I consider myself “Euro Cautious”. I am not a strong enthusiast for the European Union – it has become too bureaucratic, too controlling and too expensive – but I am by no means blind to the benefits it brings either.
On this basis, I have always said that I wanted to be able to vote to stay in the EU and following the announcement that the referendum will now be held on 23rd June, I now know that I will be voting for the UK to remain a member of the European Union.
We are currently living in difficult and uncertain times, both economically and geopolitically. Therefore, on balance, I do not believe that now is the time to take the risk of leaving – indeed, I believe that we should be working to improve things from within the EU.
When I became the MP for Twickenham last year, the economy was clearly the main issue for local people and it is still the main concern raised with me. Staying in the EU right now is important for economic stability and certainty for many UK businesses. That means having clear and unambiguous access to the EU Single Market without having to negotiate our own individual trade agreements. Local business owners have reinforced this view for me, especially at the event I hosted on the EU at Richmond upon Thames College last summer – most of them want fewer and better regulations and many were concerned about access to skilled labour rather than an exit from the EU altogether.
On foreign policy, the UK shares the same concerns as other EU members about the instability in Syria and Iraq, Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and Iran’s nuclear programme. The EU has also been crucial in tackling cross-border crime. This is the time we need to be working together with our neighbours and allies, and I fear that walking away would send the wrong signal at a time when we need to be engaged closely with our EU partners.
I make no attempt to pretend that the EU is perfect, and the referendum will be a choice between two imperfect options. The Prime Minister has been able to secure some meaningful changes to our relationship, and I do believe that our relationship with the EU is better as a result.
We will not be part of an ever closer union; our financial services industry will be protected from EU regulations that are not supported by our government; EU regulation that is burdensome for businesses will be regularly reviewed by the European Commission; and migrants from within the EU will not have full access to UK in-work benefits for four years, and Child Benefit payments will not be made at full UK rates. I wish that more could have been achieved, but these are worthwhile reforms.
We rightly remain outside of the Euro, the passport-free Schengen Agreement, and the Euro bailout mechanisms. And importantly for any future changes in the EU, we have a “referendum lock” whereby any Prime Minister who proposes giving away further powers to Brussels must hand over that decision to the people in a referendum.
While the EU is by no means perfect, I do believe at present that we can and should work within it as a proactive member, influencing the rules with other member states. Many will disagree; but crucially, we all have a vote on 23^rd^ June and I will respect whatever decision is made and I will continue to work for all the constituents and businesses of Twickenham regardless of the result.
I am proud to have stood on the manifesto commitment to hold a referendum and I am glad that that commitment will now be delivered. More than anything else, I sincerely hope that the people of Teddington, St Margarets, Heathfield, Whitton, Twickenham and the Hamptons will exercise their right to vote and that we have a high turnout on June 23rd.
I will be voting “Remain”, and I will continue to fight for Twickenham’s needs whether or not we stay in the EU.
— from Dr Tania Mathias website – 22 February 2016