If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

EU Referendum vote

Having reached the required 100,000 signatures, the idea of giving a referendum on our continued EU membership is going to be debated in Parliament. Thanks to OOL, I now learn that the vote, originally scheduled for 27 October, will now be held next Monday, 24 October. Ostensibly this is to allow David Cameron and William Hague, who will be in Australia on the 27th, to participate in the debate, but in reality I suspect it is a ploy to prevent the pro-referendum campaign from building up a head of steam.

Be that as it may, I saw on Snowolf's blog a letter he has written to his MP on the subject. It is so good that I asked him for permission to use it myself. He's fine with that, and with anyone else who cares to use it. I have made some slight alterations to the text - firstly because I am old enough to have voted in the 1975 referendum and Wolfers' letter was from someone who was too young to do that, and secondly because hundreds of identical letters landing on MPs' inboxes smacks of astroturfing, and risks being taken less seriously because of that. Here's my version, sent to Stephen Crabb MP earlier this evening.

Dear Stephen

This is possibly the most important letter I will ever write to my MP. I would be grateful if you would give it your most serious attention.

I note that the members of the Backbench Business Committee have scheduled a debate on the question of a motion proposing a referendum on our EU membership for October 27th.

As a constituent, I am writing to you to ask how you intend to vote following this debate, and to put forward my argument as to why a referendum must be given.

I could write about how I was given the opportunity to vote, in 1975, on our continued membership of the European Economic Community, which was primarily a trading arrangement, and how I felt reassured by the insistence of both Harold Wilson and Edward Heath that membership of the EEC would not involve any loss of sovereignty to the UK. Of course, the progress from the EEC to the EC and then the EU has involved a massive transfer of sovereignty away from Westminster to Brussels, and Edward Heath later admitted that he was aware all along that this was the intention of those promoting a 'yes' vote at the time. I could add that millions of people who were born after 1957 - anyone under the age of 54 - have never had the
opportunity to express an opinion on our membership, and how the Prime Minister’s statement that we have already had a say is therefore disingenuous.

I could point out the fact that the EU has failed to have its accounts signed off for almost two decades now, how whilst the nation states of Europe are reduced to penury, the EU votes itself ever larger budgets, about how the pattern of abuse of the expenses system by some MEPs is well documented, how their fiscal projects have put a number of nations into bankruptcy, crippled with debt repayments unprecedented in history, that this has been done against their own laws and has almost dragged us down with them.

I could state that their behaviour and duplicity when the Constitution/Lisbon Treaty was being steamrollered through (you must keep voting until you give the right answer) is anti-democratic at best and the actions of a Stalinist Soviet at worst.

I could draw attention to the practices of adhering to the regulations as set out by the EU makes life very difficult for businesses, especially small businesses – the life blood of our economy - and in many cases financially impossible.

I could highlight the costs of our membership, both in terms of taxation taken from the public and the expense of complying with ever more intrusive and complex edicts and directives from the EU.

Whilst I believe all these points are important, I think the matter comes down to a basic and vital question; Are we sovereign?

Ever closer union has only one logical outcome – a complete political union where the nation states are reduced to the level of federal states. It is all very well for Messrs Cameron, Hague and Duncan-Smith to talk about re-negotiations, saying no or not allowing any further steps, but they are trying to negotiate a rebate on the lunch money the playground bully has taken from them, and I am not convinced that what is said at conference is said in Brussels.

Mr. Crabb, the question of the UK’s continued existence as an independent and sovereign nation is at stake here, and the citizens of the UK must be allowed to deliver a binding verdict on the subject. It cannot be signed away on the strength of the cabinet at the time knowing ‘what is best’, and that verdict must be allowed to be delivered without fear of retribution or sanction from the EU if Parliament or the electorate return the ‘wrong’ decision in the eyes of the EU.

You will no doubt not be surprised to read that in any such referendum I would vote for our withdrawal, favouring as I do a pure free trade model as espoused by Lord Tebbit. However, those who hold a contrary view to mine simply must be able to express it to get this issue sorted once and for all.

I understand from the BBC today that David Cameron is against holding such a referendum, and that the Government is likely to enforce a whip to ensure that the Government MPs vote the 'correct' way. I would urge you to resist any such tactics and vote according to the interests and wishes of your constituents. I voted Conservative in 1979 and have done so ever since at all elections, in the belief that the party was the best choice for protecting British interests and prosperity, and being the most Euro-sceptic of the big three. However, recent events - including my bitter disappointment at Mr Cameron's failure to honour his 'cast-iron' commitment to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty - have made me re-evaluate my decision. In the next election, whenever it is held, I will be voting for a party that will support withdrawal from the EU or, at the very least, vote to allow the people of this country a genuine say in whether we remain members or not. If that means that the Conservative Party loses my support and another party gains it, so be it. For me, this is an issue bigger than any other, including the debt crisis itself.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

I would urge all people who care about the future of our country to contact their MP by whatever means necessary and express their opinion. Although, sadly, the exercise will probably be utterly futile, it is an opportunity we cannot afford to let slip by.

If anyone wishes to use my version of the letter (above) as a template for their own, they are more than welcome.


  1. Great letter Richard. Copied & sent to my MP.

    I take your point about avoiding astroturfing, so have signed my name rather than yours. ;-)

    I wonder how many MPs will get an email referring to 'Mr Crabb' (11th Para)??

    "....... sadly, the exercise will probably be utterly futile...." Certainly if Call-me-Dave issues a 3-line whip.


  2. Actually copied but edited-out lots of the superfluous "I could write / state / point / draw etc" That's what the e-mail is actually doing.

    Finished off with:-

    PS If the BBC is correct & Cameron enforces a whip, why were the citizens of this country misled into believing that getting 100,000 signatures to obtain a debate would achieve anything?

  3. Unfortunately, the MP who claims to represent the area in which I live is a Minister, and being on the payroll will slavishly follow the Whip.

    As this is also a very safe Tory seat, and one that is not due to have the boundaries changed, his career and wages are more important to him than the voters.

    Although he hasn't replied to my correspondance since being put into Government, I'll still send my version of the letter. Thanks for showing us that they've rushed to brush this under the carpet.

  4. Joe - good chap! I pondered whather to edit out the stuff you removed, but thought it added a bit of a rhetorical flourish. I think the letter would be just as good plain, though. Good point in your PS, as well.

    Mick - I've lived in a lot of seats like that, where there is barely any point in even voting. Mr Crabb has a small majority, but the seat has been Labour for a while and Liberal before that, so the Tories don't have ancestral rights here. However, given Labour's attitude to the EU, I doubt if he fears any backlash from that quarter. UKIP were small at the last election (last place with 2.3%), but may grow. We shall have to wait and see, but that's where my vote is probably going, as Crabb is an ultra-loyalist.

    I will, of course, publish any reply that I receive.

  5. Don't worry, we'll be owned by the Chinese soon anyway!

  6. It would be roughly as democratic.


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