My Lords, as a man who conducts business and addresses conferences overseas, many of the arguments on European integration resonate very strongly with me. The European Union was established as a way of preserving peace and stability between its member states. It was what was needed then, and in the same way we must now react to internal and external changes that are happening in Europe and the world.
This is not about the interests of the United Kingdom versus the interests of other member states; it is about achieving large-scale reform to change the relationship between member states and the rest of the world in everyone’s interests. Europe needs to serve its member states better and help them to get the most out of the benefits that such a union provides.
The Prime Minister was very clear that he wants Europe to be a success and as such wants us to be a part of that success, and I share that sentiment. Europe itself is changing and we must push to make sure that it properly adapts. The completion of the single market was one of the key aims to which the Prime Minister referred, and rightfully so. This provides a strong foundational framework on which member states can build their economies.
We must allow the diversity of the different EU economies to flourish to increase competitiveness and achieve growth. Bureaucratic red-tape policies must be returned to the UK so that we can make our own judgments based on what works best for business here at home. I also agree with strengthening the role of national parliaments within the EU, as they are without a doubt the most democratically accountable and legitimate form of governance to their people.
Laws and regulations have been heaped on to British families and businesses from a foreign land, in a Parliament that they did not elect, and with a one-size-fits-all mentality. That is why I support the decision to hold a referendum in the next Parliament. People can then decide for themselves what will be in the best interests of their own country, and the integrity of the resulting decision cannot be questioned.
I also believe that the vast majority of people in this country would like us to remain in a union that helps us when we need it, allowing us to take good things from it but without inflicting unwanted repressive policies on its member states.
It is the job of the Government to get the best deal for their people, and this is exactly what the Prime Minister wants to do in negotiating a new settlement. It also makes sense to wait until the current turbulent waters have calmed before deciding what the future would hold for us in the union. Allowing member states the autonomy and liberty to do what is best for their people and their economies will enable us to contribute that much more and, I believe, form an even stronger bond of shared values and co-operation. I say this as a Conservative and ultimately as a supporter of the future of the European Union.