09 FEB 2016

Why, as a Europhile, I'm heading towards the Brexit Door

I have always been a Europhile and before becoming an MP would not have imagined voting to leave the European Union. So why am I heading towards the door? I am in love with the possibilities of the EU but can no longer ignore the grinding reality of the institution.

The Prime Minister has set out the terms of his provisional deal with the leaders of our EU partners and it is a threadbare offering. What use are 'emergency brakes' when the driver has no control or 'red cards' that have no credible chance of being deployed? Apart from a small concession on sham marriages, the truth is that the proposals will have no significant impact on our ability to limit inward migration from the EU. They will however, usher in rafts of bureaucratic cost and complexity with sliding scales for length of residency and nationality for child benefit.

David Cameron was right that the EU will need further reform but if this is the best that can be grudgingly conceded when there is a serious risk of a British exit, what chance of any meaningful further reform if and when we are tied-in long term by the referendum? The proposed red card system to halt unwanted EU diktats will need a majority of other leaders in support...so it is vanishingly unlikely to be of use if future policies are imposed against our national interest.

I am glad there has been recognition that we will never join the Euro and that non-Eurozone countries are on a different course rather than ever closer union but the safeguards remain too weak. It is inevitable that the Eurozone bloc will make decisions in their best interests. We have in effect already opted for life on an outside track, tolerated largely for our considerable net financial contribution but the renegotiation has made clear that we are powerless to change the rules of the club.

Those who wish for us to remain in the EU, are ramping up the rhetoric, warning about a risk to our national security in the event of Brexit due to a collapse in cooperation. It will clearly be in everyone's best interests for such cooperation to continue and to foster positive relationships on both security and trade. We are warned that we will become like Norway, subject to all the rules and fees but with no hand on the levers of power but arguably that sounds pretty much like the current situation, except of course that Norway control their own fishing grounds. In the event of Brexit there would be every incentive for Norway and others to join Britain in a different and more positive relationship with the EU based on trade and cooperation.

The case is often made that we should vote to remain in order to prevent internal conflict in Europe, but the anti-democratic nature of the EU is already fomenting the rise of extremism across the continent. When it comes to external threats, our national security has long depended on our membership of NATO rather than the EU.

When I ask at public meetings, few can name a single one of their six MEPs, fewer still have ever contacted one. Why would they bother when their representatives are powerless in comparison to the elite corps of unelected, remote and unaccountable commissioners?

Referendums have a habit of delivering the status quo, especially as project fear gets into gear. If they are to have any hope of persuading the undecideds, the leave campaigns must settle their differences and inspire. We need a clear blueprint for Britain working alongside the EU in a constructive new partnership. We would join as the world's fifth largest economy, not isolated but confident, outward looking and open for business.


A very defeatist and sad post utterly introspective and frankly ignorant. I could ask you a hundred questions which would reveal the poverty of your arguments. But I'll confine myself to just one. Why are 27 members of the European Union content to work with each other to further both Europe and themselves? And why should we be the odd man out picking up our ball and running away? Running away to God knows where and ensuring isolation not just from our erstwhile partners but from credibility and respect. Grotesque.
- Paddy Briggs

This is a catastrophic failure of judgement by a very intelligent person who I much respect. I am incredulous that you arrived at this conclusion.
- Stephen Perry

I am pleased to see you are leaning towards supporting Brexit, but rather disappointed by the apparently superficial nature of your understanding of Norway's influence. In addition to owning their fishing grounds, they are also solely responsible for their own trade policy and can form trade agreements on mutually acceptable terms. The UK does not have this power. The EU tells us what agreements we must honour and the tariffs and non tariff barriers we must implement. Norway also has its own seat on the global bodies where regulations and standards are shaped before being handed down to implement. Norway helps shape the rules, while not one EU member state can directly influence them. If the UK leaves the EU, the safest course of action would be to rejoin the EEA, aided by membership of EFTA. In that, we would be joining Norway, rather than Norway joining us. If you haven't already, I recommend you read 'Flexcit' which is the only Brexit plan in existence and is backed by Helena Morrissey as the best work in this area. We can have a bright future outside the EU, cooperating with its member states in areas of common interest, but without having our laws determined by unelected and unaccountable people from 27 other countries, and without being subject to the decisions of the European Court of Justice. Brexit will be a big step towards a more democratic UK.
- Mr Brexit

One point about the perceived lack of democracy in the EU structures. I believe it is that way because the nation states (not least the UK) would not allow a more powerful directly elected pan-EU leader or parliament precisely because it would diminish the status of the elected leaders and parliaments in the member states.
- James

Full credit...
- tom

Because, Paddy Briggs, we ARE the "odd man out". That's why so many Britons are profoundly uncomfortable with "ever closer union" and it's why Euroscepticism is much more common here. We are an island with a completely different political and legal heritage from our Continental neighbours. We, unlike them, are also not in retreat from a horrendous 20th-century experience scarred in almost all cases by exposure to totalitarian regimes, either imposed by invasion or cooked up domestically. Being dictated to by a bunch of jumped-up bureaucrats in Brussels or Berlin is understandably better in those people's eyes than what they've previously suffered. But that isn't the case for the UK, which has enjoyed freedom from foreign occupation and a representative system of government for many centuries. Frankly if you're so ignorant that you don't know any of this about Britain's and Europe's very different histories and about the obvious reasons why many of them favour trying to create a powerful Europe-wide statehood to replace national decision-making and we overwhelmingly do not, then you really shouldn't be daring to criticise Dr Wollaston's understanding of this topic.
- John Jones

