Like many in my generation I have never had the chance to have a substantive say on the nation’s relationship with the European Union.
When the last referendum took place the majority of people who voted chose to remain in the common market. At that time the nature of our relationship with the common market was significantly more straightforward than our current relationship with the contemporary European Union.
My parents’ generation voted to stay in an economic union not to join a political one. At least that is what many believed and aspired towards when going to the polls in 1975. The experienced reality of United Kingdom membership of the European Union therefore has not corresponded with the aspirations of those who inadvertently put us there.
Firstly, we must recognise that when the United Kingdom entered the common market the world economy was fundamentally different to what it is today. In 1973, the year which the British finally joined the common market, the EEC accounted for 37 per cent of world GDP. Today it only accounts for 26 per cent. The emergence of new growing markets in Brazil and India amongst others are tangible examples of the changing world economy, an economy which increasingly the EU has simply not been able to keep abreast with.
Proponents of the EU claim that in the case of so called ‘Brexit’ some 3/4m jobs are at stake. This is simply incorrect. It is not British membership of the EU which these roles depend on, but on vibrant trade with nation states, many of which will be our European neighbours. As a nation free from the shackles of the EU we will be able to look to a wider global stage to expand our trade with the growing economies of the world. On top of this we must recognise that our current trade with EU nation states will also be sustained because ultimately the EU is more financially dependent on us that we are upon them.
It is imperative we recognise that because we are currently in the EU, UK parliamentary sovereignty is simply a façade. The European superstructures have imposed their agenda upon us and at times our national parliament has been simply pushed to the side. Ultimately the EU Commission is the primary legislative body in the whole of Europe and it is not even elected. This body has brought forward many obtrusive regulations and directives in recent years and as such the whole European legislative process can be described as nothing more than an affront to democracy.
When I look at the fundamental issue of immigration yet again I can come to no other conclusion than to say that yet again we cannot be described as a truly sovereign nation. The European project has resulted in us having no control of our borders. If we are to free ourselves from Europe we will be able to regulate this matter and ensure that immigration is controlled on our terms.
It is now time that we reclaim our sovereignty as a nation and ensure that political power rests with the institutions of the UK, and not with the out of touch EU political elite. This is an issue that cuts across all traditional divides and is simply a question of whether or not our nation has a future standing on its own two feet on the world stage or will be further strangled by the chains of Europe if we do not take this once in a lifetime opportunity.
It is time to see beyond the illusion of the EU and realise it is not permanent but a manufactured outdated political project and the people of the United Kingdom have nothing to fear from voting to leave in the impending referendum.
Councillor Jonathan Buckley, DUP, Portadown