MPs debate case for UK pulling out of European Union

Douglas Carswell Mr Carswell said the EU was far from being an "economic powerhouse"

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A Conservative MP has likened the UK's membership of the EU to "being shackled to a corpse" as the Commons debated the case for quitting the union.

Douglas Carswell told MPs that talk of withdrawal was now a "mainstream" rather than a "maverick" view.

His private Member's Bill would repeal the 1972 act allowing the UK to join the former European Economic Community.

He admitted it had little chance of becoming law but said the issue could not be ignored by the ruling elite.

Although Friday's debate on Mr Carswell's bill only lasted about half an hour - due to parliamentary scheduling - MPs hailed it as a symbolic moment and one claimed those present were "making history" by even discussing the issue.

Mr Carswell also told MPs the debate was the first in Commons history to have been "crowd sourced" after the subject of it was selected by readers of the Guido Fawkes blog.

David Cameron is facing pressure from his own backbenchers to promise an "in/out" referendum on the EU.

The PM opposes such a step but has said he would consider seeking "fresh consent" from the British people if promised changes to the eurozone fundamentally alter the UK's relationship with the rest of the EU.

But many Tory MPs want the prime minister to go further and pass a law committing the next government to hold a referendum on Britain's relationship with the EU. A year ago 81 Conservative MPs rebelled against the party line to vote for a referendum.

'Exit simple'

Start Quote

Withdrawing from the EU can no longer be dismissed as unthinkable”

End Quote Douglas Carswell Conservative

Mr Carswell wants to repeal the European Communities Act (1972) which saw the UK join the EU - or the European Economic Community as it was called at the time - but the prospect of this happening is very slim.

Private Member's bills - a way for MPs to propose legislation on a subject of their choice - rarely make it into law unless they have the support of the government.

Opening the debate, Mr Carswell said leaving the EU could no longer be "dismissed as unthinkable" - since the view was increasingly shared among the public.

"It is no longer a marginal view confined to mavericks," he said. "It is a legitimate point that is starting to go mainstream."

'United States of Europe'

Mr Carswell said the UK had paid more into the EU than it had got back in all but one year since joining and, likening membership to "being shackled to a corpse", he said UK contributions to the EU had risen by 70% in the last three years.


  • Douglas Carswell
  • Edward Leigh
  • Philip Hollobone
  • Steve Baker

He said he had not tabled the bill in the expectation it would be approved but to kickstart a debate on "the mechanics" of withdrawal.

"Leaving the EU is going to be simple but it is not going to be easy...It can be done but those of us who want out need to give it some serious thought."

Conservative colleague Philip Hollobone said the common market promised to UK voters when they backed entry in 1975 had "morphed" into an economic and political union and he feared a "United States of Europe is just around the corner".

The UK's multi-billion pound contribution to the EU could be better spent on recruiting more teachers, nurses and doctors, he added, while tighter control over immigration could only truly be achieved outside the 27-member union.

During the thirty minute debate, Tory MPs Edward Leigh and Steve Baker also spoke in favour of withdrawal but Labour's John Spellar asked why Mr Carswell's bill made no mention of a referendum on the issue.


Attitudes to Europe on the Conservative benches have steadily hardened since the euro crisis began.

Start Quote

Our membership has arisen and has been maintained because of a hard-headed, calculated and pragmatic decision by successive governments”

End Quote David Lidington Europe minister

Foreign Secretary William Hague warned recently that the British public's disillusionment with the EU is "the deepest it has ever been" and Education Secretary Michael Gove reportedly said it was time to tell the EU to "give us back our sovereignty or we will walk out".

Earlier this week, Mr Cameron pledged to ensure the UK's interests were defended as eurozone countries move towards closer union and he has threatened to veto the next EU budget if Brussels insists on an above-inflation rise.

Responding for the government, Europe minister David Lidington said the EU had flaws and drawbacks but continued membership was in the UK's national interest.

"Our membership has arisen and has been maintained because of a hard-headed, calculated and pragmatic decision by successive governments, including successive leaders of the Conservative Party," he said.

"Membership is in the national advantage of the British people in terms of what it gives us through trade, market access, attracting direct foreign investment and increased diplomatic leverage over foreign and security policies."

Labour have also raised the prospect of some form of referendum in the future but, like Mr Cameron, the party's leadership oppose a direct vote on whether to stay or exit.

The Lib Dems say a referendum would be a distraction at a time of seismic challenges for Europe and the UK should focus on protecting its interests by pushing for reform of the single market and other issues.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1189.

    A USE is an inevitability, despite people moaning about Brussels this & Brussels that, no major war (except minor ones) has broken out on European soil for almost 70 yrs. Yes people moan about the ECHR & beaureacrats, but the peace has been kept, surely that is a good thing or do the naysayers want to go back to the 1930s because as we know humanity doesn't learn from past mistakes - Syria, now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1188.

    1167.margaret howard

    You obviously weren't around then or you would know we begged on our knees to be allowed to join the club
    Well some people groveled for a quick quid. others held different long term views.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1187.