Very sad to say I am afraid that I am inclined to agree with you. I was so excited when Ted Heath took us into the common market. But it has got worse and worse.
- Robert

Great post and great to have you on board Sarah. Sounds like sour grapes from Paddy Briggs. Out of the hundred questions he claims to have, I can't understand why he chose such a silly one, exposing his own ignorance. The U.K. Will be "content" to work with EU member states post Brexit but the EU are doing nothing to "further Europe". Unless of course you're referring to expansionism?
- Lee

If the UK has the good sense to leave I think others would be inclined to take our lead and follow. Paddy, there are none so blind as those that can't see.
- Peter

Wonderful to see that Sarah, a respected and decent MP, has seen the reality of the sham negotiation and the awful prospect of staying on the EU juggernaut. As for Paddy Briggs, there are so many answers as to why the 27 wish to remain members (at least for now), the most obvious being that in most years 25 or 26 of those members are net recipients of EU largesse, often with only Germany and the UK being net contributors. P.S. Sarah, you have a typo: 'breaks' should be 'brakes', though both work in different contexts :-)
- Andrew

A lot of people agree with what you say. In your position as an MP, please envision the alternative and propose it clearly. Without a good understanding of that, people will likely vote for the status quo and we will miss the opportunity to re-position ourselves, for the better, for the next 50 years. This matters.
- VB

It was refreshing to read your well argued piece which made the key points with clarity and commonsense. You will be rewarded for your courage in speaking out rather than being silenced by Whips. We need more MP's like yourself who have built a successful career outside Politics before being elected which gives you the self-confidence to speak up. The UK has a large (and growing) trade deficit with the EU which means that the EU needs to trade with us more than we need to trade with them. This means that it's in the EU's self-interest to give us an advantageous trade deal after Brexit. The bungled EU policies of the single currency, Schengen and CAP, etc, have created misery and economic hardship for many millions of European citizens. The EU is a failing declining political entity dragging us further behind the US and Asia in relative prosperity. We can either decide to exit now on our own terms or be stuck in the inside when the EU finally breaks under the weight of its own failed and inefficient policies. Everyone thanks you for your bold stand in putting the long-term prosperity of the British people first and making the argument to help persuade the undecided's that Brexit is the best way to secure the UK's future freedom and prosperity.
- Richard

"If they are to have any hope of persuading the undecideds, the leave campaigns must settle their differences and inspire." I don't think they need to. The lack of a united Leave campaign with a single leader means that the Remain campaign must attack the ball rather than the man. They must win the political, economic and social arguments rather than running a smear campaign against a particular personality. After all, what better postion could the Leave campaign be in other than to have a bunch of widely-distrusted politicians and corporate leaders telling us that remaining within the EU is a Good Idea.
- Steve

It's clear that Paddy & Stephen need to re-read what Sarah wrote and spend a while thinking it through to be sure they've understood it accurately. It's interesting that neither Paddy nor Stephen put forward any arguments in favour of being in the European Union. Paddy asked two questions: 'Why are 27 members of the European Union content to work with each other to further both Europe and themselves?' 'work with each other' is one thing, subordinate themselves to a supranational government and eradicate themselves as Nation States is something else. Sarah outlined a future in which the UK would always work together with its allies not just on the continent of Europe but in the whole world. That's what the UK has always done. What sort of weird ideas are in your head that cause you to think that anyone is advocating stopping that inter-national cooperation?? Please do try to think clearly and stop accusing other people of advocating things they haven't advocated. Secondly, in every country in the EU you will find people who aren't happy about being in the EU. Why would you hold such a strange idea that the UK is the only country containing people who aren't happy about it??? Bizarre. Thirdly, you're getting mixed up about Europe and the EU. They're two completely different things. We work with European countries that aren't in the EU. We work with non-European countries that aren't in the EU. We work with countries that are in the EU and in Europe. We always have. We always will. 'And why should we be the odd man out picking up our ball and running away?' That's a straw man argument, Paddy. See above.
- Jim

Excellent blog. You are a brave lady. I admire you.
- Onnalee Cubitt

I congratulate sarah on a well argued and thought out position. It is one i have much sympathy with. I am not a reflexive Outer, and genuinely felt there was a real chance at this point that Cameron could come back with a real change and progressively redefined way for states (not just the UK) to relate to the EU. It was a golden opportunity to reconfigure the EU into an organisation fit for the 21st century and not just a 1950's statist answer to 1930's questions about nationalism (questions which, in any case, have far less relevance to the UK). But it was;t to be - and as Sarah points out, if such derisory concessions are made with the looming possibility of Brexit then that just goes to show how little actually influence we have with the EU.
- Patrick

This gives me some faith in our elected MPs. Ms Wollaston has reviewed the extensive evidence that membership of the EU is not in our national interest; Cameron's "deal" is worthless and the EU will not implement the major reforms it so badly needs. On the basis of the evidence - not the scaremongering being issued by the Remain campaign - she has changed her mind. Co-operation with our continental neighbours doesn't need us to be under their political control. Trade with other countries doesn't require an anti-democratic political union. Our security will be enhanced when we can control our own borders. Our economy will be strengthened when we are not transferring £350 million a week to Brussels. I hope Ms Wollaston will join the cross-party Grassroots Out campaign.
- Donna

