Back in 2006, I was the first Member of Parliament to publicly call for the UK to leave the EU, and since then I have seen many colleagues come to the same conclusion. I have had over 10 years to study the UK’s relationship with the EU and strongly believe that we do not have the best deal. With no signs of accountability, a forfeit of sovereignty, a balance of trade deficit and a hefty price tag for the privilege, I believe that the UK would not only survive without being a member of the European Union, but we would be better off out. I believe that the upcoming vote on our relationship with the EU is an historic and exciting opportunity for this country.
One of the main arguments for staying is that the UK must stay in the EU for influence – that we need to be at the top table making the decisions. Yet, this influence is an illusion. Over the last Parliamentary Session the UK voted against 23 motions in the EU Council – and yet in every single instance we were outvoted. Instead of being 1 of 9 countries like in 1975, we are now 1 of 28. The EU has grown tremendously over the past 40 years and, with each new country, our influence lessens. If we leave the EU, we will regain our power to negotiate our own trade deals with whoever we want.
The economy is also an issue concerning voters. Indeed, many people will be happy to accept the loss of sovereignty or the ability to control our borders if that means we benefit economically by staying in the EU.
Unfortunately, this is another myth. Trade will not be lost in the case of Brexit, and the reason is that trade is a two-way street – our European neighbours make money from us too! In fact, they make more money from us than we do from them. Every year since 1973 Britain has been running a balance of trade deficit with the EU, which was a staggering £68 billion in the most recent year. In fact the House of Commons Library has confirmed that if we left the EU, the UK would be the EU’s single biggest export market - bigger than the US and China - and it is safe to say that Germany will still want to sell us BMWs and Mercedes and France will still want to sell Champagne and cheese to us.
Another scare story is that millions of jobs would be lost if the UK left the EU. However, when did we suddenly gain millions of jobs by joining the EU? That is because these jobs are not dependant on EU membership but related to trade with European countries. Statistical analysis has shown there are 2 million more jobs in the EU dependant on trading with the UK than vice versa so, again, the EU needs us for jobs more than we need them!
The free movement of people is also a concern for many and something that is impossible to control whilst we remain a member of the European Union. We currently have an immigration policy that discriminates against individuals from outside the EU, yet completely strips our borders of any control over the type and number of people we want in this country from the EU. In the year up to September 2015 the Office of National Statistics estimated that 257,000 EU citizens migrated to the UK – the highest level recorded. This surplus of mainly unskilled workers not only allows big businesses to push down wages, but also increases pressure on public services. We need a fair immigration policy that allows us to choose the people we want in this country – regardless of where they are from, and allows us to turn away those we don’t want.
Back in 1975 the countries that now make up the EU accounted for 33% of the world economy. Today it is 24% and by 2030 according to the House of Commons library it will be 17%. By 2050 it will be just 13%. The EU is a declining part of the world economy. Our future prosperity depends on trading with China, India, South America and emerging economies in Africa. Not being stuck to an inward-facing, backward-looking protection racket.
Still each year, for the privilege we have a membership fee of £18 billion of which £10 billion is our net contribution. It is ridiculous to pay £10 billion a year for a £68 billion a year trade deficit. We can have that for nothing.
In the UK, if you do not like the Government, you can throw them out at a General Election. The EU Commission is totally unaccountable. The UK is the world’s 5th largest economy. If we leave, the UK will be the EU’s biggest single export market. We do not need to be tied to a declining part of the world economy - Great Britain built its wealth by being a global trader and we should look positively out to the rest of the world. In order to regain control of our country voted ‘Leave’ on June 23rd.
I would like to thank everyone who went and made their vote count. With a turnout of 72%, and over 33 million people voting, this referendum saw the highest turnout in a UK wide vote since 1992. Not only did the Shipley constituency vote with a majority to leave the European Union, the Bradford District voted with a majority to leave, Yorkshire and Humber voted with a majority to leave, England voted with a majority to leave and the United Kingdom voted with a majority to leave the European Union. This was a clear choice from the electorate, with a majority of over 1.3 million votes. I appreciate that many will be disappointed with the result and concerned about the consequences. That is perfectly understandable, however the country now needs to come together. We must accept and respect the result to ensure the success of the UK’s future as a fully independent nation. I will continue to work hard to make sure the will of the electorate is fully implemented and to get the best possible deal for the United Kingdom outside of the European Union.