Australian Monarchist League

Philip was asked to address the Australian Monarchist League read his speech he gave on the relationship of Australia, the UK and the EU.

Can I start by thanking the Australian Monarchist League for inviting me to speak at this conference and for all the work they do promoting the links between the UK and Australia and for their support for the Royal Family.

Our deep involvement in the EU has without doubt damaged our links with the Commonwealth and this is something which must be redressed. The historical links means that the Commonwealth should always be high on our list of priorities, but with the rapid growth in the economy of India in particular there are sound economic reasons too for making the most of our historical links. That will never happen with the EU. EU exports to Australia are less than 2% of their total and imports less than 1% and most of that comes from the UK. We must as a country make the most of these links and not ignore them as the EU wishes to do.

It is also a great pleasure to follow Mark Wallace from the Freedom Association who made an excellent speech. Mark and the Freedom Association have done more than most to campaign for our withdrawal from the EU and I am very pleased to have played a small role in supporting their superb Better Off Out campaign.

At last year's Conservative Party conference in Blackpool, the Freedom Association gave me the platform at a fringe meeting to become the first Conservative MP to openly say we should leave the EU. It was quite extraordinary that I was the first Conservative MP who advocated us withdrawing from the European Union. Given that for a long time over 40% of the public have believed that we should leave the EU, it was something of a disgrace that nobody in Parliament would argue that case; yet another example of an issue where the public are way ahead of politicians. For a Parliamentary democracy to work everyone has to feel that somebody in there is speaking up for them. The fact that so many people felt that nobody was articulating their view on this issue has to be one of the reasons why so few people have been voting at elections.

At that meeting in Blackpool, I said to the people there that it might only be me at that point, but the measure of success would be how many people were saying it the year after and how many the year after that. Well, a year on and now 10 MPs have openly supported the Better Off Out campaign and I will continue to work as hard as I can to ensure that more follow. There are a number of my colleagues who I think possibly secretly agree with me but haven't said so and I will try to give them the courage of their convictions. There are also many of my colleagues who think that we should go an awful long way down that road - they call it renegotiation - but I will explain why I think renegotiation is a waste of time later.

With regard to the reasons for withdrawal I want to go back to our referendum in 1975 on whether to stay in the Common Market. I wasn't old enough to vote in that referendum - and looking round the room here I am not sure that anydody here was old enough to vote in it either - but the people who did told me that they thought they were voting for free trade. Of course we all want free trade with countries in the EU, but you do not have to be in the EU to have free trade with the EU as some other countries have already demonstrated. Britain built its wealth as world traders and we want to trade freely with China, India, the rest of the Commonwealth, the US, and Africa. What we do not want is to be stuck inside a protection racket set up to subsidise inefficient European farmers and businesses. Of course the people who voted in that referendum in 1975 were lied to; what they were actually voting for was the creation of a European Superstate.

Yes, we are in a European Superstate - people try and deny it - its like the Emperor's new clothes though - everybody knows it - all of the Conservative MPs know it's a European Superstate - but very few are actually prepared to say that the Emperor is naked. And if you don't think so - just think about it - it has all the hallmarks of a State - it has a President, its got an anthem, its got a Parliament, its got a Court - it has almost got a Constitution and no doubt will have one very soon - its got a currency, its got its own flag, it has got its own embassies around the world - it has every single hallmark of a State and so we may as well at least be honest with ourselves about this.

We are in a European Superstate.

If anybody still doubts it they should also bear in mind that about two-thirds of the laws that come in to effect in this country - are made from Brussels not from Westminster. People try to tell me that we are a sovereign nation - we are not a sovereign nation any more and we need to be honest and wake up to this.

Even if all these laws being spewed out a great rate of knots by the EU were good things - and most are not; most are nanny-state, politically correct, interfering nonsense - but even if they were all good, we could quite happily pass all these laws in the British Parliament. We don't need a European Commission or a European Parliament to pass laws; we have perfectly adequate constitutional arrangements for setting our own laws which have served us quite well for many centuries … so if we want to pass these laws we should pass them in the Westminster Parliament.

I believe that people just want free trade. William Hague had a slogan in the 1999 European Elections which was 'in Europe but not run by Europe' and that was a slogan under which the Conservative Party did very well as it happens. Now I actually think that I would probably concede that the vast majority of people in the country would probably subscribe to that line - that is what they would like to think - in Europe not run by Europe - those words do probably meet the demands of what most people would like to see.

