A referendum on Europe

I spend a lot of my time listening to local people. Most tell me what a good job the Government is doing, recalling the fact that in May 2010 Conservatives and Liberal Democrats agreed to put aside their differences to drag Britain out of the economic mess left by Labour. Over four years later we can say that this central goal of the Coalition is being delivered. Britain’s economy is now growing faster than any other major economy, over two million more people are in work, with the nation’s current account forecast to be balanced by 2018. We can then begin the essential work of reducing the national debt rather than passing the problem onto future generations. With record levels of investment into our infrastructure, this balanced recovery is helping sustainable growth in Cornwall. The job is not complete; I especially want to help raise Cornish incomes.

As a Conservative I am now looking forward to the next vital reform this country needs – a transformation of our relationship with the EU. I believe that many of the decisions being made in Brussels and Strasbourg should be made here. This will enable a more sensible immigration policy.

David Cameron’s Government has made a dogged effort to reduce immigration, clamping down on bogus student visas, ensuring that immigrants have skills in need in the UK in order to come here, and changing benefit rules to mean that new arrivals have to work to stay. This has had an impact, with net immigration from outside the EU halving in comparison to the Labour years. Similarly whilst 9 out of 10 new jobs under Labour were taken by foreign nationals 8 out of 10 new jobs created in the UK over the past year have been taken by UK nationals.

However, without control of immigration from within the EU, this can only ever be one side of the coin. We do need a sensible approach recognising the fact that millions of British people live and work in the EU for some of their lives and we want to continue to attract people from around the EU to our world class universities, including Falmouth and Exeter universities.

At the General Election next year David Cameron will be seeking a mandate from voters to negotiate a new British relationship with the EU, including increased control of our borders. If that mandate is given, through the election of a Conservative Government, he will then negotiate a new settlement for Britain within the EU and will then allow the public to pass their verdict on whether it goes far enough through an in/out referendum.

At the 2010 General Election the LibDems promised an in/out referendum on EU membership, so last week I was very disappointed that they blocked a Conservative attempt to get an in/out referendum by 2017 into law. Now more than ever a Conservative election victory is needed to secure the democratically decided transformation of Britain’s relationship with the EU that I and others seek.