We must have a vote on EU

Edward Leigh MP
Edward Leigh MP

Among my duties as a MP is serving as a delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

This is a body composed of various members of the national parliaments from across Europe, not just the members of the European Union. It provides a forum for all Europeans, and it’s no surprise that the calamitous situation in Syria came up for debate in our last session. I was proud to hear MPs from our neighbours praise the actions of the British Parliament in restraining the Government’s overzealous plans for military intervention.

Those among the ‘enlightened liberals’ of the press and the cities like to portray the Conservative party policy on Europe as an irrational, hodge-podge rearguard action to keep together a party that is deeply divided. All reasonable, sensible people – the liberals would tell us – believe in a united Europe centrally governed from Brussels. This is, in a word, nonsense. The debate shows that when the British people make their voice heard – as happened in preventing the Government from making a military intervention in Syria – we actually find friends across Europe raising their voices with us, and praising us when we’ve done well.

It is partly because of our friends on the continent that the Prime Minister is pushing for reform of the EU. We need to identify allies who share our vision for Europe: a group of free, sovereign, and independent countries working together to bring down barriers while allowing the liberty of each country to preserve its way of life and way of doing things. Recently, the EU introduced a timeframe for the elimination of mobile phone roaming charges within the EU.

This is a perfect example of an area where we Britons are happy to co-operate with our European partners. But there are other areas in which we are determined to continue making our own decisions. Other European governments will be unconvinced of our seriousness about reform unless faced with the threat of the UK leaving the EU. This is another reason why we must have a referendum so that voters can have their say on Europe.