But we have got to be honest with people - that isn't on offer. We have got to actually accept that being in Europe means being run by Europe and if we don't want to be run by Europe we have to come out of the European Union.

I think most people actually are beginning to accept that, and I want to promote a new slogan for the next European Elections for the Conservative Party which is based on William Hague's slogan. I would much prefer the slogan to be 'Trade with Europe not run by Europe'. That's what people thought they had voted for in 1975 and we should deliver that to them albeit over 30 years later.

And that's really why I don't believe in renegotiation as some of my colleagues, who I have an awful lot of time for, advocate. There are two problem with advocating renegotiation; the first is that to negotiate you have to have somebody round the table to negotiate with and I am not aware of anybody in the European Union who is actually prepared to negotiate with us about the things that we want to negotiate about - so again let us just be honest with people and say that that option isn't on the table.

The second thing I have against renegotiation is that well actually… what do we want to renegotiate? What as far as I can see we want to renegotiate is the ability to set the laws of this country back in our own Parliament. Well why negotiate about it - the answer to that is just to get on with it and withdraw from the European Union.

So I don't advocate renegotiation.

Everybody I think realises that the EU is corrupt - the auditors recently refused to sign off the EU accounts for a 12th successive year (and we still keep giving more and more money to it - you couldn't make it up!) - and I think they also understand that the EU is undemocratic - if you want to get rid of this Labour government (like me!) then you can easily do so by voting Conservative at the next election. However if you want to get rid of the European Commission there is absolutely nothing you can do. I think most people understand that but they are prepared to accept that if they feel that there job is dependant on us being in the EU.

There are some people who peddle the myth that if we withdraw from the European Union we won't be able to trade freely with the countries in it and we would lose jobs. To be honest I have never heard quite so much nonsense in a long time. The House of Commons Library will tell you that our balance of trade with the European Union since 1973 when we joined is a deficit (yes a deficit) of £250bn. We have imported £230 billions more stuff from the European Union than we have exported to them.

Now is anybody here seriously going to tell me that based on that the European Union are going to stop trading with us freely if we withdraw from the European Union? Of course they're not - of course they will want to carry on - they want to export all these things to us just the same. It is totally irrelevant whether we are a member of the European Union or not. And there are other countries in Europe like Switzerland whose proportion of trade is much higher with the European Union and they manage very well outside of the European Union. So there is already a blueprint for countries that do an awful lot of exports to the European Union who manage perfectly well without it.

And its not just our balance of trade deficit that is an issue in terms of the economy. A successful economy doesn't mean being tied in with a bureaucratic, over-regulated European Union - what creates wealth isn't being part of that kind of a club - it is about having low regulation and low taxes to inspire people to come here and want to invest money. The secret of America's economic success has been based on regulating their businesses less, taxing them less and that is the model we should have. Being part of this over-centralised, over-regulated club does nothing to help our economy.

However it is even worse than the balance of trade deficit and the vast quantity of laws set outside of our democratic control. We have actually paid a huge membership fee for joining this European Union and since 1973 it amounts to £197 billion!

People say to me well we can't afford tax cuts, we can't afford to do this, we can't afford to do that - yet we have thrown away almost £200 billion in membership fees to the European Union since 1973, and next year it will its highest ever level of over £14bn despite the accounts still not being signed off. Of course the pro-Europeans would say well we've had some of that back haven't we? Yes we have had some of it back - but all the money we have had back has been from the European Union promoting itself with politically correct projects around the country that most of us wouldn't want to see anyway. What we want is the money back ourselves so that we can spend it ourselves on the things we want it spent on.

One thing I hear some people say is well this is the wrong time to talk about withdrawing from the European Union - people in the European Union are coming round to our way of thinking. I hear this all the time. Tony Blair says it, people in the Conservative Party say it to me. Well I tend to pose two questions to people who say that.

The first is what evidence have you got that people are coming round to our way of thinking? They can't give one example that shows that people are coming round to our way of thinking. They can't give one example of one law that will be passed back down from Brussels to national parliaments. Just by saying people are coming round to our way of thinking doesn't actually bring it about!

The second question I ask those people is alright - suppose that's the case - how long do we leave it? We should challenge those people to put a line in the sand and say that in so many years time we can then all decide whether things have moved in our direction or not. Lets see something tangible in a definite timescale. Lets have a timescale for when some powers have been handed back to national Parliaments. Are we going to say one year, are we going to say two years, are we saying five years? When can we expect these things will be returned back to national Parliaments so that we can actually see that people are coming round to our way of thinking.

