3 February 2016
This morning the European Parliament debated the proposals of European Council President Donald Tusk for a new settlement for the UK in the EU.
This morning the European Parliament debated the proposals of European Council President Donald Tusk for a new settlement for the UK in the EU. Conservative MEP and leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, Syed Kamall, said that the proposals by Tusk were a good place to start, but that the UK will only benefit by a full and frank referendum debate that ensures all sides are heard, and the ‘perception gap’ between Britain and many in the EU is closed.
“When I first became a MEP in 2005, it was around the time the French and Dutch voted no in their referenda on the European Constitution.
“As we considered the implications of those “No” votes here in the European Parliament, I was shocked by the number of MEPs who simply wanted to ignore the results and push on with further European integration.
“But perhaps the most shocking moment for me was when the then leader of the EPP stood up and said, “Nothing must be allowed to get in the way of the European Project. Nothing must be allowed to get in the way of political integration. Nothing must be allowed to get in the way of economic integration.
“As a British MEP, this belief in the European Project – where the eventual goal was to build a United States of Europe or a Federal Republic of Europe – was news to me.
“There and then, I realised that there was a massive gap in perception between many in EU institutions who believe in the European Project and the people of Britain, many of whom tell me that they believed they voted to stay in a Common Market.
“Reading more about the history of the EU, I realised that the political dimension of the EU had been played down by politicians of all parties in the UK for the last 40 years. And it is still being played down.
“And unless this gap in perceptions is resolved, the UK would continue to have an ambiguous relationship with the EU.
“This is why David Cameron was right to call this referendum to give the British people a say; because we should never be afraid to ask people what they want, and then to stick by the outcome.
“A large number of voters I speak to say that they do not yet know how to vote and that they will wait to see the details of the deal. Rather like when you go into a shop and someone promises you a great deal in a couple of weeks and asking you to commit now. They want to read the small print.
“Donald Tusk’s letter to the European Council and his draft proposals are a good place to start on the four areas set out by the British Prime Minister.
– Mutual respect between eurozone and non-eurozone countries.
– The EU becoming more competitive by opening the single market, cutting red tape, and increasing global trade.
– Ever closer union not applying to all countries with national parliaments playing a larger role.
– Freedom of movement to work, not to claim, and those people who move should only get something out of the system once they have put something in.
“It is hard to see how these are just British questions. These are matters that should benefit all European Union countries.
“The next few weeks will see a lot of travel, a lot of papers being read, a lot of persuading being done, as the council seeks a final deal.
“And once the deal is done, the real debate begins.
“For this referendum to be meaningful, it needs a full, frank and honest debate with both sides being clear what remaining in the EU, and leaving the EU, could mean.
“But at the end of the day, It doesn’t matter what we say, or what Donald Tusk or David Cameron says. It doesn’t matter what politicians on both sides of this debate may say. It doesn’t matter what we say in the European Parliament or the Westminster Parliament
“It is the British people who will have the final say.
It is time for the British people to have their say for the first time in 40 years. Please respect that.”
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