The case for reforming Europe grows’

While it will take some time to fully comprehend the European election results, I have listened to my constituents and understand people’s frustration that Britain’s relationship with the EU is not working.

What is certain is that whilst the rise in the UKIP vote was considerable, and will impact on how well Cornwall’s interests are represented in the European Parliament, this was peaceful change delivered through the ballot box. This is in stark contrast to the violent change delivered through barricade, Molotov cocktail and bullet on Europe’s borders. The EU’s role in guaranteeing peace for its members should not be forgotten.

However this is not a reason for keeping the EU as it is. There is no doubt that the implicit deal of the EU where people in each member state give up some power to the Union in exchange for benefits of membership has broken down and needs to be fundamentally reformulated. The EU should also be more flexible and capable of evolving policies in response to the circumstances of the time.

David Cameron has been ahead of the curve on this, repeatedly raising the need for the European Union to urgently reform with more decision making power given back to people and member states. Change to the principle of unlimited migration within Europe, which events have shown to be flawed in the 21st century, has been and continues to be at the top of his list.

Right up to polling day UKIP, Labour and Liberal Democrats in Cornwall denounced Conservative plans for fundamental reform as unworkable. Today, more leaders across Europe from all corners and political traditions are supporting David Cameron’s position, understanding that the EU no longer commands unqualified support.

So what do the results mean for Cornwall now? If you want a reformed relationship with the EU followed by a referendum to decide if we should stay in or go it alone, please join your local Conservatives in working for this change. No other party is offering you that choice and is able to deliver it.

It is essential that we make the UK’s relationship with the EU work for Cornwall. Local people must be at the heart of this process and I am pleased that our business community this year are able to get directly involved in determining how taxpayers funds allocated to Cornwall by the EU are spent. The Coalition government set up our Local Enterprise Partnership, led by local business people, to make decisions on how to support the growth of our economy. Our LEP will decide how £592 million of taxpayer’s funding devolved by the EU to Cornwall will be spent supporting local businesses over the next five years.

I want to make sure that the views of people living and working in my constituency are fed into the LEPs plan development. I am writing to every business in my constituency to ask for their views and will continue working with the business community and LEP to get the plans right.

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Your vote matters

Last month I had the privilege of meeting with a group of young people from Truro and Carn Brea Foyers, pioneering youth groups belonging to inspirational Foyer Federation, to discuss political participation. Their enthusiasm about politics and desire to get involved was a delight to see. Every week I meet local young people in schools and colleges and join in the good work that is being done by teachers and lecturers to foster and promote involvement in our democracy.

Today is of course polling day for the Euro elections and I very much hope that you feel able to go out and vote. Whatever your views on the EU you can best express them at the ballot box. I will be voting Conservative to ensure we have a strong voice for Cornwall and the UK in the European Parliament where our MEPs can work with like minded colleagues and David Cameron to get a better deal for the UK to be put to you in a referendum in 2017. You can decide if it’s good enough for us to stay in or choose to come out of the EU. As the young people from Truro and Carn Brea Foyers so eloquently put to me, your vote matters and will make a difference.

In my experience it is not just in political participation that our young people are leading the way. In our wider civic life in Cornwall younger generations are setting a great example. From the teenage volunteers I met earlier this year helping out at the National Autistic Society’s Cornwall swimming club, to the Penair School pupils who are leading local efforts to campaign for the release of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, young volunteers are making a real difference.

Over the past three summers I was delighted to be able to get directly involved in a great youth project, the National Citizen Service (NCS). This is a free four week programme for 15-18 year olds introduced by David Cameron in 2010. Young people enrolling on the scheme take part in a two week residential citizenship programme before returning to their communities to put the skills they have learnt into practice by pursuing a project to make their area a better place to live. Over 60,000 young people across the country have taken part so far.

To take part in the NCS Summer 2014 programme, delivered in Cornwall by Cornwall College, visit http://www.cornwall.ac.uk/NCS or calling 01726 226511.

I can’t write about civic duty without mentioning a public servant that is the living embodiment of the concept, Falmouth’s Cllr Geoffrey Evans, who last week ended his eighth term as Falmouth Mayor – part of a career spanning four decades as councillor. Geoffrey has been an outstanding ambassador for Falmouth and a real champion for the people he represents, work that will happily continue as he continues in his role as Cornwall Councillor for Falmouth Arwenack. Thank you Geoffrey for all you have done, and continue to do.

Standing up for Britain in Europe

We now have a week to go before elections that will help shape the future of Cornwall – the Euro Elections 2014. This is an opportunity to vote for MEPs who will stand up for Britain’s interests in Europe.

Standing up for Britain is an easy thing to pledge at election time, but for some it seems hard to deliver in practice. To make the EU work for us we can’t just refuse to engage with it, like the UKIP MEPs who don’t turn up to vote, neither can we take the Lib/Lab road of humbly submitting to its centralising instincts. Instead we have to stand up for Britain.

This is what the Conservatives have done, with remarkable success. Do you remember those who said that efforts to change Europe were doomed to failure, and were mere posturing? One British treaty veto, one unprecedented cut in the EU budget and one ring fenced British rebate later such ‘posturing’ has saved the British taxpayer over £8 billion as well as seen off considerable threats to British business. David Cameron has stood up for Britain’s interests in Europe, showing that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

In this he has been ably assisted by Conservative MEPs who not only turn up to represent their constituents in the EU Parliament but have led successful reforms including to the Common Fisheries Policy, ending live fish discards, and worked with me to protect the local oyster fishery from unwanted regulations.

In looking forward there is a clear Conservative vision for Europe – one where a more democratic EU, driven by local decision making, drives forward sustainable economic growth.Giving the British people a referendum on Britain’s EU membership is essential to this democratic surge. If given a mandate at the General Election next year to drive forward European reform David Cameron will ask you in 2017 to decide whether a reformed EU settlement would work for Britain or whether the time to leave the Union has come.

A key reform David Cameron is seeking is to bring back powers to the UK from Brussels. From EU President Barroso to German Chancellor Merkel, European leaders are responding positively to David Cameron’s calls. Reduced immigration, reduced operating costs, a single location for the European Parliament, increased accountability to UK taxpayers and opening up trading partnerships with growing economies around the world are on my agenda for change, as well as making sure the money Cornwall receives from the EU actually makes a positive difference.

With some notable exceptions, I am very disappointed that the £1 billion the Duchy has received from the EU since 2000 hasn’t helped enough local people to increase their incomes. With another £500 million of EU funds coming into Cornwall over the next five years we need investment directed by local people, into local businesses to see increased household incomes and prosperity.

This is a prize worth fighting for in Europe – those willing to put up this fight need your support next week.