Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 11 June 2015


In the week that the EU Referendum Bill received its second reading, how could I not discuss the thorny issue of Britain's relationship with the EU?

It now looks like we could have a referendum as soon as May 2016 – yes next year! The commitment is to hold it by the end of 2017 at the very latest, but as it is such a divisive issue, as the uncertainty is bad for business and as the broad arguments about the improvements we seek in the way the EU works are already circulating among EU leaders, why not get the matter settled sooner rather than later. It is quite possible that the Prime Minister will have concluded a deal to get whatever changes he can extract from EU partners by Christmas this year and then a full scale debate about whether to go or stay can begin.

There are concerns about linking the referendum to other elections, for example local and London Mayoral elections, but the government believes the British people have the nous to sort out one issue from another.

There are those MPs at Westminster who wake up each morning and think of little else but the UK leaving the EU. I am not one of them. I recognise that there are arguments on both sides and I want to see a grown up debate about the issues for at least 6 months before we go to the polls and then let the British people decide. I already know which way I will vote (barring unforeseen sensational changes), but will keep my powder dry until nearer the time.

I hope the debate will be an honest one. I hope those in favour of staying in will not try to frighten the electorate about the financial consequences of leaving. As the sixth largest economy in the world, we can probably stand on our own two feet, even if there remains an element of uncertainty about what that would look like.

I hope those wanting out will not pretend that if we leave the EU and join a free trade area there will be billions of extra to spend on our NHS. Not so, as we will have to pay handsomely to be part of any free trade area, as Norway does. We will also have to comply with all the rules of the free trade area.

Let the debate begin, let the people decide, "though the heavens fall."

posted by Gary @ 09:08