Why I’m calling for a chance to re-think ties to Europe

Editor – Britain’s membership of the European Union is something we in Lincolnshire must be concerned about.

The last time voters were given a chance to have their say on our relationship with Europe was in 1975, when we were told we were entering a common market for trade and commerce.

The very nature of the European institutions has changed since then, and I am told that 84 per cent of Britons alive today either had not been born at the time of the last referendum or else were not of voting age by then.

Last week I joined with 110 of my Parliamentary colleagues to vote in favour of a non- binding motion calling for a referendum to be held on our relationship with the European Union.

Even as the monetary union (of which the UK is not a part) seems teetering on the brink, it remains clear that the general trajectory of the European Union is towards closer political unity and centralising power in the hands of the unelected bureaucracy in Brussels.

This may very well be the will of other nations in the European Union – though the reluctance in those countries to hold referendums once the localist side began defeating the centralist cause suggests otherwise.

No matter what, that is a matter for them to discuss, debate, and decide upon.

But the general feeling is clear in Great Britain that we do not want to be a province of a European superstate, that we would like to maintain our sovereignty and independence, and that many of the powers we have already handed over to Brussels should, in fact, be returned.

Altering the terms of our relationship with the rest of Europe does not mean we want to lift up the drawbridge and close ourselves off to our neighbours. On the contrary, there are many economic aspects to the European Union that have proved beneficial to us and have helped us to trade on an even par with our friends and neighbours in Europe.

Many of the lorries and trucks that cross the Channel every day end up in the East Midlands, and that trade should continue to flourish. But we should also be aware that the economic focus of the world is shifting towards emerging markets in South America, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere – most especially the ‘BRIC’ countries of Brazil, Russia, India, and China.

With shipping and travel easier than ever, we should not be afraid to look beyond the European Union to seek new opportunities for our businesses – especially our small and mid-sized ones – to take advantage of.

I also hope readers will keep in mind our local businesses when they’re doing their shopping and making their necessary purchases.

When we spend money in local shops and businesses we make sure our own hard-earned money stays within our community and recirculates among our neighbours, our relatives, and our friends.

While thinking globally is good economic advice, we mustn’t lose sight of local matters.

Edward Leigh

MP for Gainsborough