The D-Day on Europe is fast approaching for all parties
FOR the 20 years that I have been in the House of Commons we have constantly been told by Prime Ministers of both parties that we are "winning the argument on Europe" and that "it is beginning to move in our direction".
This is totally untrue. The forces that created the common market have moved us into the EEC, then via the EC to the European Union. Not since 1975 have the British people had a chance to give their approval or disapproval of this process which has gradually reduced our own government's ability to determine the laws under which we live.
The Eurozone crisis is showing how flawed and fraudulent the creation of the euro was and what a high price is being paid, especially by the young unemployed, for the political obsession with "ever closer union". The true cost of European regulation and its damage to our global competitiveness is becoming ever more apparent.
In the past 10 years, British business has had a cumulative burden of £124 billion added as a result of European regulations and this year we will make a net contribution to the European budget of around £6 billion.
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It is time to change this relationship and the D-Day on Europe is fast approaching for politicians of all parties.
I do not believe that our current relationship with the European Union is in Britain's national interests.
Our slogan should be "back to a common market" – in other words an economic and trade relationship with Europe without the undue and damaging interference in so many other areas of our national life. It is an enormous opportunity to keep faith with our own people who never gave the assent to this integration in the first place.
We need to make clear what we want our new relationship to be and set out a timetable for a defined negotiating period, with a guaranteed referendum at the end.
There is a major problem, however. Most of our European partners and virtually all the vast Brussels bureaucracy will do anything to keep the drive towards ever closer union going and resist British attempts to create a looser relationship with the EU.
If we are to have any chance of achieving what, I believe, most of the British people want, politicians will have to cross the Rubicon.
If we do not make it clear to our partners that we are able to conceive of leaving the EU if we do not get what we want, then we will have no ability to negotiate.
If they believe that we will remain in the EU come what may, then we will have entered the negotiating chamber naked. The sooner we make it clear, the better.