MPs debate case for UK pulling out of European Union

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

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    In the EEC referendum we were offered economy of scale in return for homogenised measures and definitions of products. This would produce growth without inflation and companies would have a domestic market as big as US.

    Never any mention of surrender of sovereignty except minor matters of technical definition - 'sausage', 'cm v. in', 'decimalisation' - so as to make the market efficient.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    the biggest eight companies in the British energy market will comprise 34 per cent British, 32 per cent French, 27 per cent German, and 7 per cent Spanish.
    Yes, 66% of our energy is supplied by the European Market. The number of people employed directly or indirectly by overseas companies here, 800,000 +/-.
    A European exit will effectively finish off the UK as a going concern, good luck!

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    You didn't get to vote for many other tings either (and neither did those who voted in the 1975 referendum).

    Take for instance the Trust laws which govern so much relating to pensions. These date back centuries.

    Should we reaffirm every piece of legislation at every general election?

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    288. DisgustedTW

    But we have voted to join the EU, at now fewer than 5 general elections since the Masstricht Treaty was signed.

    And I don't like referendums because they undermine the authority of Parliament.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.


    I voted in favour of the Common Market in the country’s first nationwide referendum. It was clear for me at that time, that this decision was also linked to greater European integration, even if the final destination was not clear back then. Anyone with half a brain and interested in politics should had known this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    The EU starred rag will never be my flag. No rabid Europhile will tell me otherwise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    The EU was such a brilliant step forward at it's conception. It was almost impossible to believe that 100 years ago there would ever be a united Europe. If the EU were to dissolve I feel that Europe might fall back into it's old alliances and disputes with little to monitor them. Perhaps if the EU were to be less of an economic union and more of a social union there would be less disputes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    Does the PM & his cabinet not appreciate that they were HIRED to do a job, which if I remember rightly is the will of the people NOT what they believe is the peoples will. SO do your job ask the people and THEY will tell you what stance they require you to take. NOT some armchair mandarins who`s first thought is their own importance/wellbeing. Simple really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    308.Ginger Ferrit
    "These comments generally sum up the mood of the nation"... "We want to trade with the EU. We don't want to be run by it"

    Not,really ! what they generally sum up are the opinions of some crackpot Tory back benchers and UKIPers , that's all !

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    I work in financial services, so I can only speak for this industry. The EU's push on insurance companies is the only reason why there wasn't a massive failure within the industry. If it were up to the Americans, the UK would be in very deep trouble.
    EU is not all bad - we should try to take a lead role rather than quit. But that would be too much responsibility for our politicans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    I'm an expat in Brussels and it is the most corrupt city I have ever lived in. The employment perks are a joke (being able to obtain over 100% mortgages and expenses - ask NK), the way deals are done (go to its casino), the amount of lobbying that goes on which isn't even reported by the media, the lack of a full audit of its budget are just a few of examples.

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    The only people who want to stay in the EU are those that are profiting from being in it ! The rest of us are just paying to be part of a club that we no longer (and cannot afford to) be in anymore. Refurendum NOW please (for the millionth time )

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    a European Parliament which churned out useless new laws like confetti, we would NOT have voted to join.

    -Some of the Useless laws produced have been

    Minimum Wage Legislation
    Restrictions on Producing Hazardous Chemicals
    Reduction in Phone Roaming Charges.
    Controlling Pesticides
    Food Labelling
    Maximum Working Hours that an employer can require
    Reduction in Air Fares
    Consumer refund rights

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    You heard it here first. The UK leaves the EU. The EU will solve its problems in a way that suits the remaining members. In particular with the UK on the outside it will become more protectionist. The world slides into protectionism. We find our EFTA status on the outside damaging. We crawl back and asks to be allowed in. The French will, of course veto our application. Ce la Vie!

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    A UK referendum is inevitable - just a matter of when.
    A pre-requisite of the Euro surviving is 'ever closer union' re. banking & fiscal affairs among Eurozone members.
    Those outside the EZ will sooner or later face a choice- join the Euro, or a future as '2nd class' members.
    Any UK govt which takes us into the Euro without public consent will be lynched.
    So a referendum has to happen sometime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    let's have more pointless debates using taxpayer's money, thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    365. Calum McKay
    Come 2014 Scotland will remain in the EU and the uk can ask its northern neighbour to make representations on its behalf.

    C McK
    Did Salmond's official legal advisors tell him that or his mate at Claims R Us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    According to Eddy, if you vote on some issue that then turns into something completely unimagined after 40 years, well then you made your choice in a democratic system. Be happy.
    A person like Eddy can only exist in Europe, and only in Britain.
    Nowhere else on earth has the human right to self determination been so brutalized that the common people thank tyrants so obsequiously for their tyranny.

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    NO ONE in the UK voted to join the EU.

    Please check your facts before posting....The United Kingdom referendum of 1975 was a post-legislative referendum held on 5 June 1975 in the United Kingdom to gauge support for the country's continued membership of the EEC.."

    THE EEC WAS NOT THE EU. And I do not care that it took place in 1975 - I did not get to vote for it

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    To make an informed decision before casting a vote in any referendum, you'd need to be issued with documentation approaching the size of the old Encyclopaedia Brittanica. And that's assuming this gave accurate and complete information.
    I think on a safe bet that most would not take the time but would put their X in the yes/no box based on current (poor) information and lies.


Page 41 of 60


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.