Bernard Jenkin MP spoke in favour of the motion calling for a referendum on the UK’s relationship with the EU during the House of Commons debate on Monday 24th October 2011. Mr Jenkin argued that it is now time to renegotiate the UK's relationship with the EU and that a referendum is needed.
Mr Jenkin’s full speech is given below:
“It is a pleasure to follow the right honourable Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field), who has long made measured contributions to such debates, but I want to draw attention to my honourable Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr Holloway), who is not in the Chamber. He made the speech of the night so far by bringing his integrity and judgment to the fore at the expense of his political office in the Government. The House should respect him especially for that.
“The fact is that this debate is beginning to show a pattern. Members who reflect the widely held public sentiment that our relationship with the European Union is not quite right and that something needs to change are all in favour of a referendum, whether that means a modest renegotiation or, like my honourable Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) says, leaving the EU
altogether. Members who have spoken against the motion are determined to keep the relationship the same, at least for the time being.
“I fully respect my right honourable Friend the Foreign Secretary, who says that he wants to repatriate powers, but as with St Augustine and chastity, he wants repatriation, but not yet. We know that public opinion overwhelmingly shows a strong sentiment for a fundamental change in our relationship with the EU. Unfortunately and sadly for the House, on an occasion when we could reflect our voters’ genuine concerns on this vexed subject, which has riven politics and both parties over many years, we will vote perhaps 4:1 against what we know most of our constituents would prefer.
“This issue has come to the fore because it is about not only democracy and consent, but growth and jobs. If the coalition came into being for anything, it was for the deficit reduction programme. That is its raison d’être. It might not have escaped her notice that that programme is in trouble, because the economy is not growing. There are many reasons for that—the US, the crisis in the Eurozone, and our country’s indebtedness and excessive taxation—but one fundamental reason is that we are overburdened with European regulation. That is why a majority of businessmen in this country now say that the advantages of the single market are outweighed by the disadvantages.
“We know from experience that we cannot rely even on the assurances given to us by our European partners. In 1992, we thought we had opted out of what was then called the social chapter. We thought that would protect us from the working time directive, but by the end of that Parliament the EU had circumvented the opt-out in typical fashion: it used a different treaty base to force the directive on to our statute book, against the wishes of our Parliament, by making it a health and safety programme.
“The same thing is happening with the agency workers directive, which the Government have bitterly opposed because they know that it will price more young people out of the labour market. We now have above-average youth unemployment in this country when it used to be below-average.
“The same thing is happening in the regulation of the City of London. If there is one thing that we should never have agreed to in principle, it is that the European Union and Michel Barnier should take over the regulation of the City—our biggest single tax generator. That was driven by a misplaced notion that Bonn, Frankfurt, Paris and the City should be given equal status as global financial centres. That would be disastrous for the City.
“We should oppose the Tobin tax on principle, because at the end of the day, it is another tax that takes money out of the pockets of ordinary people, but you wait, Mr Deputy Speaker, the financial transactions tax proposed by the EU will be forced through on some spurious treaty basis.
“The honourable Member for Middlesbrough (Sir Stuart Bell) agrees that that will be forced through on a spurious basis to cover the City. To coin a phrase, we can’t go on like this. Now that the EU is moving into a phase in which huge decisions, such as the decisions of the 17 on fiscal union, are being taken without the requirement of a British signatory on any treaty, we are losing the veto, which was the foundation of our EU membership and which made it acceptable.
“Therefore, it is now time to renegotiate. It is urgent for our economy. If we need a referendum to force the Government’s hand, that is what I will vote for.”
The motion, which Mr Jenkin voted for, was defeated by 483 votes to 111.