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Spencer Pitfield of the Conservative Policy Forum: Six questions for Conservative members about Europe

Pitfield SpencerDr Spencer Pitfield, is the National Voluntary Director of the Conservative Policy Forum (CPF), a national group chaired by Oliver Letwin MP that gives its members the opportunity to discuss the major policy challenges facing Britain today. Follow Spencer on Twitter.

Newspapers continue to be full of commentary about Wednesday’s momentous speech. The headlines are broadly supportive and the fulsome support of business leaders, particularly in the Times, is I feel most significant.

While the commentators praise the PM, the Labour Party have taken a curious line: ruling out a referendum while seeking to claim that David Cameron only gave the speech to placate us – the Party – suggesting they don’t recognise any public concern about Europe.

Labour’s bluster and all round confusion is a little odd - you would think that the weeks of speculation might have given them time to think of a better response.

However, once all the rhetoric and innuendo has died down one fact cannot be hidden or swept to one side: yesterday was a Good Day. It was a Good Day for democracy, for frank discussion and honest debate by our fellow citizens.

Frank discussion and honest debate of the facts is our bread and butter, so it was also a Good Day for the CPF.

I don’t deny we’ve had a few frustrating moments along the way. CPF regulars will know that we send out our monthly discussions on the 14th of the month but you may not know that the paper itself is usually written at least two weeks beforehand. The lack of a speech before Christmas meant that we had to prepare an alternative paper –just in case – based on the ongoing Foreign Office review into the balance of competences between the UK and the EU. I suspect Groups will be pleased to be spared some of the more technical questions which that might have included had this ‘balance of competences’ paper been indeed sent out!

The Party was great about keeping us informed and it became obvious that the speech was going to happen so quickly after the 14th that any other paper we published would instantly become obsolete.

While No 10 were undoubtedly right to postpone the speech last week in light of the crisis in Algeria that did make things a little more fraught for us. We were all too aware that Groups around the country already had meetings planned to discuss our questions – many of them had invited guest speakers and rearrangement wasn’t really an option.

Now the speech is done, the questions are out there and the CPF discussions can begin in earnest. Do take a quick look at the questions below and if you are not already a member of your local CPF Group do make contact and join what will be one of our most significant discussions to date (email us oncpf@conservatives.com to find a local Group).

The CPF exists to make sure our Members’ voice is heard at the very top table and now is your chance to debate the European issue and make sure your thoughts inform Party policy as we move ever closer to the General Election in 2015.

  1. To what extent do you believe that now, as the challenges in the Eurozone drive fundamental change in Europe, is the right time to consider reformingour settlement with the EU?
  2. How valuable to British business is our membership of the single market? And how important is it that the UK has a seat around the table having a say in what the rules of the single market are
  3. What changes does the EU need to make to become more competitive and less bureaucratic?
  4. The Prime Minister called for a thorough examination of 'what the EU as a whole should do and should stop doing'. In what specific areas do you believe European co-operation is beneficial and what specific powers currently held at a European level should flow back to national governments
  5. What risks and what benefits do you see there being in countries of the EU being able to decide for themselves the level of integration that is right for each?
  6. What is your response to the Prime Minister's announcement that the next Conservative Manifesto will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative Government to negotiatea new settlement with our European partners, to be put to the British people in a referendum, within the first half of the next parliament, with a very simple choice: stay in the EU on these new terms or come out altogether?
Meanwhile, many colleagues from across the country are meeting this weekend at our CPF Winter Conference to talk about Europe, localism, and lots more besides!

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