In the run-up to the recent Parliamentary debate on the UK’s position in the EU Jonathan Reynolds received a number of letters from constituents.
The debate – which proposed that Britain should hold a referendum about leaving the EU or renegotiating its membership – was triggered by a petition of more than 100,000 members of the public.
Mr Reynolds received letters in support of the motion and opposing it. And because it generated significant levels of interest he has reproduced the text of a letter he sent to those constituents who contacted him.
It reads: "Thank you for contacting me about the parliamentary debate proposing the UK hold a referendum on leaving the European Union.
"On any EU matter I always consider myself a pragmatist. Since becoming an MP there have been European proposals I profoundly disagree with, such as an increase in the EU budget, and proposals which I strongly support. For instance, one of the first EU directives I sat on a parliamentary scrutiny committee for dealt with coordinating member states sex offender registers to ensure paedophiles could not easily move from country to country committing crimes. I do not see how anyone could object to that.
"The UK’s relationship to Europe is however primarily an economic one. The EU is our single biggest export market by far and is particularly important to an area like ours which has a high concentration of manufacturing businesses. Given how much uncertainty there currently is in the eurozone area of Europe concerning the sovereign debts of nations like Greece (to which, incidentally, our UK banks are rather exposed) to add to that uncertainty by holding the proposed referendum at this time strikes me as extremely unwise.
"If a referendum did occur, I would personally vote in favour of staying in the EU. That is again based on a hard-headed economic assessment of where our national interest lies. Opponents of the EU often assert that we could leave the EU and then negotiate a free trade agreement with the remaining member states. This is probably true but, like Norway and Iceland who have similar arrangements, to do this we would have to agree to implement every EU regulation and directive in full. The only difference would be we would not have any say in the formulation of these regulations or directives, whereas at the moment as a major nation in Europe we do. It is quite foreseeable that future EU regulation of, for instance, the financial services industry would therefore reflect the interests of France and Germany rather than ourselves, causing major adverse effects to an important part of our domestic economy. Eurosceptic Conservative MPs occasionally claim we would be able to negotiate a better deal than this, but I cannot see how any of our neighbours would seriously agree to this.
"There are other arguments which are also worthy of consideration, such as how leaving the EU would affect our trading relationships outside of Europe? The big picture in the world today is the emergence on the global stage of states like China, India and Brazil, all of whom are growing into serious economic powers. Membership of the EU gives us much more significant clout on the world stage than if we simply had bilateral arrangements with these potential superpowers.
"Finally, I do acknowledge that there is an appetite in some parts of the UK for a debate on what the long-term future of the EU will be, and I want to make clear that in no way do I see the UK’s future as being part of a federal Europe. I also do not see how the current economics of the single European currency would ever work for us. However, I do wish for a more rational and sensible debate in this country about the things I have raised in this letter. The habit of our tabloid newspapers of printing stories about the EU which are completely untrue (‘Corgis to be banned by EU’, ‘EU to ban prawn cocktail crisps’, ‘EU demands Waterloo station be renamed’ – all of these have genuinely appeared in UK newspapers) is seriously to our detriment. Let’s hope for a better debate on this occasion.
"I hope this letter has satisfactorily explained my position and has been of interest to you."