A history of my work opposing further EU integration since the 90s, fighting for a referendum and campaigning to Leave the EU
Shortly after being elected in 1992, I was one of the few Conservative MPs who voted against the Maastricht Treaty, which formally created the European Union as well as the single currency of the Euro.
This was despite extraordinary political pressure being exerted by the then-Prime Minister, John Major, as well as other members of the Conservative Party. I am one of only a handful of Maastricht rebels remaining in Parliament, and one of the only Members of Parliament who has been fighting against further European integration for decades.
Fighting for a Referendum
I also voted in October 2011 for there to be a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. The proposed referendum would have had three options: remain, leave, and renegotiate the UK’s membership. In total, 81 Conservative MPs voted in favour of the motion.
Director of Vote Leave
In 2013, David Cameron promised an In-Out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Although until that point, I had been an advocate of renegotiating our membership of the EU rather than leaving outright, I realised that in a referendum of simply remain vs leave, I would have to campaign to leave.
In 2015, after the Conservatives won a majority in that year’s General Election, I helped set up Vote Leave and became one of its directors. As we all know, Vote Leave won official designation to be the formal campaigning organisation for the UK to leave the EU, and Leave subsequently won the referendum.
Senior ERG/Fighting for the vote to be respected
Once Theresa May became leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister, I was appointed to be the chair of the Steering Group of the European Research Group, an organisation of Eurosceptic Peers and Members of the House of Commons. Serving with other Eurosceptic Conservatives MPs, such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker, we coordinated efforts to ensure that the result of the vote to leave the EU was respected, and that the government’s policy was one that would entail the UK actually leaving the EU.
Fighting May’s deal + voting against extensions
In November 2018, the text of Theresa May’s Brexit deal was published. We immediately knew that it did not constitute leaving the EU as understood during the referendum. It would have left the UK trapped in the EU’s customs union indefinitely and prevented the UK from taking back control of its own laws or signing new trade deals with partners around the world.
With the rest of the ERG, we organised parliamentary opposition to the deal. Despite coming under intense pressure, I was one of only 28 Eurosceptic MPs who never voted for the deal at any of the three Meaningful Votes.
Since the failure of Theresa May’s Brexit deal, I have also voted against each of the two extensions to Article 50. Had other MPs voted as I had, the UK would have left the EU on 29th March 2019.