It has been a couple of months since Steve Baker MP and I first met to discuss forming Conservatives for Britain (CfB).
We believed that after the Prime Minister's stunning election victory and Referendum pledge, the time had come to bring together Conservative parliamentarians from Westminster and the European Parliament who consider the UK’s present relationship with the EU to be untenable, want fundamental change, and who have an optimistic, globalist view of the UK's future.
We have been delighted at the wide support received across all 3 chambers - Commons, Lords and European Parliament.
The group has met to discuss key issues on renegotiation and the EU referendum. We have debated what 'fundamental change' means - and have looked at Out options too: for there are two choices in this ballot.
Earlier this month, CfB held a debate within the European Parliament in Strasbourg. We invited MEPs from all political parties and national delegations.
It was the first here to debate all options including possible Brexit. Speakers included former President of Germany's CBI: the Federation of German Industries, Hans-Olaf Henkel MEP, Morten Messerschmidt MEP, Danish People’s Party, Paulo Rangel MEP a federalist Portuguese Social Democrat, Italian MEP Remo Sernagiotto, my colleague Dan Hannan MEP and CFW stalwart Jacqueline Foster MEP, who chaired, with me speaking on options.
It was encouraging to hear politicians from other EU member states citing very similar concerns with Brussels. Many of them agree with the British Prime Minister’s desire to achieve fundamental EU change.
Henkel, for example, wants Greece to leave the Euro, believes bailouts are illegal and thinks David Cameron is in a very strong negotiating position. Messerschmidt argued for nation states to have right to a Canadian-style points system of immigration control. Such is the vigour of the debate the UK has initiated.
CfB fully supports David Cameron’s renegotiation. Personally, I believe there are three key points to address:
- UK control over national borders
- National sovereignty returning to the Westminster Parliament - including trade
- A reduction in EU membership cost from £20 billion p.a. gross (£60m a day).
The Prime Minister committed last November to renegotiate EU freedom of movement. This I wholeheartedly support. We must be able to control our borders once again, not leave it to unelected EU bureaucrats. The shameful scenes at Calais and off Italy are just the tip of the iceberg.
On national sovereignty, we have one sovereign parliament – Westminster - and we need to restore major powers lost to the EU back to it.
Nor can we justify high EU membership costs when money is so tight.
CfB understands this EU referendum is a once in a lifetime opportunity to reform our relationship and end ever closer union - or for Britain to avoid immersion and destruction within an emerging European Superstate by withdrawal.
But EU leaders must make no mistake. Either they agree to real change and relinquish significant powers, or many Conservatives will be campaigning for the UK to leave the EU.
David Campbell Bannerman is a Member of the European Parliament for the Eastern Region and co-chairman of Conservatives for Britain.
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