Elizabeth Peacock: Why David Cameron should have stayed neutral over EU

Former Tory MP Elizabeth Peacock has criticised David Cameron's handling of the referendum campaign.
Former Tory MP Elizabeth Peacock has criticised David Cameron's handling of the referendum campaign.
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WHEN I last commented on the EU referendum, I was wavering over which way to vote, having been a long time supporter of the Common Market which we thought we established in 1975.

I have since been analysing voting options and have concluded that there is only one answer – that is a solid vote to “Leave”.

I will vote this way for three main reasons: The progressive drift of the EU away from the Common Market we voted for, the sort of EU the British people will support in future and the positioning of our Prime Minister in the campaign.

It does not take too much analysis to recognise that the EU of today is nothing like the Common Market of 40 years ago.

Our governments during these 40 years have allowed European politicians to substantially change the management and operational structures of the Union. Harold Wilson craftily made sure we were committed to the idea and Margaret Thatcher spotted this drift which she opposed in her famous Bruges speech, after which she successfully negotiated a substantial British rebate from our European membership costs.

John Major kept us out of the euro with opt-outs in the Maastricht Treaty but rather too easily allowed the drift to an undemocratic European government to continue, despite warnings at the time from his own backbenchers.

Messrs Blair and Brown were too busy in Iraq and dealing with banking problems to take positive action.

However the British people noted this development with the arrival of Ukip. This caused David Cameron to bravely organise the present referendum.

This is where our Prime Minister should have remained neutral and left the people to make the decision. Referenda are for the people to inform governments what they think or should do – their outcome should not be influenced by government.

Regrettably our Prime Minister is desperately trying to intimidate us into voting “Remain” by using scaremongering tactics based on doubtful material in the form of a Treasury report and a document paid for by taxpayers.

Having failed to negotiate meaningful changes with our European colleagues, he is losing credibility when he overplays the issues and confuses the voters.

There is also real concern that Mr Cameron is allowing international leaders to intervene. We just do not need this sort of advice – we can manage our own affairs quite well.

Turning to various issues on the European scene that concern us here in Britain, and the question of what the public will accept, has now allowed me to rationalise my reasons for supporting the Leave campaign.

I have put aside the important area of finance and the economy as just too difficult to judge – even experts in the Bank of England are making little progress.

What we can say is that international business and trading will continue regardless of politicians, because it does not need government to flourish.

Starting at the top of the EU management it is obvious, with some 20 unelected Commissioners and their officials making decisions on our behalf, that the EU operation is undemocratic and costly and unsustainable.

The majority of our laws and directives come straight from Brussels and are ultimately enforced by European courts with little or no input from London. The British people want change on these issues and I cannot see this ever happening if we remain in the Union.

Following a Leave victory, these powers would be transferred back to London, Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast. At the same time we would re-affirm that our Supreme Court is the ultimate body for British law.

Many of us are unhappy with our inability to control immigration. We are especially concerned about the immigration of people from other EU countries who are using our welfare services and putting pressure on our schools. Again this major issue will not be corrected if we remain in the Union as other Member States are committed to free movement.

It is obvious that we have to take back control of our immigration policy and agree a fair and manageable UK system.

The cost of our European membership is out of hand at the £350m per week gross payment. Even at the net level when we have received monies back for industry and agriculture it is still too high.

A “Leave” victory will retain these funds in Britain under our own control for industrial, agricultural support and wide investment in the NHS, roads, rail, housing and schools.

In summary I am convinced that I must vote “Leave” on June 23 as the current EU is not sustainable, we as a nation want change with our Prime Minister and Government playing an even-handed role.

Elizabeth Peacock was MP for Batley and Spen from 1983-97.