Call for Withdrawal from the EU

In 1975 the British people were lied to about the European Union and people thought when they were voting that they were joining something that would promote free trade with other European countries ... and that quite clearly was a fundamental lie.

Addressing the Freedom Association fringe meeting at the Ruskin Hotel, Blackpool on Wednesday 5th October 2005 Philip Davies, Member of Parliament for Shipley and TFA member, said:

"I wanted first of all to thank the Freedom Association for offering me this opportunity to speak on this important issue and I am going to go on later and explain why this is still such an important issue, not just for the Conservative Party, but for the country as a whole despite what some leadership candidates may think.

The Freedom Association do a fantastic job promoting one of the key principles of being in the Conservative Party - Freedom - and we should never lose sight that in effect being a member of the Conservative Party is about promoting Freedom and Christopher Gill does a fantastic job promoting the Freedom Association - he gets all over, annoys people in the European Union and in the Labour government and he really does a fantastic job and I am absolutely delighted that they have given me this opportunity to debate this important issue today.

It is actually the first time I have ever spoken at a fringe meeting at a Conservative Party Conference so I thought I would break myself in gently with a nice non-controversial topic and maybe in subsequent years we may move on to something a bit more controversial.

The main point here is that I agree its astonishing that I appear to be the only MP - certainly the only Conservative MP - who actually publicly says that we should withdraw from the European Union. There are a number of my colleagues who I think possibly secretly agree with that but haven't said so and there are 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 in a bit.

It is quite extraordinary that I appear to be the only Conservative MP who advocates us withdrawing from the European Union now. The reason basically boils down to our referendum in 1975 which I didn't have the pleasure of taking part in - some of you might have done - but fundamentally back when we first joined in 1975 the British people were lied to about the European Union and people thought when they were voting that they were joining something that would promote free trade with other European countries - and being good Conservatives a lot of people thought well that's the sort of thing that we should be doing and voted for it on that basis - and that quite clearly was a fundamental lie.

It has actually become a Superstate - we have 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 nobody is actually prepared to say that the Emperor is naked - well I'm going to say that the Emperor is naked today and I am hoping that year on year we will be able to get more and more MPs actually acknowledging the obvious, that the Emperor is naked - we have joined a European Superstate.

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.

And if anybody doesn't think that we are in a European Superstate then I will just make one point to them.

If anyone doesn't think this is a big issue facing the country - that this is just an academic subject that interests Conservative activists and nobody else - about three-quarters of the laws that are passed in this country, three-quarters of the laws that come in that affect this country - are made from Brussels not from Westminster.

Now if we don't think that we are being ruled from the European Union we should reflect on that fact - three-quarters of our laws emanate from the European Union and people try and 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.

I must just say one thing - Nirj Deva MEP wrote a great pamphlet actually highlighting how many of our laws actually emanated from the European Union. He's one of the great MEPs that actually go round and actually highlight some of the problems that go on now and we need more MEPs like Nirj Deva who really does tell it how it is.

My point about this is that if all these laws are good things - and we can argue whether they are or not - for me it is totally irrelevant whether the laws that come from the European Union are good or bad - if these things are good we can quite happily pass all these laws in the British Parliament. We don't need a European Commission… 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 and lets not have the ones that we don't want - we should be able to pick and choose which laws we want and which ones we don't want - that is the whole point of a democracy.

I believe that people just want free trade - William Hague, who I have an awful lot of time for - he had a slogan in the 1999 European Elections which was 'in Europe but not run by Europe' 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 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.

On offer is not being in Europe and not run by Europe - 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 should 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 don't see that should do us too much harm in the polls - but I would like the slogan to be 'Trade with Europe not run by Europe' - that should be the slogan that the Conservative Party polls on - Not in Europe but Trade with Europe - that's what we joined or thought we joined in 1975 when we had a vote on it and that's what we want to go back to now.

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. The problem with advocating renegotiation is that actually - well there are two problems - the first is that to negotiate you have to have somebody round your side of 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 withdraw from the European Union - you don't need to renegotiate about it the solution is there for everyone to see. The only way of doing it is actually to take the powers back.

