Tomorrow we all have the chance to cast our vote for the most important decision our country has faced in generations, as we decide whether the United Kingdom should remain as part of the European Union.
I have always been clear about my euro-scepticism. For some time I have not believed the EU was working for the UK. Following, what to me, was essentially a failed negotiation, by the Prime Minister earlier this year, I decided I would be voting to leave the EU in this referendum. There are many reasons why I believe this is the case. For the purposes of this article I am going to focus on the three I believe are the most important, sovereignty, our country’s finances and the uncertainty of remaining.
Firstly, sovereignty. To me the issue of sovereignty is key. A vote to leave the EU will set in motion a return to the UK of decision-making powers that have increasingly been removed from us by ever-expanding EU bureaucracy.
Many of you will have voted in the original referendum to join the then-European Economic Community in 1975. That referendum did not include the ever closer union of EU member states. Since then, more and more laws that historically and rightly were the responsibility of UK Parliament are instead being made by faceless, unaccountable and unelected officials in Brussels. I know many of you are upset by this as it was not part of the original deal. Now is your chance to vote again. A vote to leave would see a return to the UK being able to operate on our own terms as a trading nation, free to negotiate and regulate our own trade deals. Businesses would be free of the crushing weight of EU red tape, we would be able to have total control over our own borders, and we would regain control over our 200-mile fishing waters. Brexit would mean that all of these decisions would be returned to the responsibility of British MPs who are accountable to you, the British public and you alone.
Secondly, the economic argument for leaving could not be clearer. As a net contributor to the EU our membership costs us in excess of £10billion every year. And as our economy continues to grow faster than most other EU nations this figure is likely to increase further.
One of the arguments put forward for us voting to remain in the EU is the amount of economy development support that Cornwall receives. However, as I said in Parliament last week, over the past 10 years or so Cornwall has received around £600 million in money from the EU. But we need to remember that that is not EU money. The EU does not actually have any money—there is no magic EU money tree. It is our money, which we give to the EU. It converts it into euros, then converts that into sterling to give back to us, except that it gives it back with a whole load of strings, bureaucracy and red tape attached about how we can spend it.
I get quite wound up when I see that wonderful blue plaque saying, “Funded by the European Union”. Every time I see one, I think, “No, that was funded by British taxpayers’ money that you have recycled and given back to us AND then told us how to spend.”
The fact is, this is not working. The money was meant to create 10,000 new jobs in Cornwall. In fact, in the past 10 years or so, it has created around a third of that number. That Cornwall has now qualified for a third round of EU funding demonstrates that the funding is failing. It is not lifting the Cornish economy as intended. It is not raising wages or the standard of living in the way it was designed to.
There is a very simple reason for that failure. We are not able to spend the aid on what we need to in Cornwall. How we should spend it is dictated, Big Brother fashion, by the EU. The requirements are designed for a Europe-wide programme that does not fit the Cornish economy.
A vote to leave will give our country back control over where we can target our financial resources. Along with the other Cornish MPs I am confident that we will be able to continue to argue the case for Cornwall to get its share of the additional money freed up for spending from central government should we leave the EU. I will certainly do all I can to make sure this happens.
Finally, there is the uncertainty of remaining in the EU. The Remain Campaign has argued that leaving would be a bad idea due to the uncertainty of what awaits us on the outside of the EU. I believe that staying in what is a demonstrably failing group of nations exposes us to far worse possibilities. Vast amounts of our money has been pumped into propping up and bailing out EU member countries such as Greece, who never should have been allowed to join the Euro zone and these cash injections are only a temporary fix. Things are not going to get better and we will only waste more money in trying to postpone the inevitable.
The current migration crisis continues to be a major issue across the EU. One option being considered by the powers that be in Europe is a new "corrective fairness mechanism" to relocate asylum seekers from frontline states to other EU countries, something which could also have serious ramifications for our already stretched public services and housing stock.
I would much rather see us take the positive, forward-looking and very British step of leaving the EU while maintaining close links with European countries, as well as reinforcing and reclaiming our international status, particularly in this age where technology advances make operating on a truly global scale so easy. As Churchill said, “We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not combined. We are interested