Well done Sarah, for having courage and conviction to speak out from under the Cameron ban on his party to speak against support of Brexit. A measured and non emotive account of your position. Alongside the excellent speech from David Davis, we are seeing facts based arguments that provide the public with a balanced view without the scaremongering and rhetoric from both sides of the argument
- IMcW

The rest of the EU has different ways of doing things from us based on their individual national histories. Our history is over a thousand years old, the foundation of our legal system, Common Law, was established in the villages of England in Saxon times, before the Norman invasion. The principle of Habeas Corpus was set down in Magna Carta in 1215 and all Britons are free under the law. None of these apply in the rest of the EU. We can trade perfectly well with any other country we don't have to be ruled by them. People need to seperate trade and co-operation from political union. Lord Tebbit sets out the case for leaving the EU very well. http://getbritainout.org/lord-tebbit-britain-must-rescued-eu/
- Roger

Congratulations to Dr Wollaston on reaching her conclusions. To Paddy Briggs: I would suggest that most of the other 27 EU members are happy in their membership of the EU because they get out of it a lot more than they pay into it. And that's not just in terms of money, just think what a boon it is to countries like Romania, Bulgaria and Poland to send most of their unemployed to richer countries like the UK and benefit from salaries and much higher child benefit being sent back to those countries. Why would your average Pole want to leave such a beneficial arrangement?
- Ian G

Bravo Dr W! And a brave Sarah you are, standing up for evidence based policy rather than fear based policy. I too am surprised to find myself supporting Brexit, having been a Europhile all my life. Ever since the 'expansion' of the EU decided largely by German interests seeking cheap well educated workers sitting just across the border....the place have become ungovernable. The shenanigans of the Greek debt crisis culminating in uncontrolling flows of refugees is proof enough that current structures do govern, they do no manage and they do not deserve support.
- Penny

One of the reasons why the rest of Europe joined the Euro, and the European Union is because they were; in the the majority of cases, all poorer countries. They all benefited from; in some cases massive financial boosts. We were never in that situation, and by staying part of the European would loose more than we gain. Migrants coming to this country are doing it for that very reason, otherwise; why come here. There are not many Brits that would consider going to the poorer parts of Europe to start new jobs, because the money simply isn't there, and there are no benefits to back up the lack of wages, so it's an unfair system. And why on earth would a country put itself up to be dictated to by an unelected regime, and have to ask permission if it can do certain things. What is the point in having an elected government! You may as well just elect a head boy/girl to run to the headmaster, and save a fortune on running a government.
- Sean

Very well argued piece. Quite annoyed by the scaremongering and the fact that the so-called pro-European politicians have not, as far I can see, laid out how staying within the EU benefits British citizens in the UK. The EU arguments on human rights are decent, but on the flipside I think it's inappropriate that the EU dictates to the UK on some areas of its legislation.
- Sandy

Unfortunately we will see many posts across the web similar to those of Paddy and Stephen. Whether one agrees with it or not you make and substantiate your case Sarah, life; and it's been longer than most; has taught me that such responses are invariably used by those who do not have a tangible, coherent counter argument. Like you I probably agree with the concept of a cooperative Europe however as I see the for and against arguments and place them into a lifetimes context I'll be looking to leave 'the project'.
- Kevin

A good decision and a well argued rationale, the EU no longer works for the people of Europe but for the Corporate masters and well provided for unelected minions.
- Roy

We hear so much of the failed rhetoric regarding safety within the EU and how THEY the EU have maintained the peace for over 70 years...Poppycock...it was NATO of which I've served many times as a soldier....I have been uplifted that a convinced europhile can see a failure of this elitist club for what it is. Well done Miss Sarah Here’s a brilliant quote from the book about the EU: Written Dr David Owen in the 80s.....GET's RIGHT TO THE NUB OF THE EU.......30 YEARS AGO....AND VERY TRUE TO THIS DAY........ “It is the weak nerve centre of a flabby semi-state, with almost defenceless frontiers, where humanitarian rhetoric masks spinelessness.”....For me it say all that is required....before this disgraceful project we were self reliant and most surely self-assured..
- Bill L

Well done Sarah. Eloquently put. The logic of Brexit is unarguable. David Cameron's pathetic attempts to gain the concessions he thinks he needs to persuade us to remain in the EU emphasises just how little influence we have in this undemocratic monster. None. The EU is trying to build a single country to rival the USA and it simply isn't going to work in the same way. There is no way Britain will ever stop cooperating with other nations politically and economically outside the EU. But it will be by choice and not because it we are forced to against our will. And that huge financial burden running at £55 million/day will be lifted. We really will be better off out.
- Alan

Britain never signed up to cede sovereignty and it is to me neither morally right nor in our gift, considering those who'll come after, to allow this country to be governed from abroad. That's the way the EU is goiong and it's part-way there. To say sovereignty is 'pooled' as was once said fails to recognise the inevitable reality of this arrangement. The cannot work for the UK either politically or economically, not least because it's an anti-democratic construct. It's impolitic to say so but people fight and die every day and since time immemorial for national independence. I am an Australian, with a British family, who runs a small business and has lived more than half my life here, all of which I feel qualifies me to say - the British have the best legal system, the best mode of government, some of the best institutions and arguably the best, most secure national culture of any nation. Vote to keep these priceless things or you're bound to lose them.
- peter

Would like to have heard more about what happens to our economy while the years of negotiations take place with the EU and others. We can be certain the the UK will not get all it wants. EU without UK will also probably become more protectionist. We also need to be prepared for a UK without Scotland. Agreed though that the EU is not working as it is.
- Martin

