Britain and Europe are still facing major economic difficulties. The recent State of the Union Address delivered by José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, received only lukewarm response from MEPs, his rallying cries for more Europe seem finally to be wearing thin.
At the General Election, the Conservatives made three key commitments on Europe: to stop the passage of further areas of power to the EU, to introduce a ‘referendum lock’ on new treaty changes, and bring powers back from Brussels to Westminster.
We have negotiated a saving of hundreds of millions of pounds in the EU Budget and we are getting out of the Euro bailout mechanism the previous Government signed us up to. We also rejected calls to join the bailout of Greece by Eurozone countries, and in December last year, the Prime Minister refused to agree to a new EU treaty because our reasonable safeguards for the Single Market could not be obtained.
Our financial problems are not ones that we can shy away from and I recognise and share readers’ frustrations about the EU. I do agree with David Cameron when he says now is not the time for a referendum on our membership of the EU, however, I believe that time is approaching and should be part of the next Conservative manifesto. Europe is currently undergoing radical change and we should see how this crisis will end before making decisions about our own future relationship.
There is no doubt that we must protect our own interests, safeguard the single market and stay out of a federal Europe. We must rein in the budget and bureaucracy and restrict excessive meddling in issues that should rightly be decided at Member State level.
For the time being Europe is a club to which we belong, so readers please be assured that my Conservative colleagues and I will continue to represent Britain’s interests in the European Parliament so that we get the best possible deal out of our membership.