum and let a debate amongst the British people begin.
If a date for a referendum were set for 2015 at the same time as the next General Election, the benefits for the Conservative party could be significant. Given the Liberal Democrats strong pro-European position, it could be the one move which would secure Mr Cameron a Conservative majority. It’s the one hand he could play which would completely destroy what is left of the Liberal Democrats and prevent UKIP from taking a predicted 25% of the vote share in 2015. Only a set date for a referendum in 2015 will achieve both of those objectives.
I am afraid that for David Cameron to expect us to alter our position on Europe when one week the Chancellor is urging yes to a referendum commitment, soon afterwards the Prime Minster says no and then a day later seems to say something else is an expectation which will I imagine will remain unfulfilled. The hundred MPs who signed John Baron’s letter did so because this is something we believe in strongly. We are principled and passionate about the future of Britain and I suspect will continue to be so until a guaranteed referendum is in sight.