I have long been a supporter of holding a referendum on the EU as I believe that our future, whether it be in or out, needs to be decided by the people as a whole and not just politicians. I am therefore pleased that the date of the 23rd June has now been set.
Over the past few weeks, I have been giving careful consideration to how I will vote in the referendum. I confess that it has not been an easy decision as I think that there are merits on both sides of the argument. But at the end of the day, this is a personal decision and my vote bears no more significance than that of my constituents given that the issue is being put to the public.
Whilst I pay tribute to the Prime Minister’s hard work and determination to bring about reform within the EU, I have concluded, that on balance, I will vote to leave. I am not convinced that there is sufficient appetite within the EU for reform that goes further than what has been achieved. In addition, this is a once in a lifetime choice and I have to stick with my gut feeling.
During my time as a Member of Parliament, I have been frustrated that we are unable to change certain areas of law because of our EU status. Whether it be the rate of VAT we set or the amount of red tape we have to apply, I believe that the laws of our land should be set by the people elected by the people of our land. That is what democracy is about, we elect a Government that is accountable to the people and if the people choose, they can kick them out of office. That accountability and opportunity is not as clear with the EU.
Additionally, I am contacted almost every week by constituents who have real concerns about immigration. Let me be clear, I think immigration can be good for our country, bringing the skills and needs that the UK requires. What worries me and many others is uncontrolled immigration. The free movement of people has made it almost impossible for us to have an effective and controlled system in this area and I am concerned about the strain this is putting on housing and public services. I have concluded that if we were to leave the EU we would have greater control of our borders and the ability to introduce a system that is both fair and meets the needs of our country.
The issue of trade was also one that concerned me, but looking at the figures it is clear that we buy more from the EU than we sell. Given this, countries like France, Germany and Spain will certainly want continue to trade with us and I’m confident agreements will be reached quickly.
The UK is a great country and I want us to be outward looking. We always have been. Leaving the EU does not stop us from doing so, in fact, I believe it could free us to be more so.
As I said, this has not been an easy decision, and despite all the arguments we have heard, no one can predict the future for certain. This choice has to be about balance and, on balance, I have made my choice to vote to leave.
I should say that I will not be campaigning in the referendum, instead I want to ensure that my constituents have as much information as they need to make their own personal decision. To that end I will be holding a public meeting where I will invite campaigners from the Leave and Remain groups to present their case and for constituents to ask them the questions they have.