ARUNDEL and South Downs MP Nick Herbert is leading a new Conservative group campaigning for the UK’s continued membership of a reformed European Union.
Mr Herbert will launch Conservatives for Reform in Europe (CRE) this week, ahead of the in-out referendum which is scheduled to be held before the end of 2017.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, the former minister described calls for the UK to exit the EU, before talks over renegotiatied terms of membership have even been concluded, as a ‘jump into a void’.
“Our aim is to give a voice to the thousands of party members and supporters who believe that change in Europe is vital, want the Prime Minister to succeed (in his renegotiation attempts), and if he does will vote to stay in a reformed EU”, he said.
From 1998 to 2000, before he was elected as an MP, he was chief executive of Business for Sterling, which campaigned against Britain adopting the euro.
While acknowledging ‘deep concerns about a growing loss of national sovereignty and the drive towards a European superstate’, Mr Herbert said that if reforms were secured ‘Britain would have the best of both worlds’.
The reforms which the Prime Minister had lobbied for while visiting leaders across Europe ‘would represent a fundamental change in our relationship with the EU’, he claimed.
“They would ensure that Britain’s interests outside the Eurozone would be protected, allowing countries with the euro to integrate more deeply without imposing damaging regulation on us.
“They would require the EU to have a long overdue focus on competitiveness, signing new trade deals and cutting regulation.”
According to Mr Herbert, exempting Britain from a treaty commitment to ‘ever closer union’ would protect national sovereignty.
Delaying the point at which migrants could claim in-work benefits, he added, would help ensure ‘our welfare system is not an artificial draw for people from the rest of the EU to come to Britain’.
But, the MP cautioned, a failure to secure such reforms would mean ‘many of us would be prepared to leave.’
Mr Herbert joins one of several political figures from the south-east who have been vocal during the EU debate.
Prominent Tory eurosceptic Daniel Hannan represents the area in the European Parliament, as does UKIP leader Nigel Farage.
Meanwhile Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, is on the board of the cross-party Britain Stronger in Europe campaign.
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