1975, the year I was born, was the last time anyone in Britain had their say on our relationship with the European Union. Since then the EU has changed immeasurably. So when the Prime Minister promised before the last election to try to reform our relationship with the EU, and then put those reforms to the British people in a referendum, he was promising to right a historic wrong. He has kept that promise, and, for my part, I am grateful to him. Whatever Britain decides, David Cameron will go down in history as the Prime Minister who trusted the British people.
However I will be voting to leave the EU, and I want to explain why.
The EU has always been on a one-way trajectory towards a single European Government, and the job of reforming it has proven next to impossible. It remains the case that the European Union, responsible for anything up to half the laws in this country, is almost completely insulated from any kind of genuine democratic pressure.
I don't argue that the EU always makes bad decisions. There are times when the EU is right and our own Government wrong. But I believe people should be able to hold their legislators and decision makers to account, and to fire them when they mess up. The proposed reforms do not restore democracy in any meaningful sense.
As things stand today, Britain has minimal influence over proceedings. We are almost always outvoted in the Council of Ministers and in the European Parliament. The nineteen countries in the Eurozone have an in-built majority across the EU, and will always be able to dictate policy across the EU. We will never be part of the Eurozone, but our laws will invariably and increasingly be shaped by it.
Nor do I believe it is in our economic interests to remain part of the EU. There are some who talk down our country in their effort to make the case for us to stay part of the EU. More or less exactly the same people predicted we'd become a second rate economy if we didn't join the Euro. They couldn't have been more wrong then, and they are wrong now.
We are the fifth biggest economy in the world. Our Capital is a global one, with global reach. We dominate in financial services, tech, fin tech, media, culture and much more besides. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said: 'The City of London is not, as some of our continental friends kid themselves, in competition with Paris and Frankfurt. It is in competition with places like Hong Kong, Singapore, and New York'.
It makes no sense for us to bind ourselves to a political bloc that is in decline; I believe we should be free to do trade deals with some of the fastest growing markets in the world like China, India and the US.
It's not surprising that some giant multinational corporations want more, not less integration. As the giant businesses of today, they have an interest in creating a complex, continent-wide regulatory environment that they are uniquely placed to shape - in order to hold back the businesses of tomorrow. It's called crony capitalism.
But while it is true that many of the mega banks are fighting for us to stay in, we should remember that there are 975,000 small and medium sized enterprises in London. They represent 99% of businesses in London and are responsible for over half of London's employment. By a huge margin of two to one they believe EU regulation makes it harder for businesses like theirs to employ people. By a huge margin they believe the UK rather than the EU should handle international trade negotiations.
Finally, I believe our immigration policy should reflect our global outlook. By not being able to control numbers at all from within Europe, we end up blocking talent from countries outside of the EU. We should be able to control immigration numbers, and we should be able to attract the brightest and the best from around the world.
I believe that Britain would be better off outside the EU and will be voting to leave. But whatever your view, this is a crucial vote and I strongly encourage you to apply for a postal vote before the deadline passes. It should arrive by 14 June and you can fill it out at home and post it at your convenience - or take it to any polling station in your local area on 23 June to drop it off in person.
You have until 5pm tomorrow (June 8th) to apply. Here's a 3-step guide to doing it:
1. Download your postal vote application form HERE print and complete it.
2. Scan it or photograph it on your smartphone and save a copy.
3. Email it to your local Electoral Registration Office - find their email address by clicking HERE and typing in your postcode
Very best wishes,
MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston