This evening will be an interesting one as the House of Commons meets to debate whether the United Kingdom should have a referendum on our membership of the EU.
As I’ve mentioned here before, the fact we’re having the debate and vote at all is a massive mishandling of the situation by Team Cameron.
However, we’re here now and behind all the bluster and politicking are some cold, hard, facts.
Whether you think a referendum is something we should have or not, we can surely all agree that now, with the economy going down the tubes with high inflation, rising unemployment and stagnant growth, there are more important things for Parliament’s limited time.
In the last nine months the UK economy has not grown at all. Over the last year only Japan has grown more slowly in the G7 and only Greece, Portugal, Denmark and Hungary have grown more slowly in the EU. One in five young people are out of work and there are now more women unemployed than any time since 1988.
The government and the nation has to concentrate now on a plan for growth and creation of jobs over and above an ideological debate about our place in Europe.
Given that we’re looking for growth, it makes sense to say, now at least, that it would be a sensible thing to support links with the massive export market right on our doorstep and not cut ourselves off from it.
There are 3.5 million jobs in the UK involved in trading, either directly or indirectly, with the other nations of the European Union.
Right now, half of this country’s exports are to the European market and eight out of ten of the top UK export markets are in the EU.
To say Europe isn’t important to the economic recovery of the UK is either incredibly naïve or highly malicious.
If we retreated from membership of the European Union, how could we make sure future reformations to the single market would be to the benefit of British business, industry and consumers?
I’m of the mind that, as all three political parties have agreed in recent year, there should be a referendum on joining the Euro, because that would make a massive change to our constitution.
But there’s no major change to the British constitution on the horizon. Ed Balls kept us out of the euro and, let’s face it, even the most ardent pro-Europeans will be relieved we’re not going in to it any time soon. If there was something like that under discussion, then it would make sense to have a referendum. But there isn’t. So we shouldn’t.
As a slight aside, it’s interesting to note that the last time discussions of a referendum on membership raised it’s head, during the negotiations over the Lisbon Treaty, that David Cameron supported the members of his Party calling for a referendum.
I wonder when he changed his mind.