Watson: Tories must come clean on alternatives to EU membership

Sir Graham Watson MEPLiberal Democrat MEP for the South West Sir Graham Watson has commented on the speech today by Liam Fox calling for an immediate renegotiation on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

“This is a desperate move by a discredited Tory to bang the populist drum to try to revitalise an ailing political career.

“As usual, a lot of hot air is being blown but with few precise proposals. Does Mr Fox wish to see us form a Norway style relationship, where we would lose our rebate, pay £3.5 billion a year into a pot to access the single market but have no say on the directives that we would have to conform to in order to trade freely? Or perhaps a customs union, similar to Turkey, where specific goods would be tariff free but not services and where again, all directives agreed by the others without our input would have to be implemented into UK law in order to trade.”

“You cannot have a pic ‘n’ mix relationship with Europe. One of the reasons that the UK has been able to benefit enormously from the single market is that we can exert our pro-free trade policies against French protectionism. If we leave that bloc, or remove ourselves from the top table, who is to say that some Eurozone countries will not attempt to undermine our competitiveness and persuade businesses to take jobs out of Britain and back to the continent?

“Eurosceptics are right that Britain still plays an influential role in world affairs. Where they are wrong is that it is only because Bejing, Moscow and Washington know we can influence the direction of the world’s largest single market. Without that, we relegate ourselves to the 2nd division.

“Large economies are making sacrifices in order to keep the Eurozone together and sort out the colossal debt crisis. If Tories honestly believe that we will simply be allowed to renegotiate our membership at the eleventh hour without damaging jobs, trade and our rebate then clearly they are deluded.

“So I call on the Conservatives to get real, stop pandering to the right just to keep traditional supporters happy in the short term and get back to the job of securing Britain’s long term prosperity.”

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