Brilliant article. Sums up the need for Brexit. As Alan above says you can't argue against the logic for Brexit. I expect the result will be 60:40 in favour of Brexit as the more people know about the EU the ore they will vote to leave. What I want to know is, why so many MPs are campaigning for in?
- Bob A

I think you call out the limited effect of Cameron's renegotiations very well. And I think you were right to call out Cameron for his overegging security. But you've fallen into the political trap that Cameron dug for himself- ie he's made the Referendum about his renegotiations rather than membership in broader sense. The UK's actually been very influential in creating the Single Market, and if influence has waned that's down to Cameron being hopeless. If you don't think that the EU could make things very awkward for Britain when it left, you are being very naive. See how the EU is strangling Swiss banking, and ask yourself if you want it doing the same to the City. I urge you to reconsider.
- Tubby Isaacs

If Sarah's view prevails it will trigger a second Scottish referendum and the break up of the United Kingdom Then Scotland will close the Faslane Trident submarine base which will be transferred probably to Falmouth at the cost of many billions And the army and RAF bases in Scotland will close too Devon farmers will lose their EU subsidies and the NFU will expect the UK government to pick up the tab And manufacturers like Nissan will close their UK factories and move them into Europe The immigration camp in Calais will close and all those migrants will end up in Dover for screening There are up and down sides to staying in or exiting Europe and since this will affect the lives of the next generation, young people must be given a vote on this Brian
- brian

One more point, Sarah. There's already an alternative body to the EU- EFTA. Why do you think this is better than being in the EU? Why do you think Norway, Iceland and Switzerland (which is outside EFTA) will want to reshape the way they relate to the EU to fit in with Britain? In every case, it's the relationship with the EU that matters for them, not the one with the UK. I think it's hard to make any case that Britain will have a better trading arrangement than now.
- Tubby Isaacs

Welcome aboard Sarah! Great to see momentum (and i don't mean the labour group) building for Brexit. Democracy is the key point for me. I liken the current UK situation to that of a dementia patient who has signed over their decision making powers to a friend. The problem is in the UK's case, Brussels is not our friend. Lets get our democracy back!
- Tim Jenkins

It is certainly high time that we had a "clear blueprint" from the Brexit side, whose rhetoric thus far (yes there is rhetoric on both sides -- see above for some examples) boils down to the claim that we will be able to magically keep all the good bits of EU membership and slough off the bad bits. A similar approach was, incidentally, used by the Independence campaign in Scotland. We now need to address specifics. A couple of examples: - It seems pretty much certain that from the EU side, post Brexit, one of the main conditions of a trade deal would be the retention of the free movement of people (as is the case for the deal with Norway and Switzerland). Do you think we could get a satisfactory deal without this? Would we want to continue to allow the free movement of people? If not, what arrangements will be made for the British citizens currently living in the EU? - When it comes to sovereignty, and "being dictated to by Europe", which laws would you change and what would you replace them with? Frankly, I worry far less about where laws are made and more about whether they are good laws or not. British governments (of all political stripes) have shown themselves to be perfectly capable of enacting bad laws, and stubborn in their refusal to remove or improve them once they are in place. It is no longer enough to claim, blithely, that Brexit will remove all ills and produce nothing but good. The case is not unarguable, as has been claimed above. As Sarah's original post recognises, it relies on a judgement of the balance of benefits and harms of staying in or leaving. To make that judgement, we need a far clearer picture of how a post-Brexit future would look. Lastly, I would welcome a commtiment from Sarah, as my MP, that should the referendum turn out to support our continued membership she will support the will of the people and back a policy of constructive engagement with the EU. A substantial part of the difficulties in Britain's relationship with Europe has been self-inflicted by a wilful "semi-detached" approach, motivated most often by the decades-old schism in the Conservative party. If the British people vote to stay in then this government, and its successors of whatever party, should reflect that in a new, more constructive and cooperative approach to membership.
- Simon

So you too wanted a European Community but have been disappioned to have been foisted with a European Union. The difference is that I realised this in 1973.
- John S Churchill

Good for you Sarah ,I have yet to see one truthful,intelligent and worthwhile comment for staying in.Too many people are scaremongering,saying we cannot be on our own and the rest of Europe will not trade with us if we leave but I am sure our country will be fine and it will be the rest of Europe who will be the losers.
- Grahame Powell

As a member of the LABOUR PARTY I am glad & proud to be at one with you on this issue. Great post. Democracy transcends party boundaries every day for me. If the British public think there is a Westminster bubble and its out of touch then they have not seen anything yet when it comes to the undemocratic and out of touch Eurocrats. To stay gives them a green light. Yes, we are tolerated for the net £8-10B they get from us each year. There really is a better world wide view. Just got to convince the rest of my party now....
- Tim Page

I was just about old enough to vote in the 1975 referendum and voted to come out of the common market, as it was then called. I have seen nothing since then to change my mind that we would be better off out of the EU. We simply do not get value for money from an outrageously bureaucratic and non democratic organisation. Well done Sarah.
- Steve Tucker

Great post. Good to see that politicians can think through the pros and cons, and come to a reasoned conclusion that's not borne out of panic or blindly following party-line.
- Jacqueline

