Conservative “Silent Majority” Backs Cameron in Europe

The majority of Britain’s Conservatives support their leader’s reform efforts and want to stay in the European Union.

Prime Minister David Cameron rehearses his speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, October 9, 2012
Prime Minister David Cameron rehearses his speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, October 9, 2012 (i-images/Andrew Parsons)

Even if a loud minority of Conservative Party lawmakers is critical of their leader’s European Union reform efforts and would rather get out of the bloc, most of Britain’s rightwingers favor continued membership. The reason, argue two ruling party lawmakers, is that being a part of the European Union serves the British national interest.

Damian Green, a Conservative lawmaker, and Charles Tannock, a member of the European Parliament, call on the “silent majority” in their party to get behind Prime Minister David Cameron and start making the case for reformed British membership.

They argue in The Spectator that an exit would deprive Britons of the ability to work and study anywhere in Europe, buy second homes or retire in France or Spain and establish businesses and bid for contracts on a level playing field.

Europe’s single market is worth £12 trillion, making it the world’s largest economic bloc. Euroskeptics cite a romantic alternative world in which America and the Commonwealth are waiting to welcome Britain back into the “Anglosphere”. But this is an illusion.

No Commonwealth or American leader has ever advocated Brexit. On the contrary, all those we encounter very much hope we remain in the EU as a natural political and economic bridge for them and thus in their own national interests.

Green and Tannock also wonder how much economic freedom the United Kingdom would find outside the European Union.

To preserve its access to the single market, Britain would still need to follow the same rules and standards it does now. It could join Norway and Switzerland and join the European Free Trade Association but then it would lose any influence over the policies it has to abide by.

There is also nothing to the argument that membership somehow prevents Britain from trading more with the rest of the world. Instead, the country benefits from free-trade agreements Europe has negotiated with countries like Colombia, Singapore and South Korea as a whole. Leaving would require Britain to renegotiate access to many foreign markets.

Green and Tannock urge support for Cameron’s efforts to reach a “new accommodation” with the continent that would simultaneously strengthen the single market and allow Britain to opt out of some of the more onerous integration schemes.

Cameron has promised to call a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union by 2017, after concluding negotiations about changes in its relations with the bloc.

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