Letter to the Times - Geoffrey Van Orden MEP on Europe
As sent 4 July 2013
Sir, Distinguished historians (Times, 3 July) are backing the Prime Minister’s aim of renegotiating Britain’s EU membership before giving the British people the opportunity to decide whether we stay or leave.
While that opportunity will be given legal substance through the EU Referendum Bill, the content of renegotiation now needs to be set out.
Nearly 40 years ago, Harold Wilson promised to renegotiate Britain’s position in Europe. As his former Cabinet Secretary Lord Armstrong has remarked, "Harold didn't get what he set out to get. But he got what he thought would be good enough to say he'd done all right." That won’t wash this time.
There is an expectation of substantial change in Britain’s relationship with the EU. To my mind this must include an end to “ever closer union”; a red card to defend vital national interests; redefinition of “free movement” of people; full control of our borders and immigration policy; legal safeguards to protect the single market; no more shared competence in social and economic policy, fisheries and justice; and an end to EU meddling in defence.
If we are to remain, we need a Europe that costs us less and does a lot less better. As the Prime Minister made clear in January, “our participation in the single market and our ability to help set its rules is the principal reason for our membership of the EU”. Most of the rest we can do without.
Geoffrey Van Orden MBE MEP (Conservative)
88 Rectory Lane