So I don't advocate renegotiation I think we should just be upfront - that muddies the waters - let's just be honest with people… we're in the state we're in - lets have an honest debate about it and I will advocate withdrawing completely from the European Union.

And you know we do want free trade and people say - well you know - if we withdraw from the European Union we will lose all our markets, we won't be able to trade freely - and to be honest I have never heard quite so much nonsense in a long time - and the reason that this is a nonsense - all you have to do is go to the House of Commons Library and ask what our balance of trade has been with the European Union since 1973 when we joined. I don't know if you know or not but the balance of trade deficit cumulatively since 1973 - balance of trade deficit with the European Union amounts to £230 billions - so 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 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 - and we can only dream about the growth rate they have in America. The secret of America's success is that they regulate their businesses less, they tax them less and that generates their economic growth. Being part of this over-centralised, over-regulated club does nothing to help our economy.

It wouldn't just be so bad if all we have was this balance of trade deficit to talk about but to earn this balance of trade deficit the price we pay is not only having three-quarters of our laws made which we don't even want - nobody seems to want most of these laws that are imposed on us - we also manage to actually have a membership fee for joining this European Union - and the membership fee since 1973 amounts to £186 billions that we have paid in membership fees to join the European Union.

Now 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 - £186 billions we've spent in membership fees to the European Union since 1973. And of course the pro-Europeans would say well we've had some of that back haven't we? Yes we have - some - 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 in a much better way by cutting taxes - not actually funding a load of politically correct nonsense from the European Union which is what we actually get back - which is about 40% of our membership fee.

So I think that people in the Conservative Party will come round to this way of thinking. I must admit I have no time for people who join the UK Independence Party - the only Party that is going to come back and actually deliver withdrawal from the European Union at some point is the Conservative Party. We shouldn't leave in this great Party the field clear to pro-Europeans to take us further into Europe - we need to stand our corner and argue our case because we've got a damned good case. We need to stand our corner, argue our case and I am actually quite optimistic that people will come round to our way of thinking if we just give it time. Now is not the time to go running off to some marginalized Party or minority Party now is the time to actually argue our case in a great Party - a Party that can actually deliver this for the country.

I actually visited the European Parliament a couple of weeks ago for my sins and people over there say… 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 on our side often say it to me - that people are coming round to our way of thinking. Well all I will say to that is - I would pose two questions.

The first is what evidence have you got that people are coming round to our way of thinking? Tell me one thing that shows that people are coming round to our way of thinking - because I haven't seen anything tangible - all I am aware of is that some people tell me that people are coming round to our way of thinking.

And the second question I would pose to those people is alright - suppose that's the case - how long do we leave it? You put a line in the sand and say that in so many years time we can then acknowledge that they actually haven't come round to our way of thinking. 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 being there - 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 one about handing any powers back.

The other thing that people say is that it would be political suicide for the Conservative Party to retreat into this anti-European bunker and the thing I don't understand about that 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! You must at an early stage understand what your political limitations are and run with them. As Simon Richards said there is an awful lot of talent among the new intake and 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.

This year it may only be me saying we should withdraw from the European Union - the important thing is how many will be saying it this time next year, how many will be saying it the year after that, how many will be saying it the year after that - this is going to be a long drawn out process but the debate has got to start at some point - it can't just be hidden from the public - we have got to have an open, honest, sensible debate.

Therefore what I would like to see is a referendum on our continued membership of the European Union because I think this is something that everybody should unite on. In the debate on the European Constitution in Parliament before the recess that great eurosceptic, Sir Menzies Campbell, was actually advocating something that I agree with. 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 … and I don't see why anybody, whether they are pro-European or anti EU like me can argue with that kind of thing. 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.

So lets have a referendum - in a referendum I would advocate withdrawing from the European Union - 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 lets get the debate moving - I think that the European Union is corrupt, its inefficient, its bureaucratic, its undemocratic - the sooner that we are out of it the better for all of us - and I hope that we can have our own serious honest debate about it - I'm quite happy to start that debate - but I hope that many more will join in in the future”.