EUROPE: Let the people decide

John Hayes and David Cameron
John Hayes and David Cameron
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Have your say

HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes

A democratically elected Government exercising power over laws and borders is fundamental to what it means to be a nation. Indeed the dictionary definition of Sovereignty is “a country’s independent authority and the right to govern itself”.

David Cameron stands proud amongst world leaders. Knowing him, I know that the Prime Minister’s patriotism is beyond doubt. He said last week, “I don’t love Brussels, I love Britain” which is why he has fought hard with European counterparts to distance our country from the dangerous dogma of ‘ever closer union’. I say ‘dangerous’ advisedly because the term ‘ever closer union’ is used by those that seek ever more supranational government, still greater dilution of the right of nations to govern themselves.

The Prime Minister has negotiated a better relationship with the EU for Britain. He’s right about cutting the benefits EU migrants get, making Europe more competitive and blocking unwanted EU laws. So, for me the coming referendum is not about the deal David Cameron has struck, which is self-evidently better than the status quo. The Europe debate is not about what David Cameron has or hasn’t achieved, it is more fundamental than that. At its heart is power and people’s connection with it. Put simply, I believe that power should be exercised close to its effect. The more remote those who take decisions become, the less influence enjoyed by the people affected by their decisions. In essence, the creeping power of the EU means fewer and fewer opportunities for the British people to influence decisions which affect their lives.

My views on Britain’s relationship with the European Union are well known and long standing. Over a decade ago I wrote for the Bruges Group that “the European project has metamorphosed from a simple trading concord into a bloated monolith with power and influence over almost every aspect of our national life”. That was in 2005, and no one really believes things have got better since. And with the ongoing Eurozone crisis I am reminded, once again, of the folly of those I fought who wanted to replace the trusted Pound with the risky Euro. Although we kept our currency then, to choose now to continue with a union of nations which didn’t risks being dragged down with them.

I will be voting to leave the European Union because the people’s elected representatives in Westminster should make our laws, not unelected Brussels bureaucrats; British judges should be in charge of British courts; and the UK should be able to control immigration by having the definitive say on who enters our country.

However, we must be cautious to avoid being seduced by the notion that leaving the EU is the solution to all our woes. Nor should we dismiss some of the vital cross-border work we do with European allies, on counter terrorism and law enforcement, for example.

Voting to remain in the EU may seem like the safe option but the reality is that the economic situation on the continent is bad and getting worse not better. Britain has been giving too much money to Brussels for too long, and the demands will grow as the ailing single currency’s survival depends upon tighter political union.

Surely, it’s not unreasonable to say that we should spend our money on our priorities, nor is it controversial to say that in ending the supremacy of EU law we will get back the sovereignty eroded over recent decades?

So, Britain shouldn’t be afraid of shaping its own future outside of the European Union. I agree with the Prime Minister’s words - he said “I will never say that our country couldn’t survive outside Europe. We are Great Britain – we can achieve great things.”

In my Bruges Group paper I warned of the EU’s “loss of accountability as power moved further from the grasp of ordinary citizens”. Now the power to decide whether our nation’s future lies in the EU is in the hands of the British people; I’ve made my views clear, but it is right that the people have their say in the referendum that the Government, of which I am proud to be a part, first promised and has now delivered.