On The House: MP's column by Bradley Stoke and Filton MP Jack Lopresti: 'We'll have a straight in-out referendum on the EU'
ON Wednesday the Prime Minister said the British people must have their say on Europe as he pledged an in/out referendum if the Conservatives win the 2015 General Election.
It was a speech and a commitment for which many of us have waited a long time. The Prime Minister has made clear that he wants to renegotiate the UK's relationship with the EU and then give people the "simple choice" between staying in under those new terms, or leaving the EU.
The British people haven't been directly consulted on Europe since 1975 and it's high time that we had a say again. The next Conservative Manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative Government to negotiate a new settlement with Europe in the next Parliament. And when we have done so, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice – stay in the EU on new terms; or come out altogether. It will be an in-out referendum.
Legislation will be drafted before the next election and, if a Conservative Government is elected, we will introduce the enabling legislation immediately and pass it by the end of that year. We will complete this negotiation and hold this referendum within the first half of the next parliament.
The question over the future of the United Kingdom's relationship has been left open for far too long and there are a number of reasons why now is the time to answer it.
Firstly, the European Union is experiencing a period of fundamental change. Internally, the Eurozone crisis is driving a major shift in its structure. Externally, the global economic race is showing up Europe's lack of competitiveness against leaner, more dynamic emerging economies such as China, India, and Brazil.
These changes are set against increasing unease amongst the peoples of Europe about the direction the EU is going; the powers it is taking on and what this means for them.
Together, these changes are forcing a series of fundamental questions about the future of the EU and Britain's place within it.
These questions are inevitable – and we should be playing a leading role in shaping them.
Furthermore it is clear that British public disillusionment with the EU is at an all-time high.
People feel that it is heading in a direction that they never signed up to. The result is that democratic consent for the EU in Britain is now wafer thin. This question mark is already there and ignoring it will not make it go away.
In response to the Prime Minister's speech the Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "My position is no – we don't want an in-out referendum"
Labour doesn't trust the British people to have their say on Europe. It is the Conservatives who are giving us a say over our own future.