Please note this post is from my previous blog. To read my posts during the 2017 General Election campaign click here.
No sooner have I started blogging than I have to leave this parish unattended for two weeks for a long-planned, long-awaited holiday to the Deep South. It’s our first holiday in two years and we’re taking in Jackson, New Orleans, Birmingham, Nashville and Memphis. It’s fair to say tomorrow’s 7.45am flight can’t come soon enough!
The trip means that as well as Wednesday’s Spending Review (and Wimbledon), I won’t be here for the second reading of James Wharton’s European Union (Referendum) Bill – a debate I wouldn’t otherwise have missed.
Fortunately I’ve been able to publicly co-sponsor the Bill today courtesy of Let Britain Decide – a brilliant use of social media to open up politics to the public. I hope that this will become a model for other pieces of legislation in the future, including bills that aren’t as high profile.
An in-out vote on the EU is long overdue, and badly needed. It has been nearly four decades since the public had their say on our relationship with Europe – and in that time the EU has strayed far from the original Common Market proposition. We have seen an increasing shift towards ever closer political union – not something that my parents’ generation signed up for in 1975, and something which like many people, I am extremely uncomfortable about.
The bill mandates that the government sets a date by the end of 2016, with an in-out referendum to be held by the end of 2017 – rightly giving the government the time it needs to renegotiate our position in Europe. Unlike UKIP, the ultimate party of easy answers, I believe it is right that we renegotiate first to get the best possible deal to put to the vote.
We don’t yet know how acceptable that deal will be. To give us the best possible choice, the government needs the strongest possible negotiating position – which is why I hope that Labour and Lib Dem MPs ignore their whips and vote for James Wharton’s bill on the 5th. This is the only course to take in the national interest. Doing anything less will put them on the wrong side of the electorate, which deserves to have its say on our membership of an organisation that has strayed far from what we signed up to.
I hope to read that Labour and Lib Dem MPs have done the right thing when I step off the plane the following Monday! In the meantime, I have some packing to do…
(Co-sponsor the bill on Facebook here)