Last month I welcomed the Prime Minister’s decision to offer a referendum on Europe to the people who deserve it most: the British public.
Now that he has done so, it’s time for us to have a comprehensive, in-depth look at the options available to us.
The debate as it currently stands is too polarised and too extreme; both sides are guilty of this. We need to have a sensible national conversation and weigh up the pros and cons of leaving the EU without adopting entrenched positions before negotiations have even begun.
When faced with some of the more ludicrous and grandiose pronouncements that occasionally emanate from Brussels, and then from the front pages of our national papers, the allure of ‘better off out’ feels all too strong.
Our lack of sovereignty over social and employment legislation is farcical at times, and these powers need to be repatriated. As William Hague quite rightly said, ‘Britain should be in Europe, not run by Europe’.
However, we must also consider the trade implications of our decision. While not all trade with the EU would stop if we left, some of it would become considerably more difficult.
Europe is our most important trade partner and the largest market in the world for British goods, and without being an EU member we would have no influence over the rules that govern major nations within that market.
The financial sector on which our country thrives would suffer too: London will not be the regional centre of Chinese currency trading in years to come unless it plays the same role for trades in euros.
Some individuals look to countries such as Norway or Iceland as a solution; neither is a member of the EU but both are in the European Economic Area, and as such reap the free-trade benefits without having to follow much of the Brussels diktat currently suffered by the rest of us.
Yet Britain is a different being altogether from Norway and its ilk; they are not global forces, either economically or militarily, on a par with us.