8th July 2012
The Prime Minister is right to talk about holding a referendum on Britain's relationship with the European Union. He is also right that this shouldn't take place until after the next General Election.
As I travel around the South West I hear how few people are happy with Britain's current relationship with the EU. Europe costs too much and interferes too much in our daily lives. Whilst we value the single market that enables us to trade freely with our European partners, we worry that Europe is developing into a Political Union that we haven't voted to join.
I appreciate that many people want to leave the EU and want an in/out referendum now. The problem is that this precludes the possibility of improving our current position. A Yes vote means we affirm our current terms of membership (something I don't wish to do) and would prevent any form of repatriation of powers back to Britain. That is why I believe we need to take our time to get this right.
I want to see a Conservative majority Government elected in 2015 on a mandate to repatriate powers from Brussels to Britain. This would be to repeat the manifesto promise we made at the last General Election, which would give the new Government the opportunity to renegotiate our relationship with the EU and then to put the end result to a vote. The question should be whether the British people want to remain within the EU on the new terms, which I hope would resemble the Common Market we joined in 1973, or would they prefer to leave?
We need to be absolutely sure that we are asking the right question at the right time.