County MP says Prime Minister should hold referendum on EU
A DERBYSHIRE Tory MP says she believes the public should be allowed to decide the fate of the UK's membership of the European Union.
Heather Wheeler, MP for South Derbyshire, made the comments ahead of what had been scheduled to be a keynote speech by the Prime Minister on the EU in the Netherlands today.
David Cameron last night revised his plans to make his speech today, in the wake of the developing Algerian hostage crisis.
He had been expected to say that he plans to renegotiate parts of the UK's relations with Europe and, if and when that is achieved, promise to put that changed membership package to the British people after the next general election in 2015.
Mrs Wheeler, a consistent supporter of a referendum on EU membership, has called for the UK to have a "new relationship" with the European Union. She said legislative powers on employment and social policy should be repatriated and pointed out three proposals which she hoped Mr Cameron would adopt as policy.
She said: "I want to see no new powers transferred to the European Union, I want to see law making powers over social and employment policies brought back to Westminster and I want to see a referendum on our ongoing membership of the EU."
But Mrs Wheeler said people should be realistic and pragmatic about the drawbacks of withdrawing from EU membership.
She said: "The EU is an important body. It accounts for a huge percentage of our trade and withdrawal will impact our ability to influence decisions which affect our economy.
"We need a calm and reasonable debate which does not polarise opinion, trade insults and exaggerate problems.
"The debate must establish what is genuinely in the national interest and then gives the people an opportunity to make a final decision.
"Membership should not be something decided by politicians but by the people."
Labour MP for Derby North Chris Williamson said Mr Cameron's stance was an indication that he had lost control of his party.
Mr Williamson said: "It seems he is willing to mortgage the future of Great Britain, essentially creating five years of uncertainty.
"That's a flagrant disregard and abdication of his obligation as Prime Minister.
"We have over a million unemployed young people, the economy is in a tailspin, the suggestion of leaving the EU is economic madness.
"A vast majority of our trade is with the EU and millions of jobs rely on our membership in the EU."