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Bill Cash MP: We are at a historic crossroads in our relationship with the EU. It's time for a referendum.


Bill Cash is the Member of Parliament for Stone.

This is a historic turning point both for country and for the Conservative Party. The dream of ever closer union has failed and the root of this trouble is the fantasy world of trying to create economic and political union amongst so many diverse countries with diverse cultures and different democratic traditions. 

It is about the daily lives of the British people and our democratic traditions and economic performance. The idea that a fiscal union of 17 would be stable is simply wrong. It will concentrate and increase the dangers of centralisation and will be fundamentally unstable. Germany will not be able to bail out the other countries and it is a complete strategic failure for people to think they can. Germany of course does want to preserve the euro because they are doing so well out of it, but they believe that you can require countries to obey rules when in fact countries are made up of individuals who have their own idea as to how they should be democratically governed. This does not fit in, by any means, with the rules prescribed from above or the conditions which would be imposed. The Eurocrats and Germany do not understand this, which is a fundamental flaw in the entire European project. 

However, within individual electorates in individual countries, decisions can be taken to improve their economic performance and develop small and medium sized businesses and remove burdens on business, but this is not the European method. The European method has locked people, by unanimous decisions, into a European system which cannot be changed, and these oppressive regulations and rules based on theoretical assumptions – as with the Lisbon agenda and the 2020 agenda – have failed, and the result is no growth. 

We need to move away from centralisation and integration and back to decision-making by Parliaments on behalf of electorates of each country by co-operating – through an EFTA-plus arrangement – co-operating for free trade, competiveness and growth, but based on democratic consent, not based on majority bloc voting arrangements. This would provide free choice in the marketplace and at the ballot box. This is the route to solving the problem – not imposing economic prescriptions and rules which have always been broken in the past and will not be observed in the future, because we are dealing with people, not economic or theoretical machines. This is fundamentally the difference of the British approach, which favours freedom of choice, and the Eurocratic and Germanic approach, which is fundamentally different. This therefore presents David Cameron with a historic moment, and given the scale of the crisis it is therefore essential that he takes the right path. 

Whether it is the Eurozone-17 or the EU-27, he must recognise that the intention expressed by the Germans and the French is to pursue a model which is entirely unsuited to the UK and will create a fundamental change in the relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom. Countries in the non-Eurozone area will vote with the German-centric fiscal union, if they go down the route of a Eurozone fiscal union – at the expense of the United Kingdom, not only in relation to the Single Market and the City of London, which would be disastrous, but also in relation to the literally hundreds of directives in other areas of the Treaties such as transport, communications, energy, etc, where the solidarity between the Eurozone fiscal union countries within the framework of the existing Treaties will create a critical mass of a voting bloc against the UK. 

It is an illusion to imagine that this critical mass will not exist, and therefore it is matter of grave importance to demand, on the threat of veto, the repatriation of powers to enable growth within the United Kingdom, but also growth within the European Union which is prevented by the existing rules and overregulation, including social and employment laws which undermine and destroy small and medium sized businesses and the capacity to grow in a competitive world. 

As I have said in my pamphlet, ‘It’s the EU, Stupid’ (5th September), we must therefore face ourselves out to the Rest of the World demanding a fundamental change to the relationship which is being thrust upon us in any event by Germany and France, and re-gear our entire economic performance to the Rest of the World where, last year, the current account trade deficit with the EU was -£51.7bn and the surplus with the rest of the world £15bn. This includes re-gearing our relationships to the Commonwealth countries, including India, as well as the US, which puts us in a position of potential economic prosperity from their growth in a free-trading sphere of ever-increasing prosperity. 

We are told that 3 million jobs are at stake in our trading relationships with the EU – no one is suggesting that we would not continue to trade. The problem is the extent to which our trading generates a deficit. Furthermore, the other Member States have to trade with us or their economies would go into implosion and low growth. 

The issue cannot be simply be reduced to whether or not the proposed arrangements are technically similar to the Schengen arrangement – which they are not – but we must concentrate on the bigger landscape about the failure of the European project with which we cannot continue to acquiesce. In doing so we must offer the other countries the opportunity to reform the European system, but in the absence of their being prepared to do this, insist on a change in the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union, aligning ourselves with other countries who share our democratic and economic vision. If Germany, France and other countries do not wish to respond, then we must have a referendum, establishing the principle of renegotiation on the positive alternatives we offer in the interests of the peoples of Europe, but above all, the people of the United Kingdom to whom we owe our first duty as MPs representing the individual electors who voted us into Parliament on the clear understanding that we would protect their interests. 

The idea that is being peddled that a referendum is not required, leaving aside the issue of timing, all because of the Coalition Agreement is wholly misleading. The Coalition Agreement is not law and even Section 4 of the European Union Act is not definitive in excluding a referendum where a new Treaty or series of legal devices put together has the effect of merely appearing to make provision for Member States other than the UK. 

The constitutional position for a referendum, let alone the political and economic position, is not clear-cut by any means and cannot override the fundamental principle, as for example in 1975, when a referendum was conducted because the renegotiations involved a fundamental change in the overall relationship between the United Kingdom and the then European Community. 

A referendum is required quite simply because the current proposals, whether for the Eurozone-17 or EU-27, vitally affect the people of the United Kingdom and our relationship to the European Union. No amount of sophistry or legal technicalities can avoid this simple and obvious fact. Hiding behind technicalities is in itself essentially undemocratic. The British people in these circumstances must have their say particularly as so many have never had the opportunity to express their views since 1975. We are now at a historic crossroads and the answer after a period of renegotiation and debate in Parliament and outside, is we must have a referendum as a matter of principle, honour and trust.


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