So sorry that our fine MP has chosen the Brexit route whose only near certain outcome will be the break up of the UK after Scotland holds another referendum, quite possibly followed by Wales and Northern Ireland after they feel the impact of our economic downturn. The UK is a magnet for Far Eastern and other national companies to set up subsidiaries in order to trade with the largest single market in the world..Look at Nissan, Honda and Jaguar Landrover. Because of our colonial past and more recently U.S. influence and UK/US cultural popularity, especially in music, English is most peoples' second language. It must be far easier for English speaking foreign CEO's to communicate with their work forces here without the need for interpreters. Do we want many of these to relocate north of the boarder? On migration, Sarah would do well to listen to Sir Peter Ricketts, until recently our French Ambassador and David Cameron's national security adviser who has warned us, and should know more than anyone else,of the fragility of the Le Touquet agreement where UK immigration checks are carried out in Calais. What possible advantage would it be to the French to continue to police the Calais"Jungle" on our exit? It would be far easier for EU countries to play pass the parcel with their migration problems and send them to our island to be processed where they have nowhere else to move on to. Heaven help our Boarder Agency staff processing thousands of applicants who have destroyed their identities! Many migrants quite naturally want to settle here because many speak a smattering of English as their second language,essential for getting a job, and we do not have identity cards. Being part of the EU gives us much more influence politically and economically and the US certainly wants us to remain a partner. Where does our Foreign Secretary go when there is a problem? Brussels to garner EU support. At present Germany, France and the UK are drawing up plans to impose a tariff on China and Russia dumping heavily subsidised steel on our shores as the EU did with heavily subsidised Chinese solar panels. We are far stronger negotiating as a member of 500 million people as opposed to 60,less after Scotland leaves the UK! Do we really want to be subservient to larger economies like China who use their power to control the movements of the Dalai Lama? What will be the status of the 2 million UK citizens happily living in the EU? Will they, as well as us, continue to enjoy our European Health Insurance cards? Could many elderly residents unable to afford private medical insurance be forced back to the UK.? How about the residents of Gibraltar who have sheltered behind EU protection for many years against Spanish hostility? The EU, like many of the UK Government policies is not perfect but I feel that David Cameron deserves the support of his MPs' in his negotiations. I really dread the prospect of an isolationist little England that many Brexit supporters feel is still an empire. We are far stronger in than out.
- John Roadknight

Well put, Dr W. I love Europe but detest the EU. I will vote OUT. Project Fear is dark. If we shine light upon it by rational analysis, it will disappear.
- Stewart Brown

Dr Wollaston like you I was a Europhile who supported the ideal of a Europe at peace with itself. However the European Community has morphed into a European (political) Union ruled undemocratically from Brussels by unelected bureaucrats who disregard the sovereignty and the elected parliaments of its member states. Cameron's negotiations with the EU are a disaster. He has failed to gain even a fig leaf from the EU to cover his own embarrassment. And most significantly he has failed to get protection for the City of London from the predations of the EU to vest financial services from the City. Cameron's Brexit scaremongering is very likely to backfire on him. Winston Churchill rallied the British people and stirred up their spirit of defiance and determination to see off the threat from Europe. A British vote for exit from the EU would be the signal for the beginning of the end for the EU and would soon cause the whole of the EU to implode economically, socially and financially. A financial crisis is looming in the global economy. This is a crisis that is very likely to blow the European Union away.
- John Collins

One can feel only a sense of betrayal now that Sarah Wollaston, my M.P., has made her statement on Europe. Clearly, she was flying under false colours when she made her pre election statements to get approval in South Hams. Her reasons are quite paltry for joining the Leave group. I thought it was rather shabby that the first thing we heard was through the Sun newspaper quoting her stating that "Tory MP Sarah Wollaston also weighed into the tow saying Mr Cameron's claim was "simply not credible" and complained pro-EU campaigners were taking voters "for fools". The Sun, that progressive and pro equality newspaper. Much better informed sources, such as Sir Peter Ricketts, the British Ambassador in Paris stated that same day that there was every possibility that France would indeed end the British border in Calais if we vote to leave. Folkestone folk will no doubt be pleased with Sarah Wollaston if they get the Calais Jungle in their midst, but Sarah Wollaston will be safe in South Hams, where it is indeed rare to see anything other than a white face. Not much of a threat here of a diverse society, Mrs Wollaston? The statement which was broadcast on the TV this evening which showed an interview with Mrs Wollaston was insulting to my intelligence and was "simply not credible". According to Mrs Wollaston, she will vote to leave as the other EU countries have not offered enough to David Cameron given that we have threatened to leave the EU. So Mrs Wollaston favours the blackmail approach. If you don't give us what we want, we shall walk out. There's principle for you and a person of integrity. No substantive reasons given, no reference to the three million jobs that will be lost, the massive farm subsidies that will go at a stroke, the huge development money that has poured into Cornwall for the last 10 years of more (over one billion pounds), no mention of the estimated £3000 a year benefit to every household in the UK, no mention of the fact that the EU accounts for half of our trade and is the biggest market in the world, no mention of the fact that if we leave we shall have to pay into the EU but have no say in its decision making, no mention of the estimated £66 million a day that EU countries invest in the UK, no mention of the employee and work benefits that the EU has brought to British workers, a stark contrast to the Conservatives' plans to further decimate workers' trade union rights...finally, no mention of the progressive force that the EU represents for all the peoples of Europe and indeed in the world. Sarah Wollaston has retreated in a world of Little Englanders, xenophobes and people like Liam Fox who are embittered Tories.She is welcome to them and will never receive my vote. This country is founded on a huge mixture of races and cultures. What percentage of non whites do we have in your constituency, Mrs Wollaston? Most of the immigrants are from the Midlands and the North West. I am one of them. Another politician whose manifesto promises have evaporated once elected. A shameful performance by someone who once showed signs of a positive vision for British people.
- Tom Jolliffe

