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.