COLUMN: Andrew Lewer, East Midlands MEP, on why he thinks a vote is desperately needed to settle the EU issue

Andrew Lewer, Conservative MEP for the East Midlands.
Andrew Lewer, Conservative MEP for the East Midlands.

After arriving at university in 1989 I started to take more of an active interest in politics and I recall that ‘Euro-Sceptic’ attitudes were much less prevalent than now.

At this time, even Margaret Thatcher herself - now firmly fixed in the popular cultural firmament as the grande dame of hostility to all the works of the EU - signed Britain up to membership of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (a precursor of the Euro) and was, throughout her time as Prime Minister, one of the most active supporters of the European Single Market, a welcome innovation but one that did involve a significant extension of EU powers.

My suspicions of many of the activities of the European Union - held since those student days - have now become such (as it were) common currency, that as a newly elected MEP I feel the need to redress the balance to some degree.

Although it is undoubtedly the case both that the EU wastes a lot of money and that we do need to renegotiate our terms of membership, especially as regards immigration and the ‘ever closer’ union concept, it is also the case that some EU programmes are beneficial to the British economy and its people.

I say none of this in the spirit of having ‘gone native’ (already!) but simply as a ‘Euro-realist’ and towards seeking a balanced view of the complex choice British people will face if a Conservative Government is elected next year and an EU referendum is therefore held in 2017.

Whether you are inclined towards ‘in’ or ‘out’ a vote is desperately needed to settle this issue.

After all, the last EU referendum was nearly 40 years ago now!