CONSERVATIVE MEP FOR SCOTLAND

Statement from Ian Duncan on the UK’s relationship with the EU

The referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU will take place on the 23 June. I believe it will be a once in a generation, perhaps even once in a lifetime, event. The question to be posed in the referendum is straightforward, the answer, a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ However, the relationship between the UK and the EU is anything but simple.

01.06.2016.

The referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU will take place on the 23 June. I believe it will be a once in a generation, perhaps even once in a lifetime, event. The question to be posed in the referendum is straightforward, the answer, a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ However, the relationship between the UK and the EU is anything but simple.

The four articles I have written cover the areas in which I have gained experience since being elected to the European Parliament: fisheries, farming, energy & climate change and LGBTI issues.  They are an attempt to balance the conflicting elements of the debate in these areas, and as far as possible, to cut through some of the less helpful rhetoric (from both camps).   

In writing the articles it became evident that different sectors of the economy view the debate in quite different ways. Fishermen will probably vote to leave the EU by a margin of around 95% - 5%. As I explore in the article, I can fully see why. Farmers are more likely to be balanced in their voting intentions, recognising the need for farm payments and the value of the market but frustrated by bureaucracy and the EU decision making process, and also distrustful of the UK and Scottish Governments to match the EU monies.

In each of the articles there are elements where membership affords a clear added value, and elements where withdrawal would provide advantage. The articles seek to explore where reform within the EU should be prioritised and could be achieved.  I have been working with the UK PM to ensure that the renegotiation settlement  he secured earlier in the year addresses the bureaucracy, lack of transparency and remoteness of decision making that has bedevilled fishing and farming industry. The two letters setting out these asks will be posted on my website shortly. I also include a copy of my letter to Agricultural Commissioner Phil Hogan outlining several of the concerns Scottish farmers have raised with me directly.

When I stood for election to the European Parliament in 2014 it was on a platform of reform. Having worked in Brussels prior to my election, as Head of the Scottish Parliament’s EU Office, I was aware of the many shortcomings of how business is done in Brussels. The political group to which my party belongs, the European Conservative & Reformists (ECR), was established to push for change in the EU. It is guided by the single statement, ‘Europe where necessary, local where possible.’

I believe that the EU can be reformed. I and my ECR colleagues push for reform on a daily basis, whether it be demanding regionalisation of fisheries management, seeing off Eurozone threats to UK financial services, liberalising the digital single market, pushing for simplification of CAP rules, the list goes on. It is a constant and demanding effort.

It is the single market that remains the greatest asset of the EU. Such is the importance of this market that even states outwith the EU want to trade into it and pay good money to do so. The removal of tariffs and other barriers has allowed Scottish businesses to sell to a potential market of 500 customers.  I do not doubt that if we were only talking about a Common Market, we would not even be having a referendum.

Further, if the EU can get its act together, the potential to extend the single market beyond Europe’s shores could bring extraordinary benefits to Scotland. Everyone has been focused on the EU-USA free trade area (TTIP in the jargon), but the opportunities in Asia are perhaps more significant still. India is the biggest whisky drinking nation in Asia, but they don’t drink Scotch. India levies a 150% tax on every bottle.  If we could broker a deal with India, get rid of those taxes, then there wouldn’t be enough glens in Scotland to cope with the Indian demand for Scotch.

The EU has to up its game though. Drift and indecision are hampering prospects for trade.

I know the UK could survive outside the EU. I also know if we put our minds to it we can change the EU for good. I think that should be our ambition.