In light of the recent debates, and the vote on having a referendum on the UK's position in the EU, I would like to take the opportunity to alliterate the Conservative Party's position on this matter, and emphasise the value to be seen in our role in Europe.
A comparatively short time ago I contested a General Election on a very clear manifesto. I made it clear that the Conservatives wanted an open and democratic Europe:
"We will be positive members of the European Union but we are clear that there should be no further extension of the EU's power over the UK without the British people's consent".
And a Conservative Government that would:
• play an "active and energetic role in the EU";
• fight our corner to promote our national interests;
• never allow Britain to slide into a federal Europe;
• amend the 1982 European Communities act so that any proposed treaty would be subject to referendum;
• never take the UK into the Euro and prevent any future government from doing so without a referendum;
• introduce a UK Sovereignty Bill to ensure that authority remains in our Parliament - use of a 'ratchet' clause (where power is handed to EU) would also be subject to referendum.
All of this since the General Election we have either done or we are in the process of doing.
Nowhere in the Election manifesto on which I fought the last election was there any suggestion of an incoming Conservative government either seeking to introduce a referendum to renegotiate Britain's terms of membership with the EU or an in-out referendum.
On the Monday 24th October, the day of the vote, I asked the prime minister to reassure any doubts people may have, in my question: "Will the prime minister confirm that, at the last general election, the Conservative manifesto committed us to seeking to return powers from Europe on economic and social policy, but that nowhere did it contain a commitment to seek an in/out referendum or to seek to renegotiate our terms of membership of the European Union?"
The prime minister responded by confirming our above promise: "My hon. Friend makes an important point. We did have a commitment to seek the return of important powers from the European Union, such as the social and employment legislation....however, it was not part of our manifesto or our policy to seek a referendum that included an in/out option."
I would also like to add that over the years the benefits of the UK being part of the European Union far outweigh any costs incurred from membership and let us not kid ourselves that even if we left the EU we could never divorce ourselves from Europe and the Common Markets (54% of our trade is with Europe).