Duncan comments on EU deal
Thanks to David Cameron the British people will have a say on our relationship with Europe for the first time in over forty years.
Thanks to David Cameron the British people will have a say on our relationship with Europe for the first time in over forty years. When Great Britain last voted, the country was beset by strikes, power cuts and the three day week, with a winter of discontent still to come. Back then Conservatives were staunch defenders of the Common Market, whilst the SNP campaigned against membership under the slogan, ‘No vote, No entry.’ Today the UK is no longer the sick man of Europe, with an economy growing 10 times faster than France, and the Conservative Party remain convinced of the value of a common market but uneasy at the prospect of ever deepening EU relations.
The UK has a semi-detached approach to Europe. We did not adopt the Euro, or join the Schengen open border area. We have a range of justice opt-outs, a substantial rebate on our fees and until 1997 we had a social policy opt out too (Tony Blair abolished this on taking office).
The PM has secured further concessions, and reinforced our unique relationship with the EU. The deal involves an end to ‘ever closer union’ as a legal determinant of law, cuts red tape in order to boost ‘competitiveness’, restricts benefits as a driver of migration and provides further guarantees to protect the £. Could more have been achieved? Spend any time in Brussels and you see up close the bits that don’t work. I had been pressing strongly for serious reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy, both vital to Scotland. Neither work well, both are overly bureaucratic and are based on a lowest common denominator approach to policy making. I will continue to work on reform in these areas.
I suspect that most Scots will decide how to vote in the referendum not solely upon the PM’s reform package, although it is important, but rather upon their sense of the rights and the wrongs of the EU garnered over a lifetime. That too is valid. This opportunity is unlikely to come around again anytime soon. I conclude on that note for one simple reason. It is not the Conservative Party that will decide our relations with the EU. Not David Cameron, not Nigel Farage, not Nicola Sturgeon. You will. The Prime Minister has delivered the referendum, our future in Europe now rests in your hands.
*This article appeared in The Courier on Saturday 20 February 2016.