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EU Membership: Business

Volume 599: debated on Tuesday 15 September 2015

The Prime Minister is focused on reforming Britain’s place in the EU, and rightly so. A wind of change is blowing through the EU, and it is a wind that wants reform. We are in a process of renegotiating, and when we have completed that renegotiation, the question will be put to the British public.

Earlier this morning, the Secretary of State referred to the difference of opinion on the Labour Benches with regard to our membership of the European Union. Will the Minister take this opportunity to demonstrate the undeniable, 100% unity that exists on the Conservative Benches by confirming that she and all her ministerial colleagues will enthusiastically promote the positive case for remaining in Europe when the time comes?

I know that the hon. Gentleman is new to this place, but I do not think the Conservative party has ever shied away from the fact that we are not all as one when it comes to the future of our European Union membership and whether we should stay in or leave. What is absolutely the case is that, unlike other Governments who had the opportunity, we are trusting the British people. We are in a process of negotiation. We will go to the people, and let the people decide whether or not to stay within the EU.

Has the Minister seen the report from Business for Britain, entitled “Change, or go”? Does she agree with one of its conclusions, that leaving the European Union would

“not entail a loss of influence on the world stage.”?

I will be fascinated and delighted to read this document, and I am sure my hon. Friend will send me a copy, but given my long-term support for our continuing membership of the European Union, I might need a bit more persuading than his document could provide.

It looks as though it is going to be a very lengthy read, I must say, and probably rather heavy as well.

As part of the Prime Minister’s renegotiation, and as he visits various European capitals, he presumably has a list of reforms that he wants enacted. How many directly relate to business?

The Prime Minister has set out his broad categories. He continues to meet leaders throughout the European Union, and he continues to put the interests of our country first and foremost. In due course, and most importantly, the people of this country will decide whether or not to stay within the EU. As to my answer to the previous question, I take it all back—I am not reading a document of that length, but I will have a five-minute conversation with my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall).

In the 1980s, the European Union accounted for about 30% of world trade. By the beginning of the next decade, that figure will be about 15%. Over that time, our trade deficit is growing to £50 billion a year. Is it not clear that Britain would be better off outside the EU?

Given the views of the new Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, it might be a good idea for my hon. Friend to meet him and persuade him further of the case that he advances. It seems that there is another major shift in the policy of the Labour party.