Kev's Column: Its Time To Decide

After the announcement that the EU Referendum will take place on Thursday 23rd June 2016 Kevin sets out why he will be voting Remain.

"It was apt that in the week leading up to the announcement of the Referendum date I spent five days in Norway visiting the Royal Marines.

Norway is a prosperous country and has achieved this without being a member of the European Union. Yet looking more closely you realise the Norwegian model is not quite what it seems. Norway is a member of the European Single Market and obliged to implement its rules, including freedom of movement across its borders. Unlike the UK it is a member of the Schengen Border Free Zone (Along with Switzerland) that has spectacularly failed to enforce its own rules during the migrant crisis. Finally Norway makes a large contribution each year to the EU Budget, almost to the level they would if they had voted to become a member in the 1990’s.

There is a lot I dislike like about the EU. Its fisheries policies are more based on political haggling than clear science. Its agricultural policies reflect an era when policy makers remembered wartime rationing, rather than the current obesity crisis. The Euro Zone has still not resolved how it deals with the fundamental challenges it faces, like mass unemployment in Southern Europe whilst Germany prospers. Yet for all that would we be better heading to the exit door?

The UK could survive outside of the EU and it is silly to suggest not. We have strong global links and our language is the one of global trade and commerce, yet for the foreseeable future our largest trade partner will remain the European Single Market, whatever decision we take in our Referendum. This means that the rules and regulations of it are ones many of our companies will need to follow if they wish to trade in it, the difference being whether Britain is involved in making them or can only complain from outside the building.

It is easy to follow the narrative that Britain is being outvoted on laws affecting our nation and that the EU is heading towards a superstate, as some of its most ardent supporters on the continent hope it will. Yet I firmly believe that the biggest block to the EU becoming a state in its own right is the presence of Britain as a member vetoing ideas like a European Military, not one arguing on the outside that it is wrong. If the EU tries to force us down a federalist path or into items such as fiscal restrictions in future we retain our right to both veto them and, if necessary, leave.

The UK has been the strongest voice for reforming markets and opening up trade across Europe, with EU rules ensuring our businesses looking to sell into Europe are not discriminated against in the other member countries. The State Aid rules also ensure the advantages of their innovation and efficiency is not undermined by Governments of the left using State Aid (better known as taxpayers cash) to subsidise their competitors.

I believe that the challenges facing Europe as a whole over the next twenty years will be better faced with Britain remaining in the European Union. The changes secured by the Prime Minister reflect some of the concerns expressed over recent years, not least in terms of migrant access to our benefits system, yet there is an even larger debate that must be had about the direction of the whole Union.

Europe needs to take a look at where it is going as a whole and decide what items it should focus on, whilst returning to nation states those areas better dealt with at a national level. For example policies around agriculture could be better handled by nation states than by a large centralised European Administration. The theory that nations will continue to integrate into one system of Government across a whole continent is flawed. Europe needs to do less and do it better, something we can champion.

There is a lot of attention in the media on how individual MPs and Ministers will be voting. Yet it will not be decided by the votes of 650 MPs, but by everyone entitled to vote. Unlike previous Prime Ministers David Cameron is asking voters as a whole, not just his MP’s on a 3 Line Whip, whether the deal he has secured is the right one for Britain.

Millions of people are still undecided how to vote and they deserve a debate that sees two campaigns put forward positive ideas, without resorting to insults and personal attacks. Those arguing for Leave should set out what they see as alternatives to our current position, whilst those supporting Remain should focus on a positive vision for Britain’s role in Europe, not rely on ill-judged threats to move work abroad that will achieve nothing but worry those affected.

Scotland’s Independence Referendum motivated political engagement for a new generation and produced a record turnout. A positive campaign in this referendum based on competing visions, not personal attacks, could do the same for the whole of the UK."

Kevin Foster

Member of Parliament for Torbay.

On this issue every voter in Torbay will be able to make their choice as to what they believe is the best option for our country, rather than have me decide for them in Parliament on it as their MP. If you want to support the Remain or Leave Campaign just click on the option you prefer to be taken to the relevant website.