IT has been by the far the toughest decision I have had to make since becoming an MP, but on June 23 I will vote to leave the European Union.
It pains me that I have reached a different conclusion to people I greatly respect; notably the Prime Minister and my illustrious predecessor, Lord Hague.
For me, this is a once in a generation opportunity for our country to take back control of its destiny. Of course, leaving will bring some uncertainty, but on balance I believe that our nation will be freer, fairer and more prosperous outside the EU. Outside the EU, we can decide our own immigration policy, ensure our own laws and courts are sovereign, and enhance our position as a dynamic, outward-looking trading economy.
I have spent my business career working around the world, investing in countries like the US, India and Brazil. I have also helped British companies expand internationally. My own experience convinced me that not only can our businesses thrive in these exciting markets, but that they must.
Since we joined the Common Market, Europe’s share of the world economy has halved and is still falling. Whilst China’s GDP has doubled since the recession, Europe is the only continent in the world (alongside Antartica, that is) that has failed to grow at all.
Canada, South Korea and South Africa all trade freely with Europe without surrendering their independence. As one of Europe’s largest customers, I see no sensible reason why we could not achieve a similar agreement. Six million jobs in the EU are linked to UK trade and we buy £60 billion more from Europe than Europe buys from us.
Nationally, only five per cent of businesses export to the EU, yet all businesses are stifled by excessive EU red tape that does everything from mandating the width of our hedgerows to prohibiting our Government from favouring British produce. It is our small, local businesses that would benefit the most as we remove the burden of Brussels bureaucracy.
I believe that appropriate immigration can benefit our country. But we must have control of our borders and we can only do that outside of the EU. As an EU member, every one of Europe’s 500 million citizens has a legal right to move here and there is nothing the UK government can do to limit those numbers. It can’t be right that unelected officials in Brussels have more say over who can come into our country than you.
Regular readers will know I care a great deal about supporting our local farmers. Many of them are concerned about their future outside of Europe and without the financial support of CAP.
If we leave the EU, we will immediately save £20 billion. UK farmers currently receive £2.5 billion from CAP so the UK will certainly have the resources to put in place a British Agricultural Policy. Not only could we financially support our farmers but we could also free them from the most costly European regulations.
This is a complex and difficult decision for all us. In the end, this is not about my vote or that of any other politician. Our future European relationship will be decided by all of you, the British people. I look forward to discussing it with you all over the coming months