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‘People must get final say on EU membership’

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: January 18, 2013

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THE UK needs a ‘new relationship’ with the European Union (EU), a Tory MP has argued.

Heather Wheeler, who represents South Derbyshire, also demanded a halt to the transfer of further responsibilities, repatriation of powers over employment and social policy, and a referendum on EU membership.

She made her call before Prime Minster David Cameron postponed his long-awaited speech on the UK’s relationship with the EU.

Mrs Wheeler said withdrawal from the ‘important’ EU, which accounted for a huge proportion of UK trade, would impact the nation’s ability to influence decisions affecting its economy.

“Therefore, we need to be pragmatic and realistic about the drawbacks and benefits of membership,” she said.

“We need a calm and reasonable debate which does not polarise opinion, trade insults and exaggerate problems.

“The debate must establish what is genuinely in the national interest and then gives people an opportunity to make the final decision.”

Mrs Wheeler said it was ‘fundamentally wrong’ that people had been denied an opportunity to consent to membership.

She claimed this was one of the key reasons why successive Governments had such difficulty communicating the benefits of membership as opponents ‘rightly pointed’ to the democratic deficit.

“Membership should not be something decided by politicians but by the people, who should not be patronised but entrusted to make the right decision,” the MP said.

Before a referendum, however, key powers needed to be clawed back from Brussels and returned to Westminster, Mrs Wheeler said.

“It is unacceptable that social and employment policy impacting the UK is decided by a group of unelected officials seeking to legislate for an area stretching from the southern parts of Greece to northern Finland, and from Portugal in the west and Romania in the east,” she said.

Despite EU member states’ diversity, each one had ‘different working cultures and social needs’, which should not be feared but celebrated.

“In order to maintain popular support for membership, the EU must allow member states to maintain their distinct cultural, social and commercial activities,” the MP said.

“This means Brussels relinquishing power and creating a looser Europe, where national Parliaments make their own social and employment policies.”

Co-operation was ‘essential’ in certain areas, but Parliament, not Brussels, should be where such laws were made, she said.

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