MARK Pawsey, MP for Rugby, will be one of the many Conservatives to vote against the European referendum at Westminster tonight (Monday).
In a statement issued today, Mr Pawsey said: “On the issue of Britain’s relationship with the European Union I stand by the statement, ‘Britain’s interests are best served being in Europe, not run by Europe’.
To this end I believe the Government should actively be pursuing an agenda of seeking to return powers from Europe, and reverse the tide of recent years. As an active member of the European Union we are in a position to influence, in our best interests, the rules governing our largest market.
The motion on Monday calls for a referendum providing three options: firstly to remain a member on the current terms; secondly to leave the EU; and a third option to renegotiate the current terms. The motion does not state what limits there should be to negotiations of the current terms, and I therefore believe that negotiators in such an instance would be placed in an impossible position. It does not make clear what the position would be if all three options were broadly supported in similar measure. Could a decision to withdraw be made by just over a third of all people voting? Furthermore, if such a referendum were to be agreed to, I believe that both the country and the Conservative party would split with a period of discord and disharmony which should be avoided in the interests of both.
An amendment has been tabled which sets out an alternative course of action which I find much more attractive. This is to firstly identify those powers a government would seek to renegotiate; then commence the renegotiation process; and at the end of the process to put the result of the negotiations to a referendum. As someone who has been involved in a number of business deals it seems to me to make much more sense to renegotiate first to try and secure better terms before coming to a decision on the quality and nature of the deal. This would force government to start the negotiation process, for the negotiators to work in the best interests of Britain, and then to let the people decide whether the government has delivered.
I agree that the people of Britain should have their say about the nature of our relationship with Europe. I also accept the concerns of people who object to putting off something that we’ve been putting off for many years, and that it is always possible to say that any given time is not the right time. However there are two matters that should be borne in mind. Firstly the current crisis in the Eurozone means that this really isn’t the right time. Given our current links with Europe, with 40% of our overseas trade there providing 3.5 million jobs, it is massively against our interests to see the Euro collapse and we should do nothing that could in any way contribute to that happening. Secondly, and tactically, a premature referendum could result in a response to remain in Europe on the current terms, thereby preventing any prospect of future change.
In summary I fear that the main motion would divide our country and our party, while the amendment could bring both together in seeking to ensure the fullest benefit from our membership of the European Union.”