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Thursday, 24 January 2013

Our Prime Minister has offered his views, now I would like to offer mine

On Tuesday morning, David Cameron MP (Con, Witney) put forward his views on Britain's relationship with the European Union which he said he would put to a referendum if (after a Conservative overall majority at the next election) he was able to discuss with his European partners how Britain worked within the context of the European Union. He had his say and therefore I would like to have my say.

The Prime Minister is indeed right to reflect on the history of Modern Europe. The Elysee Treaty that he mentioned, which celebrates it's 50th anniversary this year, was the starting ground for the European Union that we know today and the remarkable events of 1990, not only in the former East Germany but all across the former Warsaw Pact countries (Poland, the Czech Republic, the Baltic nations) was a demonstration that humanity has the right to decide it's own future. However, for the last forty or so years, Britain has not had a chance to decide on it's future as an EU member and I believe that time has come, not after the next election, but today.

I was born in 1974 and therefore was less than a year old when Britain was last asked to offer it's thoughts on the European Union and yet, thanks to the power of the Internet as well as the archives of BBC Parliament, I know how the British people voted. Overwhelmingly in favour.

However, the question asked in 1975 was "Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?" and since then a lot has changed. For starters, the Common Market (as it was called then) was dumped and replaced with the term "European Economic Community" or EEC for short soon after the referendum. Then in 1993 under the leadership of Jacques Delors (a former member of the French Socialist Party) the term EEC was dropped and replaced by the term European Union. Ever since that moment, alarm bells have started to ring in the United Kingdom as more and more people believed (whether rightly or wrongly) that the European Union was trying to become the dominant force in Europe by taking in countries and becoming a "United States of Europe". This perception was not helped by the introduction of the Euro in 1999 (as a virtual traded currency) and in 2002 by the first actual notes and coins and made people here even more scared. This was reflected in the 2004 elections to the European Parliament when the United Kingdom Independence Party polled 16% of the vote and won twelve seats. Their policy was summarised by the newly elected UKIP MEP for the East Midlands, Robert Kilroy Silk, when he was asked what he would do sitting in the European Parliament. "Wreck it - expose it for the waste, the corruption and the way it's eroding our independence and our sovereignty" was the reply he gave, only to clarify it a short while later by saying that he wanted to "draw attention to its deficiencies". It is this disconnection to the European Union that is at the heart of the problems with the UK's relationship and therefore whilst I welcome the Prime Minister's offer of a referendum, I would like to ask why wait until after the general election. Myself, and everyone else in the United Kingdom under the age of 58 has never been asked their views on the European Union, so I would humbly ask the Prime Minister to reconsider his thoughts and hold a referendum on the European Union at the same time as the European Elections in June 2014 (after all Scotland will be holding a referendum on their future in the same year and holding it at the same time as the European Elections will enable the discussions to be solely focused on the European Union). It will allow me to be able to say YES to the European Union and argue that it may not be perfect, but it is better to be on the inside sorting it out than from the outside with no influence on it whatsoever.

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