The Prime Minister’s deal on Europe has been backed by Bognor Regis and Littlehampton’s MP as a ‘step in the right direction’.
Nick Gibb, who is the Government’s schools minister, explained that although the agreement did not deliver the ‘slimmed down, trade-focused, modern, responsible body’ he believed the European Union (EU) had to become to remain relevant throughout the 21st century, it helped protect the UK from a process of further political integration.
He explained that as a Eurosceptic he has been deeply concerned about the encroachment of EU institutions over Britain’s sovereignty, but argued that the uncertainty of the country’s position if it were to vote to leave in June, especially issues around security, gave him ‘pause for thought’.
Mr Gibb said: “At the general election in 2015 we promised to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, once the renegotiation had been completed.
“That promise is being delivered. The vote will take place on Thursday 23 June.
“The decision, therefore, about whether or not this country should remain in the EU rests not with politicians but with the electorate.
“My vote is no more important than anyone else’s in this referendum.
“In my judgement, Friday night’s agreement is a significant step in the right direction. The EU needs more reform but, after considerable thought and heart searching, I have come to the conclusion that the right thing to do is to support the Prime Minister.
“He has been an outstanding leader of our country and is presiding over the transformation of the economy and our public services. He is a good man and has negotiated a good deal. We should trust his judgement.”
The decision to hold an EU referendum and the election of David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party were the two most important decisions Mr Gibb had made as an MP, he said.
He added: “As a Eurosceptic, who has been deeply concerned about the encroachment of the institutions of the European Union over Britain’s sovereignty for many years, I have obviously followed very closely, and supported, the Prime Minister’s renegotiation of our relationship with the EU.
“I believe that he chose to concentrate on the right issues as the basis for a new settlement: economic governance (ensuring that Eurozone members cannot impose their will on non-Euro members), competitiveness (reducing undue regulation and extending the single market), immigration (restricting access to benefits for EU migrants) and sovereignty (reaching explicit agreement that Britain is not committed to “ever closer union”).
“I therefore welcome the deal that David Cameron has secured and, in particular, the clear statement that the UK ‘is not committed to further political integration into the European Union’ and that this will be written into the EU’s Treaties. It is also important to have secured agreement that references to ‘ever closer union’ in the Treaties do ‘not offer a legal basis for extending the scope of any provision of the Treaties or of EU secondary legislation’.
“Taken together with legislation passed in the last Parliament requiring a referendum of the British people in the event of any new treaties transferring further powers to the European Union, the agreement protects the UK from a process of further political integration that would have been damaging on a range of important policy areas and would have undermined the faith people would have that our democratic institutions were properly representing their interests and beliefs.
“The question I have been struggling with is, ‘is this enough?’ I have no doubt that Britain’s economy would prosper outside the European Union. But do the protections David Cameron has secured for non-Eurozone economies, the commitment to fully complete the internal market, the centrality of competitiveness to the success of EU economies and the promise of further deregulation mean that the UK economy can prosper in a reformed European Union?”
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