Please note: This site covers the period that I was a Member of Parliament from May 2010 to June 2017.
The Prime Minister has suggested that Members of Parliament should speak from their hearts about their views on the upcoming referendum so I wanted to share with you my thoughts.
Shaped by my life experience and by my home town of Bedford, my heart, and my head, tell me that our future is better and more secure if we vote to leave the EU when the referendum is called because:
- We will trade with a renewed ferocity in the growing markets of the world
- Our democratic future will be stronger
- We will be able to draw on all the world’s talents equally and without prejudice.
TRADING WITH A RENEWED FEROCITY AS AN OPEN ECONOMY
Unlike some MPs, I had a non-political career before entering Parliament in 2010, and unlike most MPs, my experience was almost entirely outside both the UK and Europe. As I started, advised and invested in businesses in countries as diverse as South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and the United States, my world view, and my perspective on the United Kingdom, were formed.
Without hesitation, I believe that the economic future of our country will be more secure, not less, outside the EU. In many countries I found a deep respect for the United Kingdom – our laws, history, peaceful society and, yes, our common sense. Our identity as a country is on a secure footing – we need not be afraid of being excluded or of our voice diminishing. In fact, I believe our voice will be heard more clearly. In many cases, we have allowed ourselves to take a back seat in international business – permitting the European Union to take a ponderous lead, hoping that our country’s priorities can somehow be fitted in to the same bargain alongside those of Germany, France and 25 other countries.
The trading voice of our country is muted and our returns are commensurate as our continuing trade deficits show. Freed from the European Union, the United Kingdom would have to fight its own corner in international business and we would do so, with the conviction and ferocity that comes with the knowledge that all the gains are for businesses, jobs and prosperity in our own country.
Those who make an economic case for our continuing membership of the European Union do so based almost entirely on fear – fear of the alternative, fear of the ghosts and goblins that will immediately appear if the United Kingdom reverts to its traditional status as an independent nation.
These arguments are like those of a brutal partner in a dysfunctional relationship. ‘You know you will stay, because you know you are nothing on your own’ is the essence of the REMAIN economic case. As we know, the reality is that leaving a flawed relationship usually enhances freedom and can lead to a new, more positive beginning.
STRENGTHENING OUR DEMOCRACY
The absence of any real connection between the people and their representatives in the European Parliament shows no sign of changing and this is only the first indication of a fundamental problem with democracy within the European Union. The subtle, and not so subtle, interventions of the EU and the European Central Bank into elections in Greece, Italy and Spain are auguries of how the EU elites will increasingly operate knowing that democratic accountability is lacking, but not missed.
What strikes me though, is not just these procedural weaknesses but the sheer high handedness of the EU leadership with regard to the livelihoods of the people. The biggest projects undertaken by the EU leadership are either in tatters (Schengen) or floundering (the Euro), and in both cases the leadership fatally misjudged the best interests of the people in the countries affected.
For five years now, youth unemployment in many EU countries has neared, or exceeded fifty percent. What a waste of talent; of hope. Why has the EU not taken action to salvage the potential of future generations with the urgency required? Simply because the damage to their futures is the collateral damage required to keep one of the European Union’s main projects – the Euro – alive.
Is it the best guarantee of our democracy to tie us to a Union that with no democratic mandate seeks to determine a choice of Prime Minister over the heads of the people? Is the best path to prosperity in an uncertain world, to tie us to a Union that has no effective agenda for growth, competition and job creation and one with a diminishing share of world trade? Is future stability best maintained by tying us to a Union where politicians put an abstract ideal above reversing the waste of a generation’s talents?
DRAWING ON ALL THE WORLD’S TALENTS WITHOUT PREJUDICE
Bedford is a traditional market town with a diverse and distinctive population. People from Italy, Poland, India, Bangladesh, the islands of the Caribbean and from Pakistan called Bedford home well before the UK joined the European Union. In recent decades, people from other nations have been drawn to Bedford, in part, because we welcome people from all nations – as long as they are prepared to work hard.
So, as MP, it is very hard for me to justify to my constituents why legally we have one set of rules for people from the countries of the European Union, and another rule for the rest of the world. Family connections, job opportunities, educational visits, business ideas are all sifted into two piles – with the EU pile automatically favoured.
This segregation surely cannot make sense for a future where the greatest growth, the most exciting innovations, the strongest moves towards democracy and freedom, will come from outside the EU.
Why should we bend the horizons of our children and grandchildren within the boundaries of the EU, rather than raising them to embrace the entire world? Our country will be stronger if it is free to draw on all the world’s talents on an equal basis.
A DECISION TO BE MADE
The decision required will determine how we can best protect and enhance the future for the people of the United Kingdom for the next forty years. These will be years when technology and innovation will make the world closer still, where opportunities will arise as easily in Bangalore as they do in Belgium and in Lagos as easily as they will in Lithuania.
Decisions will need to be made on our behalf and, fundamentally, our decision in the referendum is whether those decisions are best made by our own unfettered democracy or by placing our trust with the Union.
There are risks whichever path we choose, but which path presents the bigger risk over the next forty years of our history? Britain engaging directly with the world, meeting challenges and creating opportunities based solely on our own national interests, or Britain, perhaps artificially, linking its success to a Union of declining global significance and whose leaders are apparently indifferent to the needs of their own people?
My life experience has taught me to love our democracy and to cherish our freedoms. I have an unshakeable belief in our strength as a nation and in our compassion as a people.
A whole world awaits our children and grandchildren. On their behalf we must take this historical opportunity to chart our own course and LEAVE.