To the scaremongers who say that leaving the EU will lead to the break up of the UK, don't worry, it won't. Britain leaving the EU will not change how the majority of people in Scotland feel about being British, which was clearly demonstrated in the recent referendum with a 90% turnout. The SNP would have another referendum tomorrow if they thought they could win it, but they wouldn't, so they won't. Their la-la-land economic policy didn't fly in 2014 with oil over $100 per barrel and it certainly won't fly now at $30-$40.
- Andrew

For those scaremongers who claim that leaving the EU will lead to the 5,000 migrants (economic migrants, as they are already in a safe country, France) and those who follow after them being waved through France to turn up at Dover and claim asylum, don't worry, they won't. Even IF the French were to resile on the existing Le Toquet agreement, return the UK border to Dover and wave through their unwanted guests, our government would simply impose more stringent obligations on the ferry companies and the tunnel operators - just as we already do with airlines and their passengers, which is why we don't have Calais style camps around Heathrow (which we would if Cameron and other scaremonger claims about Calais were true!).
- Andrew

I don't believe our 19 or so frigates with engine breakdowns are going to be much of a solution to policing the channel! Have you not observed the chaos that ensues when there is a dispute in Calais? Nearly 50% of our trade and over 3 million jobs is dependent on our EU membership. You would do well to listen to Sir Peter Ricketts our previous French Ambassador who knows more than anyone else how fragile our border is.
- John Roadknight

Scotland has very close historical links with France and is far more pro EU than Little England. The last thing this proud nation will want is to be dictated by Little England as to their relations with the EU.
- John Roadknight

I am sad to see that you have joined the exit camp. It seems shortsighted in the long term. Russia is breathing down our necks on the border of Europe - how will we respond as an island race? The days of empire are long gone - yet many in the Tory party still vote and operate from that perspective. I want a Conservative party rooted in the 21st century with politicians who can see beyond their own limited career objectives and take this country forward not backwards. So David Cameron did not manage to force the EU to change, it doesn't matter - what matters is that we continue with what we started when we joined the Common market back in the 1970's. We fought two world wars to bring peace and stability to Europe. It is time for us to unite get behind the EU and make it work for us. Turning back now will be catastrophic in every way.
- Cathy Koo

Sarah, it's important to distinguish between (dis)approval for the Tories, David Cameron, the renegotiation terms and the EU itself. You are giving too much emphasis to the new terms, rather that the benefits of continued membership. You say you've always been a Europhile - think again about why. You are in favour of evidence-based medicine; how about some evidence-based policy making on this subject? Colin P
- Colin P

I am old enough both to remember post war austerity and the vote to join the EEC. At that time we were lied to by the politicians as history has now proven. The EU is intent on forming a European State, it has been stated by many European leaders over the years, part of which we will be a minor player if we allow that to play out. We are being lied to now by the IN politicians and scaremongering is not the way to conduct an adult reasoned debate bout the merits of staying or leaving. The EU has shown its true colours on many many occasions but to describe a Brexit as like a game that we don't like so are taking our ball home, is idiotic and childish in the extreme. This is a serious issue and requires a serious debate, not petty point scoring. Our relationship with the EU is a business that has a contract with benefits and defecits on both sides. The British people, through their MP's, have indicated our contract needs re-negotiating. In business, if either party fails to agree terms that is in their interests, then they go their separate ways. If the EU is not prepared to change or meet the terms that the UK requires to continue its partnership, then that speaks volumes of what the EU thinks of the U.K., so it is time to go our separate ways. Before the EU we managed quite well, but the politicians KNEW back then that the EEC would morph into the EU and that political union was the ultimate goal. Had they told the truth at the time then the result of the vote back then may have been very different. In my view the result was illegitimate. As a result of their deceipt I believe we are being lied to now by politicians who have been proven to be dishonest and will NOT tell the truth. Dr. Wollaston has put forward a cogent argument and I for one believe she is being honest in her change of mind. It would be so easy for her to 'go along with' party lines, but this issue is more important than party politics but is an issue of conscience. I admire her courage and I hope she remains true to herself, whatever way she chooses to vote in the end.
- Gary

