I recently posted on this site how I was disappointed with two out of the three MP’s in Hillingdon voting against giving the people of England our say on whether we remain in the EU or not via a referendum. (They work for you – 30/10/2011)
I would like to commend Mr Randall for once again responding to an enquiry from one of his constituents that was obviously at odds with his beliefs – Whilst I may disagree with his answer (Which I also did with his previous reply to my letter about what I consider to be unwarranted rises in foreign aid budgets – John Randall replies about foreign aid 21/05/11) , it is good to see a local MP engaging with his constituents on the thorny issues of the day and not hiding away from debate.
John Randall’s Reply to my enquiry regarding his ‘no’ vote to an EU Referendum
Thank you for contacting me regarding the vote on whether we should hold a referendum to decide if we stay in or leave the European Union.
Of course I recognise that many people feel very strongly about the EU, and I understand that there are those who believe we should leave the EU. However I decided that this is not the time for the uncertainty, cost and disruption of such a referendum.In other circumstances I might well have been tempted to vote for a referendum.
We are currently in a period of world economic turbulence and instability. It could have short term dire effects on the economy because of perceptions a vote for a referendum would have. If our AAA+ rating were to be downgraded as a consequence, or the markets believed – albeit wrongly – that we were about to leave the EU at this time, it would send interest rates soaring as it has in other European countries. The timing is all wrong. There is a real crisis in the Eurozone. Nothing would do more to help our economic recovery than a resolution of the Eurozone’s difficulties, while its disorderly break up would have a very serious impact on our eceonomy. I think you will agree that what we are seeing daily on our television screens means that things are changing rapidly.
Of course, this very crisis may well present us with the best opportunity to redefine our position within the European Union and I will continue to press the Government to bring back powers from Brussels and insist on reform of the EU.We do need to ensure that we curtail, and in some cases ,reverse the movement of power from Westminster to Brussels.
In its first year of office, the Coalition Government passed an extremely important law to prevent any further transfer of powers to Brussels without a referendum. This was a major milestone in our relationship with the EU, ending once and for all the creeping powers of Brussels.The foreign secretary, William Hague, who was himself at the heart of the campaign to keep the pound and prevent the UK joining the single currency, has already said that we will look for opportunities to repatriate powers as part of any substantive change to the EU treaty. We are also working hard to ensure that regulations emanating from Brussels are implemented minimally without being gold-plated by government departments.
Another reason why I did not vote for the motion is the actual wording.
“That this house calls upon the Government to introduce a bill in the next session of Parliament to provide for the holding of a national referendum on whether the United Kingdom should :
(a) remain a member of the European Union on the current terms:
(b) leave the European union : or
(c) re-negotiate the terms of its membership in order to create a new realtionship based on trade and co-operation”
I am afraid that the concept of a three way referendum is somewhat confusing and would not necessarily give a clear answer. Interestingly the final (c) section was not part of the original e-petition which calls for an in/out referendum.
It was designed to capture a broader coalition including those who want to stay in the current Union and hand more powers over. This is not the party’s stated position. It also attracts those that want to leave the European Union all together, again not the Party’s position, or those that want renegotiation – The stated position of the Conservative Party at the last General Election.
The Conservative Party manifesto was clear – The party are not happy with the European Union as it is. That is why we said we want to get powers back from Brussels to Britain, particularly (although not exclusively) over social and employment legislation. We also wanted to make sure that there is no further transfer of powers from Britain to Brussels without the say of the British people. That’s why for the first time ever this government has introduced a referendum lock which means that any transfer of powers from Britain to Brussels would require the approval of the British people in a Referendum.If this legislation had been in place the British public would have had a vote on the Lisbon Treaty and would have blocked it rather than being signed up by the last government who signed up without a vote.
People say that the Conservatives have reneged on a promise to hold a referendum on our membership of the European Union. This so-called promise is an urban myth there was absolutely nothing in our 2010 manifesto on this. We did say in 2005 that we would have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty if it had not been ratified and I voted consistently for that to happen but we were defeated by the Labour and Liberal Democrats.
Although I am currently a member of the Government, I have resigned my front bench position previously on a matter of principle and would do so again if I felt it right. However, I do not believe in gesture politics trying to gain short term popularity with a section of my electorate.
I have no doubt that the time will come when the British people will have to make a decision on our future with Europe and I will make my own mind up about the way I vote at that time based on conditions at that time.
There is no doubt that the EU needs serious reform, we do need to ensure that we curtail, and in some cases, reverse the movement of power from Westminster to Brussels. However, above all at this critical time, UK businesses need certainty so they can invest to generate growth in our economy and the financial markets need confidence in our future – The potential that we might have to leave the EU as a result of a referendum would have a disastrous impact on jobs and interest rates. The current crisis in the Euro zone may well present opportunities to renegotiate our position, in fact it may be essential to alter our relationship with the European Union particularly if a number of Euro zone countries move towards greater fiscal union. I think this should be our focus, not a complex and costly hybrid referendum.