So if people do advocate that view let them give a timescale as to when we can expect to see some progress because I can tell you from my visit to the European Parliament I didn't meet anybody who was actually even talking about returning powers back to national Parliaments - they were ditching a few regulations that they were dreaming up from nowhere but no one was actually talking about handing any powers back.

The other thing that people say is that it would be political suicide for the Conservative Party or any other party to retreat into this anti-European bunker. The thing I don't understand about this argument is that in all the opinion polls I have ever seen there appears to be more people who believe that we should withdraw from the European Union than say they will vote Conservative. So how on earth this could become party political suicide I really don't know. It strikes me that, based on the opinion polls I have seen, that this is actually a way of getting more support for the Conservative Party.

Now I said in my Maiden Speech that I will always be on the backbenches and you have probably understood now why I will always be on the backbenches! It is always sensible for people with little talent like me to say that you want to stay on the backbenches as when you do people will say well he did say he would stay on the backbenches and he has done. Far better than to just never be promoted! There is an awful lot of talent among the new intake of Conservative MPs who are far more talented than me who can take up all the jobs - but one of the luxuries of not being capable and staying on the backbenches is that you can actually speak out on some of these important issues and I hope that in the future there will be many more Conservative MPs who will come out of the bunker and actually say some of the things that I have said today.

I can't offer you any instant hope - I am not going to say that next week we are going to be out of the European Union, or next year or maybe not even in 10 years, I have no idea but I think the proof of this particular pudding will be the direction we move in.

Things are clearly moving in the right direction. As I said at the start, last year there was just me; this year there are 10, and I hope next year there will be more and that every year we get more until we have a majority in the House of Commons which has to be our goal. The debate has been well and truly started, and the leaders of the political parties will not be able to put the genie back in the bottle; this is a debate we have got to have and one we have got to win.

One option is for us to campaign for a referendum on our continued membership of the European Union because I think this is something that everybody could unite on, and get the parties out of a hole as Harold Wilson did for Labour in 1975. In the debate on the European Constitution in Parliament last year that great Euro-sceptic Sir Menzies Campbell, actually said something with which I agreed. He said, as an argument for the European Constitution, that the European Union now was very, very different to the one that we joined back in 1975 and therefore we needed a European Constitution.

Now I actually intervened on his speech and said that I agreed wholeheartedly that the European Union today was very, very different to the one that we joined back in 1975 - and given that we all appear to agree on that - what have we got to fear from actually saying to the British people again… now that we know what the European Union is really like, do you still want to be a part of this European Union that is so different to the one we joined back in 1975? I don't see why anybody, whether they are pro-European or anti EU like me can argue with that. People of my generation have never had a say as to whether they want to be part of any kind of European Union yet alone the one that we have got at the moment. Indeed you have got to be at least 50 years old to have taken part in that referendum back in 1975 and many who did want to now change their vote!

So lets have a referendum. In a referendum I would advocate withdrawing from the European Union - and I dare say an awful lot of people at that point would also come out of the woodwork and advocate withdrawing from the European Union - I just hope a lot of my colleagues who are very, very good people, have the courage of their convictions and say it sooner than that.

Earlier this month at the Conservative Party conference at another Fringe meeting of the Freedom Association I said that we needed to win the economic arguments for leaving the EU; and that we needed a “Business for Withdrawal” organisation as people who want to see companies say that they would employ more people if we left the EU and that we would do better.

Within just a few weeks, ICM conducted a poll of 1000 company chief executives. The poll was dynamite. 52% of these company chief execs said that the EU was “failing”; 54% said that the cost of regulation outweighed any benefits of the single market - and that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone as the European Commission recently admitted that the cost of EU regulations to business was 600 billion euros; they had clearly forgotten that they had already said the benefits of the single market to companies was 160 billion euros; so we have it from the horses mouth that businesses are worse off in the EU; but crucially 60% of these company chief execs said that Britain should do what I say; leave the EU and just have a free trade only agreement. This is a huge shift in business attitudes to the EU.

In the poll businesses said that China, India and South America were the places that were going to be the growth areas of the future, and only 24% thought the EU would gain in importance in the world economy, 35% thought it would decline.

Mr Chairman, I think that the European Union is corrupt, inefficient, bureaucratic, and undemocratic. Britain has a bright, prosperous future ahead of it but only when we have had the shackles of the EU lifted from us. The British public know it, British Business now knows it; it is time for politicians in Britain to now admit it; we would be Better Off Out of the EU.