Heading for BREXIT? I feel the same pain. Having worked more than 4 decades to achieve realistic and sensible requirements in a highly regulated industry both at EU and ECE in an industry that cannot afford the R&D needed just for the UK market, this decision we soon face is highly concerning, whichever conclusion we as a nation come to. Even if a majority of those voting south of a line slightly north of Hadrian’s Wall want to remain in, our friends, colleagues, relatives north of that line might be sufficient in numbers to vote the UK OUT, so that they can then take a vote to stay IN as an independent nation – provided of course Spain will accept that, risking Catalonia and Basque applying for independence as well! However we are where we are, mostly because Member States such as ourselves allowed EU too much power in past EU treaty changes, that we could have vetoed. Having shown we were OK with those decisions, was the EU so wrong to think the UK Government wanted closer integration? We should have stood our ground more firmly then! Much of where we are is due to unprofessional 5 second sound bite politics that we have in the UK and a lowering of the professionalism of the political and official decisions of state. One example - The UK Ministry of Transport having sought a change in EU regulations which was agreed and enacted in 2012, have in 2016 still not yet implemented that change in UK national regulations, resulting in a nonsense of anal administrative burden to continue, costing consumers more for absolutely no safety of environmental benefit whatsoever. Should BREXIT occur, national regulations will need a total overhaul to bring them up to date to the standards that society has today with the EU requirements. On the basis that the DfT does not have enough manpower now, that is the reason given for 4 years of delay above, will it be able to cope in the event of BREXIT? The civil service will certainly need more staff to match the very few knowledgeable ones that are there now who still have enough skill and experience to provide a professional service for society as a whole that can be delivered in a timely sustainable manner. Unfortunately we are only most likely to get even more 5 second sound bite political decisions which will need reviewing almost as soon as they are passed to clear up the mistakes made. The EU did at least look at a longer term perspective rather than the max 5 year – often 6 month between budget statements – policy positions we lurch from in UK politics today. Industry and service sectors cannot work with such short lead-times and even the financial services sector has shown that it cannot deliver what society needs – only looking to satisfy its own greed.
- Ray

A well presented view. We can only gain by leaving the decrepit and corrupt EU. The Mafia would be proud of the EU.
- J Karna

In complete agreement. My impressions from campaigning in The general election last year is that 90% of Brixham would vote for a Brexit and 70% in the remainder of the South Hams. Sarah can rest assured that these views would be overwhelmingly supported in her own constituency.
- Dr Katy Bowen

I agree with Paddy Briggs. With politicians having such a poor understanding of major policy issues and/or engaging in populism, it is no wonder why citizens do not trust them. The leavers are the real EU scaremongers. We pay only 1% of our tax money on the EU (which returns 9 times as much to us in terms of jobs and foreign investment). The EU is directly accountable to UK citizens through the participation of our elected Ministers who make decisions in the European Council and our directly elected European Parliamentarians. The problem is less to do with Europe and more to do with Westminster.
- Nick Hopkinson

having voted originally to go into the EEC I am now totally against the whole current EU stet up. Why have I changed my mind? 15 YEARS BEING IN BUSINESS IN FRANCE
- simon

Well done Sarah. One of the few politicians who has had a proper job in the real world and has realised the billions of pounds we pay into corrupt European bureaucrats can be better spent for the benefit of the people of this country. Roads repaired, a better health service, protection of our own boarders, better schools and the ability to reject the immigrant scroungers taking advantage of crass EU laws and gaining access to our housing and welfare benefits. Charity begins at home.
- Graham

Sarah when were you a Europhile? Remember having conversations with you on the EU soon after you were elected and you were a complete Europhobe then with nothing complimentary to say about our important relationship with the EU and the largest single market in the world that gives us so much more influence politically and economically in the world when negotiating with countries like China and Russia. May soon be the case of "Little England", after the fragmentation of the UK on Scotland's exit and quite possibly the remainder of the UK apart from England, negotiating how many Burberry coats equate to us accepting 1000 tons of their heavily subsidised steel! Heaven knows how many years it will take "Little England" to negotiate, at a much lower advantage, the number of trade deals that are currently in existence with us being a member of the EU?If you get your way you could be one of the last UK members of Parliament and David Cameron,against his will, our last UK Prime Minister! After Scotland's exit from the UK we will certainly not be able to call ourselves a "United" Kingdom! Will we, in our diminished status, still have a seat as a permanent member on the UN Security Council?
- John Roadknight

Do not forget The European Free Trade Association
- simon

I have the utmost admiration for Sarah and am delighted that she has decided on BREXIT. When I read through some of the comments about her post, I can't help but feel that the honest way for this debate to be framed is between joining a federalist club and rescuing our democracy by reclaiming our independence. Ultimately it is as simple as that and people should remember that the only way we are able to contemplate BREXIT is because we wisely avoided being sucked into the Euro. The relentless drive towards centralisation by countries that are not at all homogeneous has busted Europe's flush and exposed that members like Germany and Greece have about as much in common as a fish and a dog. The sooner we reverse ourselves out of this dead end the better. BREXIT now, you know it makes sense!
- David Craggs

Reverse us where? No one knows! George Osborne has been cosying up to China whose economy is plummeting and who executes more criminals than the whole of the rest of the world put together. It also has an extremely corrupt judicial system and is currently using its power to expand its military presence in the South China Sea. Economically and politically we are FAR stronger negotiating with China and Russia as part of the EU and not as a "Little England". I believe the vast majority of the UK share the same values,culture and liberties as our EU neighbours and do not want to be dominated by authoritarian regimes.The only near certain outcome of a Brexit is the disintegration of the UK. I am sure Nicola Sturgeon is licking her lips at the prospect!
- John Roadknight

