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, 28 January 2016


Over Christmas I gave more thought to how I would vote in the referendum, which I believe will be in the middle of 2016.

I do not fear the UK leaving the EU, I am sure that we would manage well in the world. But there are economic risks. I could not list many advantages of Brexit (British exit), apart from ill-defined notions of freedom and sovereignty, but I am not sure what those splendid ideals mean in practice in such an inter-dependent world. Emotionally I am attracted to them, but we have to be hard-headed as well.

The clincher was the knowledge that if we came out of the EU but sought to enter a free trade agreement (like Norway and Switzerland) we would still have to comply with the rules of the single market, including the freedom of movement. So Brexit would not solve the immigration issue that concerns so many. What then have we gained, especially as we would no longer be able to shape the rules of that single market?

Decision reached.  Last week I co-signed a letter to the Telegraph from a new grouping of euro-sceptic MPs who like me have concluded that our national interest is best served by the UK staying in the EU.

There is much about the EU that I don't like. It is bloated, bureaucratic, inward-looking and meddlesome. Britain is always going to be the bulldog country on the edge, keeping the others on their toes. It will always be an uneasy relationship. But it works. Just about.

There are wider issues too that need to be considered, not just pounds, shillings and pence.  When a minister under John Major's government I attended many meetings in Brussels sitting around a huge table with earphones on, simultaneous translation of my words of wisdom flying to all corners. I thought then, what a cumbersome way to make decisions.

But I reflected on Churchill's words: "To jaw, jaw is always better than to war, war." One of the plus-points of the EU is that it has brought together nations, notably Germany, France and Britain, who have spent centuries fighting one another. What price can you place on peace?

The main cry from many constituents is for information so that you can each reach your own decision. Once the starting pistol is fired, probably in March, there will be no shortage of words, plenty of heat and hopefully some light as well.

posted by Gary @ 08:34