The real issue is not how often the Prime Minister promises a referendum or even whether he pledges to bring it forward to 2016. The real issue for David Cameron is to make it clear that he is prepared to campaign for an ‘out’ vote in the event of a failed renegotiation.
For a negotiation to have teeth, there must be a realistic prospect that Britain could vote to leave the EU. We must thank UKIP and our friends who have supported them, in recent elections, for bringing this matter to a head.
The recent elections have strengthened the Prime Minister’s hand.
The Treaty of Rome’s central drive for ‘ever closer union’ is having the opposite effect across the continent. It is leading to the rise of nationalism and increasing rejection of a United States of Europe.
The aim of protecting us from conflict, by enforcing a one size fits all approach, has perversely increased the risk of extremism. Many now feel that the out of touch European elite are forcing people in a direction they do not want to travel.
Clearly, we need an opt-out from ever closer union as a starting point. The presumption that closer integration is good must be overturned. Powers must be devolved back to Nation States, where ever possible.
The EU’s greatest benefit to its members has always been as a free-trading block and it should return to that core value.
That will require tough negotiations from a position of strength. Services should be included in this free trade agreement not just goods. For too long this has been resisted by those with protectionist instincts.
The over-regulation of European businesses must be halted and indeed reversed. The EU must stop trying to interfere with so many aspects of our lives and embrace the principle of subsidiarity.
The European Working Time Directive which has hamstrung the training of junior doctors and disrupted continuity of care across the NHS has been particularly damaging.
The EU as ‘too big and too bossy’ and our Prime Minister has said so.
The EU is wasteful. At a time when people across Europe have been struggling with austerity it is completely unacceptable for this institution to continue the so-called Strasbourg Circus and lavish salaries and benefits for its own employees.
The EU has yet to have its accounts signed off for years and has policies that are failing yet it seems preoccupied with expanding its own power base.
It has lost its democratic legitimacy. How many people have contacted an MEP, even over issues about which they feel is important and entirely regulated by the EU? How many can name more than a couple of their regional MEPs.
EU commissioners have no democratic accountability whatsoever. The prospect of an arch federalist, Jean-Claude Juncker, being appointed as president of the Commission would make it even harder to see a reversal of the one way street to federalism and David Cameron is right to be opposing his appointment so vigorously.
Britain does benefit from immigration but it is the scale and pace of change which has placed such an intolerable strain on infrastructure such as our housing supply, schools and health service.
We are a small island that is rapidly filling up. From historic norms of 50m people we are fast approaching 70m and it’s starting to feel crowded.
Free movement of people should not extend to benefits, although in my experience current migrants tend to be hard working. David Cameron must demand a complete end to payments of child benefit to dependents living abroad and extend to at least two years the requirement to have lived or worked in the UK before eligibility for any benefits in order to reduce the flow of net migration.
There may be times when we benefit from the powers of a European Arrest Warrant. However, there is great and understandable anger at the way it may be used against our own citizens who may be compulsorily detained with poor supporting evidence and in unsatisfactory conditions. We should first protect our own citizens from arbitrary justice.
There are without doubt economic benefits from remaining within the EU. Free market needs to be extended and strengthened. But free trade does not have to mean political union.
We need to back David Cameron in his renegotiation. Far from Britain being isolated there are other nations which now see the need for reform.
I would prefer Britain to remain in the EU but not at any price or on the current terms. If these cannot be renegotiated, I will be campaigning to leave.