I do wonder what level of real understanding people, like you Sarah, have of the day to day workings of trade within and between EU countries? I have worked as a Senior Executive in a FTSE 100 company on some of the biggest, and most profitable, multi-national projects, with partners from other EU member states. These projects have brought many billions of pounds into the UK. One of the reasons why these projects were, and continue to be, successful is because of political will and the ease of trade between EU member states. Frankly, whilst I appreciate your loyalty, David Cameron has failed to set out clearly, the pros and cons of the various arguments in commercial terms. If, and this has not been made clear, the cost of trading with EU member states rises post Brexit, then UK Plc will be seriously damaged, possibly fatally. Neither you Sarah, or anyone in government has addressed this in clear, commercial terms. From what I have read thus far, Cameron's position is founded upon immigrant access to the Welfare State. I am not condoning this. However, this would amount to an estimated saving of some £30 million pounds. That is small fry compared to the potential long-term loss of billions. Finally, can I say that many of the arguments above are, with respect, akin to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Most former British companies are now owned by other EU companies. We no longer have any control over them. Today, in 2016, the profits go out of this country. That was clearly not the case when Britain joined the, then, EEC. We no longer have a British owned industry, coal industry, steel industry or electronics industry. Regardless of who is to blame, Britain has record levels of debt and is a poor collector of corporate taxes. If Britain is left to paddle its own canoe, people might care to ponder upon what I have said before taking a potentially irreversible decision. Like it or not, commerce has changed. If Britain leaves, it cannot flip the calendar back to the 1970s and pretend that global integration hasn't happened.
- Gary

Leave one, leave all. Germany will be left alone to welcome the Turks.
- Brexit

Bet you feel more comfortable now George Galloways on board! Can't believe you"re really in the same boat as him and Farage? Don't think that will go down too well with your supporters who voted for you.
- Peter

We have one chance to get out of this increasingly undemocratic failure known as the EU. We can again be a world leader in the new technologies if we regain control. My vote was never in as we never got a vote. It is definitely out now we have one.
- Sam Seal

Really very sad to see such a big mistake from a usually clear thinking, thoughtful fellow GP, who has often commanded my respect. Sarah, I urge you to carefully reflect on your position. Consider its basis on short term, small-picture analysis. Consider your focus, almost entirely on our differences, ignoring the far greater scope of our shared problems and shared interests. Consider the huge potential for leadership the UK has to offer as the EU evolves. If only we were to engage without reluctance, on these new terms, particularly with this significant shift in emphasis in accommodating diversity, which is very likely to strengthen. We are a far stronger country now than when we entered the EC, in no small part because of it. Has it really, in totality, served us so badly? Who knows their MEP, indeed. But how many more people actually know their MP? Their county counsellor? Their district counsellor? Their Police Commissioner? Yes, we do have a big problem with broken democracy. This is a big worry at local and national level, but your focus is solely on this problem at a European level, ignoring the rest. Again. Your position on European democracy follows through that we either abolish or withdraw from local and parliamentary democracy as the answer... non sequitur, surely. Your position runs high risk of breaking up the UK, resulting in increasing division at many levels, and greatly diminishing our influence at every level. Far better to remain a United Kingdom, being British and European, and maintain our position in the world on the back of the strength of all these partnerships, surely? Your choice appears bleak and defeatist - misplaced nationalism leading to a much diminished, very little England. My choice is Great Britain, showing leadership and sharing ties amongst friends in a diverse Europe. Give it some thought - seriously. With best wishes.
- Richard Stanley

Get out to what? No-one knows! Into a fictitious land of "milk and honey" as David Cameron put it? Scotland looks very likely to leave so it will be goodbye to the UK as we will no longer be United.You would do well to read Gary's excellent resume above who knows much more than me about the dangers that lie ahead in the event of Brexit. Are we going to send gun boats to Gibraltar next time Spain seals its land links after we exit?We have much more power and influence staying a member in the largest single market in the world.
- John Roadknight

Richard Stanley: I think you will find we all need counselling if we stay in the EU superstate. And thanks - I do know my councillors and MEP.
- Boris the Blonde

What will happen to UK farmers if we leave EU? I can immediately see EU farmers, ie French, immediately saying UK farm produce should have tariffs imposed, to protect the EU farmers. The French farmers could see this as a great opportunity for themselves at great cost to UK farmers. Currently London is the financial capital of Europe much to the German's -in particular Frankfurt's- annoyance. If the UK leaves EU, then a lot of city institutions will relocate to Frankfurt.This might seem irrelevant to us in South Devon, but the fact is, the City of London subsidises much of the UK. The BREXIT politicians constantly state, that is is in everyone's best interest for the UK and the EU to continue to trade freely and, therefore, this is what will obviously happen. But since when, have governments and politicians ever taken the sensible path? There is no guarantee that the EU and the UK will come to a mutually beneficial agreement. The EU governments will have to answer to their populace, which can easily be swayed by populist politicians. The end result may be very self destructive to both parties. The UK will soon become the largest economy in the EU, overtaking Germany. The UK's interests are best served by being the big fish in a big pond and using its might to make the EU more democratic and accountable.
- P. Morley

What a short sighted position, we should be leading Europe and not abandoning it. No-one knows what life outside the EU will look like and the leave campaign will not, or cannot, give any details about whether we will be better off materially or socially. This makes me think that things are going to be difficult and painful for the majority of people as we adjust to this new order which includes a large swathe of Sarah's constituents whom she is supposed to represent. Whilst the independently wealthy, retired or well employed can afford to insulate themselves from this turmoil the rest of us will suffer so that they can wallow in their ideological mire. Hardly the 'One Nation Conservatism' we were sold.
- Nick

Excellent post, Sarah. I am a Europhile too, and want a free trade area BUT not at the price of the loss of democracy. The EU was powerless to act decisively on Bosnia or the Greek, migrant and banking crises. Loss of democracy is too high a price to pay for its membership. 'Ordinary' people that their vote no longer matters.Ultimately European instability and the rise of extremism will be the consequence. This may not do your political career much good in the short term but it is better to stand on the side of what is right. so thank you for having the courage to stand by your beliefs.
- Maureen

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