Wednesday, 7 December 2011

EU Referendum

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, a senior Cabinet minister, has told the Spectator that a referendum on the United Kingdom's relationship with the European Union is inevitable.

My views on the EU are already well known, hence my wish to highlight the matter.

Mr Paterson's remarks are seen as the most serious Conservative challenge yet to David Cameron’s European policy:

‘There is no question, if they effectively create a new country, that is absolutely their right to do so. It does run counter, of course, to 300 years of British foreign policy in trying to avoid that happening. But if that is the way out of the conundrum on the euro, I think we have to respect that. But they have to respect the fact that it will create a brand-new relationship for us,’

He warns that the EU17 would become ‘a new and very powerful country which can dominate us’. His concern is that a fiscally united eurozone will spend as a bloc, tax as a bloc — and, when it comes to European summits, vote as a bloc.

‘It is wholly unacceptable to have a new bloc in which we would be permanently outvoted,’ Paterson says. Like Cameron, he is particularly concerned about what this might do to the City of London, a financial district without equal anywhere else in Europe. ‘Bluntly, they may well go ahead and in effect create a new country, with very central control of taxation and transfer of funds to weaker areas. But if they want to go ahead and form their new country, we want to get the power to run our country back.’

‘Hardly a Cabinet meeting goes past when an issue isn’t raised where we are being stopped by some form of European regulation,’  

‘If there was a major fundamental change in our relationship, emerging from the creation of a new bloc which would be effectively a new country from which we were excluded, then I think inevitably there would be huge pressure for a referendum.’
‘I think there will have to be one, yes, because I think the pressure would build up. This isn’t going to happen immediately because these negotiations are going to take some months. But I think down the road that is inevitable. ‘

Mr Cameron this week insisted that the proposed “fiscal union” among eurozone members does not involve a transfer of British power to Brussels, therefore there is no need for a referendum.

Mr Paterson said that the creation of a more integrated eurozone “will create a brand new relationship” between Britain and the EU.

That change, he suggested, must eventually trigger a referendum in Britain on the new arrangements to be discussed at a Brussels summit tomorrow. 

Paterson married the Hon Rose Ridley in 1980. She is the daughter of Matthew Ridley, 4th Viscount Ridley.

They have two sons and a daughter. Paterson speaks fluent French and German; and is a keen horse rider and racer.

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