How I Will Be Voting in the EU Referendum

After much thought, my personal decision is to vote to leave the EU; not because I think David Cameron did a bad job, but because I believe that on balance we could forge a better future outside.

David Cameron has delivered a new deal for the UK and if the British people vote to remain in the EU it will be on better terms. I will continue to support this deal in Brussels and do all that I can to ensure it is duly approved by the European Parliament, where there are many people who want to be as helpful as they can towards the UK.

As the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in his address to the House "the fact that we are holding this referendum now is recognition of a growing unease at the direction in which the EU has evolved--a growing sense that Europe was pursuing a goal that Britain did not share, and that we risked being dragged into a level of political integration for which few in Britain have any appetite."

For every Briton this referendum will come down to a careful weighing up of the negatives and positives of both cases.

After much thought, my personal decision is to vote to leave the EU; not because I think David Cameron did a bad job, but because I believe that on balance we could forge a better future outside.

Of course leaving the EU will present some challenges not least securing a new trade agreement between the UK and the European Union. But this opportunity may never come again, so I must decide what I feel will be best for my constituency of London - as a truly global city as opposed to just a European city - and for Britain in generations to come.

Those who argue that Britain will immediately transform into a nirvana after leaving the EU are giving a false promise. New trade deals will take time. Equally those who claim that we will become like North Korea - shut off from the world and its markets - are scaremongering. The British people deserve a much better level of debate than the polarised arguments we have seen from both sides this far.

A crucial deciding factor for me is immigration. I want to see a Britain where everyone can achieve their ambitions whether they come from a wealthy or poorer background. Equally, I want to see an immigration policy that is balanced and fair - where we treat everyone outside the UK equally whether they are from an EU country or not. Sadly, a fair immigration system is incompatible with our membership of the EU.

Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that only by leaving the EU can we be genuinely free to put in place a fair immigration policy for ourselves.

As the son of immigrants who came from a non-EU country, this is my deeply held conviction on an issue that matters deeply to me. I have always told aspiring politicians to be true to themselves, and it would be hypocritical to ignore that advice myself in order to further my career.

My position is personal and not that of the ECR Group that I am proud to lead. The vast majority of ECR MEPs want to keep the UK in the EU, to bolster our efforts towards further reforms of the EU that will benefit the entire continent. I am proud that the UK renegotiation package could have a positive impact for all countries that remain members, but clearly there is a lot more work to do if the EU is to remain relevant in the 21st century.

I know many people including good Conservatives who have wrestled with the many issues on both sides and decided that they will vote to remain in the EU, accepting that they are not voting for the status quo but an EU where other countries will continue to pursue political integration. I respect their decision. If the British people do vote to stay in, then thanks to David Cameron, the UK will do so on better terms, something no British Prime Minister has been able to negotiate before.

Syed Kamall is the leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament and MEP for London

This blog first appeared on Syed's website, and can be read here

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