The recent revelations that David Cameron had planned to stage a row with France in order to portray an image of bullishness in the renegotiation process was alarming for reformist eurosceptics who have placed faith in him to repatriate powers. It acted as a stark reminder of the need to hold the prime minister to account on the European Union. It is sustained and concerted pressure that has led to a number of concessions from the government, we cannot let up.
It has been conceded that the referendum could not coincide with other elections, it was conceded in principle that there must be a minimum of four months between announcement and the vote and, after the recommendation from the Electoral Commission, the referendum question has been rephrased to remove the bias of “yes”. The government, sadly, did not accept the advice of the Electoral Commission on purdah but was put in its place by a cross party group of rebels.
The pressure must be maintained if we are to ensure the EU referendum is free and fair and that the process has integrity. The EU referendum bill is still flawed, there are no restrictions at all on the unaccountable institutions of the EU and their ability to campaign to retain their powers over the United Kingdom. An absolute minimum of sixteen weeks for the referendum campaign should be in the Bill. There is also a need to strengthen the purdah rules to prevent devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland using taxpayer’s money to campaign in the run-in.
The campaign group Conservatives for Britain, chaired by Steve Baker MP and David Campbell Bannerman MEP, is attempting to exert that pressure. The group represents Conservatives who want to see a fundamental change in our relationship with the EU, and those who want to ensure the referendum isn’t fudged.
The group is campaigning to get the best deal for Britain and keeps an open mind as to whether that is achieved through a fundamental renegotiation or by campaigning to leave if that cannot be achieved. Before this decision is made Conservatives for Britain will judge the success of the negotiation process against areas of reform:
- An end to “ever closer union”
- Cuts in regulation for small business
- Domestic control over social and employment law
- Protection for the City of London
- Exemption from Eurozone bail outs
- A reduction in the EU budget
- Migration controls for member states
- The right to veto EU laws
- Greater transparency
- Fast tracked trade deals
These are clear goals that have to be achieved if the “renegotiation” is to be deemed a success. Steven Baker has stated that ‘Conservatives for Britain will be exploring the extent to which those goals have been met in the renegotiation package and whether they are sufficient to recommend EU membership to the British people’ (my bold). Crucially, the group will judge whether the above goals are sufficient enough themselves, as well as judging the extent to which they have been achieved.
‘We are ever more accustomed to a globe without borders and boundaries,’ Steven Baker has written, insisting Britain must not ‘miss out on the growth of Asia and South America and the overdue emergence of Africa. Who doubts that much of our material success is dependent on trade with the great manufacturers of China? Why should British firms and families accept European barriers to global trade?’
We at Conservatives for Liberty wholeheartedly agree. It is for those reasons, and many more, that we support British independence and will campaign for a Brexit and a new relationship with the European Union and the world. This is also why we want to give our support to Conservatives for Britain and urge our members, supporters and readers to sign up and help them to hold the government to account.
CfB has grown significantly since its launch, recruiting large numbers of Conservative from across the party and from all nations of the UK. The CfB mailing list currently includes over 115 MPs, over 35 peers and over half of the Conservative MEPs, and almost 1,000 people who have signed up as activists, including former PPCs, councillors and association officers.
On Sunday 6 September, CfB revealed the names of 40 Vice Presidents and Founding Members, drawn from both Houses of Parliament, the European Parliament and the voluntary party. The list features former Cabinet Ministers and serving Chairmen of prominent Select Committees, including Lord Blencathra, Lord Tebbit, Dr Liam Fox MP, Owen Paterson MP and John Redwood MP.
Despite having come a long way in such a short time, it is imperative that they continue to grow. As the number of supporters grows, they will be in an even stronger position to hold the government to account, ensure a fair referendum and argue for the fundamental change which Britain needs in its relationship with the European Union.
As a supporter of Conservatives for Liberty, your help will be invaluable in helping to spread the word about the campaign to as many Conservatives as possible. We will be supporting Brexit whatever the CfB decides, but for now we are asking you to support their campaign and ramp up the pressure on the government.
Sign up, and get your friends to sign up too! Below is an official statement from Conservatives for Britain:
‘The EU renegotiation provides a once in a lifetime opportunity for Britain to secure fundamental change in our relationship with the EU. Conservatives for Britain was established to support the Prime Minister’s renegotiation, whilst preparing for a ‘No’ campaign if EU elites do not allow a new relationship to be formed. With your support, we can make an even stronger case for the better deal which Britain needs. Please sign up as a supporter today via our new website: conservativesforbritain.org/sign-up‘