Today, the House of Commons debates a call for a national referendum on our country’s future membership of the European Union. I welcome the debate, which follows a public petition of Parliament, and the decision to hold it at a time which commands the attention of as many MPs as possible.
The Liberal Democrat Manifesto at the last General Election said that:
“Liberal Democrats… remain committed to an in/out referendum the next time a British government signs up for fundamental change in the relationship between the UK and the EU.”
That was also the assessment we made of the Lisbon Treaty in 2008, which fundamentally altered our relationship with the EU.
There is no such “fundamental change” proposed today. At a time when the UK and European countries are tackling a global financial and Eurozone crisis, re-evaluating our membership of the EU would be deeply irresponsible, de-stabilise financial markets, threaten jobs and ultimately damage the UK’s economic recovery.
I therefore do not believe a referendum at this time is either needed or in the interest of the country and will be voting against the motion this evening.
To the same end, I supported the inclusion of a “referendum lock” in the Coalition Agreement and voted in favour of the recently passed EU Act 2011. The Act sets out in law a guarantee that the British public will have the chance to have their say in a referendum on any future Treaty changes that would transfer powers to the EU.
If you are a constituent and would like to discuss this further, I would be very pleased to meet with you at one of my upcoming surgeries.