Time for a UK referendum on EU membership?
by Julie Girling
For now, Europe is a club to which Britain should belong but public pressure for a referendum on membership should be acknowledged - writes British MEP
Britain and Europe are still facing major economic difficulties. The recent State of the Union address delivered by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso received only a lukewarm response from MEPs. His rallying cries for more Europe seem finally to be wearing thin. At the last British general election, the Conservatives made three key commitments on Europe: to stop the passage of further areas of power to the European Union, to introduce a 'referendum lock' on new treaty changes, and to 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 bail-out mechanism that the previous Labour government signed us up to. We also rejected calls to join the bail-out of Greece by eurozone countries and in December last year, the British prime minister refused to agree to a new EU treaty because reasonable safeguards for the single market could not be obtained. Our financial problems are not ones that we can shy away from and I share public 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, that time is approaching and should be part of the next Conservative Party manifesto. Europe is currently undergoing radical change and we should see how this crisis ends 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.
The British prime minister will always look for opportunities to get a better deal for the United Kingdom in Europe; the government launched a review of the balance of the EU's competences to provide a national audit of what the union currently does, and what it means for the country. This will provide us with the knowledge necessary to take future decisions about our relationship with the EU and any possible referendum.
Indeed, as a fresh deal in Europe becomes clear, we should consider how best to get the fresh consent of the British people. For the time being, Europe is a club to which we belong. So please be assured that the Conservatives will continue to represent Britain's interests in the European Parliament so that we get the best possible deal out of our membership.
Julie Girling is a Conservative Party MEP representing South West England and Gibraltar in the European Parliament
We must just leave the EU. A Briton warned Britons about the EU 70 years before the EU was born. The EU is doomed because European leaders have even ignored the critical advice Schuman and Adenauer offered them concerning the survival of the European Project
Francis codjoe - London author