How our South West MEPs reacted to David Cameron’s long-awaited EU speech - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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How our South West MEPs reacted to David Cameron’s long-awaited EU speech

Thursday, 24 January 2013
And so Prime Minister and Conservative leader David Cameron has at last made his long-awaited speech outlining his vision of the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union.

On Wednesday morning at the symbolically-chosen venue of the office of American Bloomberg news agency in Central London, Mr Cameron delivered his 45-minute speech, the headline being he will negotiate towards repatriation of powers and put that deal to the British public in an ‘in/out’ referendum if the Conservative party win the next general election.

There has been no shortage of comment and analysis on the speech and its contents from all sides and parties with the Conservatives broadly welcoming it and the Liberal Democrats and Labour warning it will create years of uncertainty for businesses and hamper moves towards economic growth and job creation.

The thoughts of Westcountry MPs have been collated by regional media, and the BBC has even been to the South West’s largest city Bristol – a city proud of its European heritage – to conduct a vox pop gauging the views of locals, but what do our region’s elected MEPs think?

Conservative Julie Girling has hailed the PM’s speech as a “positive step towards EU reform”. Speaking directly after the speech, she said: “The country now knows that they have the opportunity to have their say on the future of Britain's relationship with the European Union.

David Cameron raised five key points, competitiveness, flexibility, greater power for Member States, Democratic accountability and fairness all of which are key challenges to the future of the EU and will be key to the debates which will happen between now and 2015.

The EU needs fundamental change based on new principles that enable it to compete globally. Now the people will have their say. The EU was designed to address the problems of my parents' generation and my generation, now we must focus on the challenges of our children and grandchildren's generations."

Similarly, her Conservative colleague Ashley Fox congratulated Mr Cameron for “setting out a clear vision of what Britain’s future relationship with the European Union should be, and committing to putting the final say on our membership to the British public.

Writing on his Facebook page, Mr Fox said: “I want to see the Conservative Party go into the 2015 General Election on the clear promise to renegotiate our membership with the EU. Once these negotiations have been completed, the new membership proposals should be put to the British people in a referendum. The question will be whether the British people want to remain within the EU on the new terms, or whether they would prefer to leave?

I believe that there are economic benefits in remaining part of the Single Market. It allows British businesses to trade freely across the EU and it creates jobs and prosperity for UK PLC. At the moment this economic freedom goes hand in hand with a political programme that the British public have never voted to be a part of,” he added.

“In particular, I want the UK to opt out of social and employment legislation and to claw back control over justice and home affairs. I am sure that readers may well have other suggestions for what other powers need to be repatriated.”

However, Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson was less positive, warning that the tactics will lead to years of uncertainty for businesses looking to invest in the country. He said: “The Prime Minister raises some valid points, but too often his criticisms are old and out of date and his attacks are aimed at Aunt Sallies which he has set up. Moreover, his suggestion that the EU has no ‘demos’ shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the last 20 years of European history.

My main concern is that this speech will sow doubts into the minds of multi-national investors on whom so many UK jobs rely. David Cameron’s vision of Europe is rather like Boeing’s Dreamliner. Looks great, sounds great, but once you try to use it you find there are hidden safety problems.

UKIP MEP Trevor Colman took part in a Live Google Hangout hosted by his own ThEUnit website, which has been recorded and is available to view here. He said: "I think the message today from David Cameron was simple: that you the British public have been kept at arms length as far as the European Union is concerned for the last 40 years and you're going to be kept at arms length for the next five years and then you may, possibly, at the end of those five years have a referendum."

"I think it was a disgraceful speech by Cameron where he was rubbing the noses of the British people in it and saying you are not going to be involved in it."

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