Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise of an in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union has been welcomed by Shropshire’s Tory MPs.
Mr Cameron’s landmark speech yesterday, in which he vowed to seek to negotiate a “new settlement” for Britain in Europe, was hailed ‘brave and courageous’.
The Prime Minister said the Conservative manifesto for the 2015 general election would ask for a mandate to renegotiate the settlement with the EU and put it to voters in a referendum by the end of 2017.
He said he wanted a new treaty to reform the EU for all its members, but was ready to demand a re-negotiated status for Britain alone if other nations did not agree.
Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski said the issue was clearly important to the people of Shropshire.
He said: “A lot of people in Shrewsbury have been lobbying me on this issue for a very long time. There are a huge number of people who wish to be consulted on the changes taking place in the European Union.
“Mr Cameron has promised he will try to renegotiate our position in the EU. He was cheered by Conservative MPs when he entered the Chamber and I think the party is very pleased with his stance.
“It will be fascinating to see what happens during a referendum.”
Mr Kawczynski said Britain’s future in the EU would hang on what deal Mr Cameron managed to strike.
He said: “I think it is very important to see what David Cameron manages to renegotiate, what other countries are prepared to renegotiate. Once we see that we will be in a much better position to talk about our future in the European Union.”
Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard said the Prime Minister had put Europe ‘on notice’ and if it did not change it faced the prospect of Britain’s exit from the EU.
Mr Pritchard said: “It was a brave and courageous speech given that David Cameron is the first Prime Minister in nearly four decades to offer a referendum.
“I hope that our European partners will undertake the necessary reforms to improve competitiveness and growth.
“Europe is now on notice and if they don’t deliver I suspect the electorate will eventually vote to leave altogether.”
Mr Pritchard claimed the speech had settled the issue of Europe for the Conservative party and predicted that “by 2015 Labour will have inserted in its manifesto some sort of referendum commitment, so the problem of Europe has transferred from the Conservative party to Ed Miliband”.
He acknowledged there was frustration among some that Britain would in effect have open borders for five years and would not be able to change employment laws before then.
North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson hailed Mr Cameron’s ‘bold’ speech.
He said: “I welcome his comments. His analysis is very much correct.
“To make the euro work there must be much tougher arrangements in the eurozone which we can’t possibly follow so we need to negotiate a new settlement.”
Montgomeryshire MP Glyn Davies added: “I welcome David Cameron’s speech. It is clear that the British people are very concerned about the remorseless transfer of sovereignty to the EU.
“It is right that the relationship be renegotiated and then put before the people in a referendum.”
But Telford MP David Wright claimed Mr Cameron’s speech had only served to create doubt amongst the business community.
He said: “I think Mr Cameron has opened us up to several years of uncertainty and in my view that is pretty bad for British business. I think it is more about holding his party together than about holding the country together.”
Ludlow MP Philip Dunne said: “I welcome this courageous speech which now sets the agenda for the debate on Britain’s place in Europe.
“I am sure it will receive wide-spread support from across the Conservative Party and and across the country and will allow a mature debate to take place on what kind of relationship the country should have with, and in, Europe for decades to come.”