    @1178.Ian Rugman
    FAO BilltheFirst. Find out when the last time the EU accounts were signed-off

    When were the UK accounts last signed off, answer NEVER

    Controller and Auditor General at the UK’s National Audit Office Sir John Bourn, told a select committee that were he required to sign off the UK accounts in the same way as the EU was required to do, he would be unable to do so

  • rate this

    Comment number 1186.

    Sadly the EEC was hijacked by a political elite in Europe bent on absolute power. They will never be happy until every decision, even the colour the egg that you boil for your breakfast, is decided in Brussels. It is time that we left, and to those people who say "how could we survive?", I have two letters for you "HK".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1185.

    Violet Mildred You just don't get it do you.This puny little Island in the Atlantic is in the pocket of the USA and our politiicans want it that way. The Empire for which you obviously yearn finished a long time ago. As for the UK leading anything, that is totally delusional,who do you think would listen? Most sensible nations laugh at the antics of the UK and even more so at Cameron.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1184.


    If the British think that the EU, or the Eurozone for all that matter, is going to let the UK/London as its major financial center that handles most of its money, once the UK quits the EU, they should think again.
    You mean these jokers would have to get a real job and actually work and produce something of value. Certainly not cricket is it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1183.

    Nailed to a turd; that's what we are with the EU.
    Let Scotland go. Make Wales go. Let the Irish be Irish and let's see what England can do.
    We always include the Irish, the Welsh and the Scots as parties to our achievements, paying lip service to their roles, but it was us, the English, that did what we did.
    What is there to be scared of? Let's be free again to be English and que sera sera.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1182.

    The GB establishment is the only entity that would benefit from GB leaving the EU. PLEASE, PLEASE don't believe all the lies and the spin!!
    GB MUST remain in the EU, We MUST join EU properly - including currency. And we MUST get rid of the corruption which is endemic to GB politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1181.

    1177. Pleb
    I agree, we need more democracy. I would like a vote on the UK. In this modern technological world we could have these votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1180.

    I think that what is really broken (world wide) is the monetary system. Governments run on borrowed money obtained from banks that only promise to pat the money (they don't have). The debt has got so large that taxes do not even cover the interest, hence more borrowing and more taxes. There is a reason banks are vulnerable to a run and following the money leads to a dead end.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1179.

    Maureen Carter I suppose like then you also voted for this useless Tory led government because you believed them about the NHS. Naivety and stupidy seems to abound in the UK with the me, me, me greed attitude leading the vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1178.

    FAO BilltheFirst. Find out when the last time the EU accounts were signed-off. To save you the time, they've never been, Corruption is rife. The whistleblower on EU corruption was the only one to lose their job. At least when my Government messes up I can get rid of it. I can't get rid of a corrupt German, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek. Dutch, Belgian.... and so on. EU officials are still there

  • rate this

    Comment number 1177.

    @1170.Ian Rugman
    I am 50 years old and I've never had a vote on membership of an organisation that my taxes pay for

    you've not had a vote on membership of Nato, UK, UN, the nuclear weapons club, United Nations Security Council, the commonwealth, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, World trade association, G7, G8, G20, CERN or the International Cocoa Agreement, they all cost

  • rate this

    Comment number 1176.

    Can we have a vote once and for all? If the vote is to drop out, then the UK MUST stay out for at least 10 years or more, regardless of how screwed up the UK economy becomes. If after a period of exile, the UK wants back in, it doesn't get a veto on anything. The UK is no longer a world power, the empire died years ago. Can it really survive on its own? To be seen!

  • Comment number 1175.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1174.

    Why does the UK pay so much to be in a Union that:
    1 Have impositions upon our membership that are incorporated into our laws which the UK majority population argue against.
    2 Obviously want the UK excluded from the selective clique of Germany and France.
    3 Are gutless in dealing with the 'got in with a dodgy deal' members.

    -Europe? Love to visit on holiday, but vive la differance! Cet fin!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1173.

    If the British think that the EU, or the Eurozone for all that matter, is going to let the UK/London as its major financial center that handles most of its money, once the UK quits the EU, they should think again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1172.

    Another diversion from the sinking economy. Anything to avoid the mess the country is in due to failed, blind policies. Get the economy right first Cameron before you start interferiing and lecturing the EU. You may get your wish when the EU gets so fed up with the whining UK they thow us out. Should that happen we will become even more doglike to the USA's demands and wars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1171.

    The EU is one of the most corrupt "governments" in the world,
    Ironic then that our government fails to act upon the evidence of systemic fraud on a colossal scale that has brought our country into disrepute.
    Gotta dash I've paid 250k for a special supper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1170.

    I am 50 years old and I've never had a vote on membership of an organisation that my taxes pay for. Is this democracy? I think not. The EU is one of the most corrupt "governments" in the world, and we have no way of getting rid of it. Voting for MEP's just replace one corrupt lot with another, it's not democracy. The end result will be a United States of Europe. At least let the people decide.


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