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James Morris MP column: The UK should negotiate a new deal with the EU
1:54pm Tuesday 5th March 2013 in Local
It’s not often that I start columns by quoting nineteenth century German statesmen – partly because I don’t know of many things said by nineteenth century German statesmen – but Otto von Bismarck once described politics as “the art of the possible”.
What I think he meant is that, like in most areas of life, to achieve anything meaningful in politics you have to set challenging goals but you also need to have an idea of what can and what cannot be done.
Those words came back to me during recent debates over Europe.
On the one hand, the few remaining European federalists say that Britain couldn’t possibly survive outside of the EU. On the other side, those who want to walk away immediately are saying that it isn’t possible to reform the EU and so we have to either accept what we have or leave.
I don’t think either of these extremes is true.
Nobody should imagine that leaving the EU would be easy or would be without any consequences – a lot of local businesses and local jobs depend on trade that our membership of the EU makes easier – but it could be done and we would survive.
Nor do I believe that we cannot hope to get a better deal for Britain that would make it worth staying in.
People scoffed at the idea that David Cameron could get a real-terms cut in the EU budget and that Britain would be left without allies. As we now know, not only could it be done, but he did it – the first time that the EU budget has been reduced.
It could be done because, despite what some expected, other countries agreed with us.
That’s why I am confident that we can negotiate a better deal, bringing powers back from Brussels and leaving the EU to concentrate on making it easier for us all to trade with each other and create new jobs.
And once the negotiations are completed then it is essential that voters are given a choice as to whether we stay in on those new terms or leave. I strongly believe that there must be a referendum on our membership of the EU and am delighted that the Prime Minister has agreed.
I hope that we do get a deal that makes it worth staying in, and I believe it can happen, but if we can’t get the right deal then I would not hesitate to vote for us to leave.
We should only stay in the EU if it is in Britain’s interests and that should be left for voters to decide."