This week Prime Minister David Cameron set a deadline of 2017 for an opt-in/opt-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.
County Councillor for Grantham Richard Davies and his colleagues wrote to David Cameron in December calling for just such a referendum.
Here’s what he thinks of David Cameron’s announcement and the EU.
Do you welcome David Cameron’s announcement this week?
Absolutely. It’s fantastic news he has listened to the grass roots support of people like us in Lincolnshire. If we are going to renegotiate, which absolutely we should, then we are going to need this axe hanging over Europe’s head.
Why did the county council call for a referendum?
We knocked on people’s doors and it’s a massive issue for people. We are local elected representatives and I’m elected by the people in my area who are very, very concerned about the EU. The county council’s position is that people should be given a chance to have a say. The EU is restricting business and impingeing on our freedoms so people are annoyed and want a chance for their views to be heard. We pushed David Cameron very hard - along with others - and he has listened to the grass roots support.
Would Britain be better off out of the EU?
The way the EU is now we are better off out. Absolutely. But if we can turn it into more of a trade organisation so it’s easier for British businesses to do business and likewise for European businesses to come here and do business - that would be fantastic. The EU has brought in some ridiculous things that we can and can’t do like the metric martyrs, how big signs should be, what size fruit should be - the EU is interfering in people’s live on potty things. Also, our way of living is very different to other countries but the EU doesn’t regard different as good. It’s dangerous. The money is about £5m a day that we are paying in and we are one of a small number of countries that contribute. It’s an awful lot of money. Then a programme gets a small pot of funding and they demand they have their flags flying all over it, yet all they are doing is giving us our money back. You don’t make someone economically better off by taking large amounts of money off them, then giving them a little bit back. Another issue is the free movement of labour and immigration. It’s a really difficult topic to talk about but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. It allows people from all over Europe to come to Britain and enjoy the benefits people in Britain have. In these hard economic times maybe we have to question how many people a small island can take.
You say Lincolnshire people are concerned but do you think that concern is reflected across the country?
Lincolnshire is a good marker for middle-England - Grantham in particular. The average person is very interested and people are not a stupid as some politicians make out. People understand the big issues. I was knocking on doors last week and people know an awful lot more about this than I do! Ordinary people are tired of seeing cut-backs to public services while the European budget continues to spiral. European bureaucrats refuse to accept the budget should shrink. There are less police officers on the street and less hospital hours so how can they justify the EU having more money?