Britain is more than a star on somebody else’s flag!

WP_20140301_033Since being elected in 2010 I have worked hard to represent all of the people in my Rochester and Strood constituency, irrespective of who they backed at the election, and notwithstanding how party whips may have wanted me to vote. I have consistently campaigned for an In/Out EU referendum, and was delighted when my constituency referendum – the first anywhere in the country – saw nearly 80% agree with me that Britain should be an independent country, trading with Europe, but governing ourselves and controlling our borders. I am delighted that other Conservative MPs have followed this initiative, showing that only Conservatives will give the people a say on our membership of the European Union.

The news that Conservative MP Bob Neill had placed high enough in the Private Members ballot of MPs last week and was determined to introduce a bill in this parliament legislating for an EU referendum, came as welcome news. As someone who has long campaigned for a vote on our membership I relish every opportunity to reaffirm that in the voting lobbies in Parliament. Though my Conservative colleague James Wharton MP was thwarted in his attempt to put an EU referendum on the statue books by unelected Lib Dem and Labour peers, I believe this time we may get our way.

Only a few weeks on from the European Union elections where a majority of those votes cast were for pro-referendum parties, many in SW1 have learnt that taking the voters for granted has a cost. With the news today that the Liberal Democrats could be about to U-turn in favour of matching the Prime Minister’s In/Out EU referendum pledge, and may even support Bob Neill MP’s Private Members ballot, it will leave the Labour party as the only party denying the British public and a majority of their voters a say. It is now surely a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ the British people get an In/Out vote and I am delighted, as with all major decisions affecting our lives, it is the Conservative party which is leading the way.

Locally the Conservatives in Medway have a history of standing up to the EU. In 2011 whilst still a councillor I brought a resolution to the chamber – which successfully passed – calling upon the three Conservative Medway MPs to not support an increase in the EU budget. How can it be right that whilst Medway receives a reduction in its financial settlement, our contribution to the EU increases by 60% over two years? It was this local vote which paved the way a year later for my amendment in Parliament calling for a real-terms cut in the 2014-2020 EU budget. This was the first time the coalition government had been defeated and delivered the first ever cut in the EU budget.

Supported by my local Conservative councillors we, for the first time anywhere in the country, gave our voters a say on our membership of the European Union. I am delighted that the nearly 80% of the thousands of people who took part in my Rochester and Strood In/Out EU referendum believe as I do, that Britain can have a positive future for Britain outside of the EU. Only Conservatives can and will deliver a referendum on our membership of the EU and myself and my local councillor colleagues will fight for you to have that say.

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