On 23rd June, I will be voting for the UK to remain in the European Union, because I feel that the deal that David Cameron secured in Brussels strengthens our special status in the EU and tips the balance towards the UK being better off as a member.
I always approached the Prime Minister’s renegotiation with caution. I am not an ardent Europhile, and have always wanted a Europe that recognises Britain’s unique situation and exempts us from any drive towards a super-state. I do value the free EU Single Market with its 500 million customers; it is our home market and the basis for Hertfordshire’s and Britain’s economic success. We joined the Common Market for trade and have built the Single Market to cover services too. Being in the EU costs each household a £1 per day and experts say the benefits are worth £3000 a year to the average household in lower prices, more jobs, trade and investment. I also value our EU anti-terror cooperation, which keeps us safe. It was, therefore, important to me to see what the PM could get for Britain.
In spite of the economic, political, and security benefits of membership, our settlement with the EU has been far from perfect. The UK has had to deal with levels of EU migration that are too high, fuelled by too much benefit money. We have been tied into “ever closer union” – signifying the EU’s legislative ratchet pulling us further into a project of political integration, and businesses complain of excessive European regulation that stifles their growth.
I am glad that the Prime Minister’s renegotiation has led to improvements for Britain in all these areas.
On matters of sovereignty, the UK will be given an explicit exemption from “ever closer union” in a Treaty change. This “ever closer union” has been used over 500 times by the European Court in its judgements as representing the spirit of the treaties, and the exemption will protect us from being dragged deeper into European political integration. For the first time, the EU has accepted that there is not a common destination for all its members.
National parliaments will be able to block Brussels measures. If 55% of national parliaments object to a piece of EU legislation, it will be vetoed.
The PM has secured a guarantee that, every year, the European Commission will review how much red tape it is imposing on businesses, and if it is too much, the UK will demand that it is cut. This builds on the deregulation sought by British MEPs such as our MEP, Vicky Ford.
We have also won new powers to fight EU criminals. We will be able to stop them entering the UK in the first place, ban them from re-entering for longer, and deport them if they are already here. This will help keep Britain safe.
Economically, we will no longer be liable to pay for Eurozone bailouts, the UK’s economic interests will be protected by ensuring that Eurozone will be prevented from forcing through actions purely in their own interests, which might damage the pound or the City of London. Single markets for capital, services, and energy will be completed, pushing down bills, and increasing growth and investment for Britain.
As for benefits, EU migrants will not have full access to the welfare system for their first four years in the UK, and this restriction will be in place for seven years. If it starts next year, EU migrants will still be restricted from claiming full benefits until 2028. Also, child benefit paid abroad will now only be paid at the local rate, cutting the welfare cost to the taxpayer. This will all reduce the pull factor to the UK.
This deal represents a series of major victories for the UK, and significantly improves our position in the EU.
This agreement is legally binding on member states as a matter of international law. It is being deposited with the United Nations, and is only reversible if all member states, including the UK, agree.
Under the Conservatives, the UK’s economy is recovering, and Britain is back on her feet. Many Hertfordshire businesses rely on EU markets. The Out campaign has no vision of what our future would be like outside the EU, and so it would be foolish to leap into the dark. This uncertainty is bad for Hertfordshire businesses.
It is better to be at the table, fighting for Britain, than it is to quit and throw away the benefits that membership brings. The advantages of the EU – made considerably stronger by the Prime Minister’s renegotiation – make it clear to me that we should vote to stay on June 23rd.
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