I know that you will be disappointed that I did not vote for the motion but I hope this explanation is helpful and I am grateful for you contacting me with your views.
1- Ignoring the will of the people of England
Mr Randall says that he will not engage in ‘gesture politics for short term popularity’. This is not about gestures, it is about democracy and giving the people of this country our democratic right to a voice. The Conservative Party’s partners in coalition, the Liberal Democrats, actually campaigned previously to have a referendum as shown on the leaflet to the left – They then reneged on this to the extent that just one of their MP’s disobeyed the party line in the house to give the people our say. Eighty-One Conservative MP’s ignored instruction from Party HQ and stated that we should have a referendum as proposed in the motion.
Independent opinion polls consistently state that the English want a referendum on our membership of the EU – Neither Labour, Tory or Liberal Democrat leaders are listening.
2 – Our national credit rating and business will suffer
The money markets are not stupid – Like all private business, they rely on profits to continue trading. Currently, the UK trades in deficit with it’s EU partners, in many cases because of restrictive practices that discriminate against our produce in flagrant violation of EU directives that only our Politicians enforce.
In contrast, our trade with the rest of the world is in surplus. The big emerging markets to drive the growth that our economy needs to get us out of our current malaise are outside the EU, for example India and China. With the Eurozone countries in the depths of a recession and resorting to protectionism to try and prop up their economies, we need to look further afield to ensure our continued prosperity. Unfortunately, many of these emerging economies have trade levies against EU member states in retaliation for the import duties and barriers placed against their goods by Brussels, thus hindering our profitable business.
We need to leave the EU to maximise these opportunities, whilst also freeing our industries from an estimated £77 billion of costs caused by over regulation, net contributions to the EU budget, and both the Common Agricultural and Common fisheries policy.
UK business is also heavily affected by the recent massive increases in the cost of energy, predominently driven up by EU ‘green’ policies on power generation. French and German companies now own many of our gas and electrical utilities companies, and can’t raise the money needed to comply with new EU green regulations in their home operations because of caps on price increases levied by their home governments. Instead, we face punitive increases in our energy pricing from these companies to finance their operations in their own countries. This again puts English businesses at a disadvantage against our continental neighbours, a disadvantage that could be eradicated if we had our own sovereignty back to enforce our own price caps and our own environmental policies.
With regards to ‘losing’ trade with Europe – many of the continental economies are on their knees and desperately need the revenue they receive from their exports to the UK. They are unlikely to want to lose what trade they have, and if we rejoin EFTA (The European Free Trade Association) we can have the beneits of free trade with EU members without the down side of the rules, regulations and strangling of our democracy. Whilst EU member states are in turmoil, other European countries in EFTA such as Norway and Switzerland are weathering the financial maelstrom far better.
3 – The ‘Referendum Lock’
Talk of a referendum lock to prevent more powers going to Brussels is, quite frankly, just a smokescreen.
The Lisbon Treaty is self amending, and therefore a referendum would not be triggered by further secession of powers as it is already in place for these powers to migrate. Since the ‘Referendum Lock’ was proposed, we have already seen the surrender of a large part of our EU rebate, and from May 1st all EU citizens have been able to claim a full array of benefits in this country without having to serve a minimum amount of time in employment to qualify, again draining public finances.
The EU is also proposing a ‘transaction tax’ on financial institutions that will disproportionately affect the City of London to generate extra revenue to bail out the struggling Euro Zone nations, again taking more money from our economy to prop up Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Spain. The power brokers of the EU have already brushed aside protests from David Cameron, with French president Nicholas Sarkozy being most vocal that we should ‘keep our noses out’ whilst the Franco-German interest is served, and accusing our politicians of ‘not understanding Europe because you are an island’.
This does not bode well for the repatriation of powers that Mr Randall talks about when our ‘partners’ are only interested in what money they can mop up from UK PLC to prop up their fading federal European dream.
4- The 3 way Referendum
One interesting point that Mr Randall does raise is the choice of 3 options on the ballot paper that was presented to the house for the EU Referendum vote. The choice on the E-Petition on the government website was a straight ‘in’ or ‘out’, yet this was changed when put in front of MP’s. This does seem strange and an attempt to water down the intent of the original e-petition by the powers that be.
However, MP’s would have been well aware of the public mood when facing this vote and should have voted in line with the wishes of their local electorate – 81 Conservative MP’s certainly showed the courage of their convictions, and surely if those in favour of the EU were so sure of their reasons for staying in they could have said ‘yes’ and then presented those arguments to the people to gain the result at the ballot box that they desired?
Once again, I would like to thank John Randall MP for his response – I don’t agree with it, but he has shown his mettle as a decent constituency MP to at least debate the issues.
If you agree with me that we should have been given our say, then write to your MP and sign the new e-petitions on the government website for another debate on this important issue for our country.
The people need to be given their voice – English or European, it is our right to choose!