I’ve not commented on the European Union for several months – I saw it as occupying too much of the Conservative Party's time when we had other things to focus on. But those other focuses have passed, and there’s no point pretending I have no views on the subject. I believe the UK is better off outside the European Union, and I'll be campaigning to ensure we Leave on 23rd June.
My family is incredibly international – my mother’s family alone has lived on five continents in the last five decades. But it was Europe, that little rocky outcrop at the end of the Eurasian continent that I have called home all of my life, that gave them sanctuary and security when others wouldn’t.
I love Europe. I believe that our continent is the greatest on Earth: naturally beautiful, culturally diverse, and the progenitor of the greatest civilisation our species has ever known. Despite the claims of the Remain campaign, Britain can never leave Europe – culturally or geographically – nor should we want to.
But the European Union is not Europe – Europe is a continent, while the EU is an ever-closer political union. Just as America’s success was said to be due to its states being ‘fifty laboratories of democracy’, so Europe’s centuries of success have been due to its countries individually innovating: competing, collaborating, and copying each other to discover ever-better forms of government.
However, the non-stop accretion of powers in Brussels, and depletion of them from sovereign countries, local government, and individuals poses an existential threat to that liberal order. When single standards are imposed on a continent by majority vote of other countries, it kills the diversity that makes both Europe and Britain great. Forcing everyone to have the same rules prevents innovation and brings our continent’s progress to a halt.
Sadly, the ‘reformed Europe’ that the Prime Minister wants is not on the ballot paper on 23rd June. Already, the EU has given itself more power in the last six months than was repatriated in the UK’s renegotiation. And the status quo isn’t on the ballot paper, either, as the EU’s goal of "ever-closer union" continues whether we are symbolically exempted from a meaningless preamble or not. If we can’t stop Brussels increasing its power when we’re threatening to leave, what chance do we have at any other time?
I cannot stand by as the continent and the country that I love are subsumed by such a threat to our core values. I want all countries of Europe to be free to choose their own destiny. And Britain, being an outward-looking, trade-oriented nation with links around the world, stands uniquely placed to make the first step and take back its freedom: to take leadership and leave the European Union on 23rd June. I’ll be campaigning for Vote Leave to make sure we do.
Oliver Cooper is Chairman of the Conservative Way Forward Organising Committee.