East Devon MP Hugo Swire reveals position on EU

PUBLISHED: 11:58 29 February 2016 | UPDATED: 08:49 02 March 2016

Hugo Swire stock picture

Hugo Swire stock picture

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'My head triumphed over my heart' - self-confessed Eurosceptic says he would support Britain staying in

East Devon’s MP today revealed he thinks Britain should stay in a reformed European Union (EU).

Self-confessed Eurosceptic Hugo Swire said the prime minister’s deal with EU leaders – which gives the UK certain powers, including limitations on benefits of migrants within the union – is a ‘game changer’.

While expressing the opinion that ‘there is much wrong with the EU’, the MP – who last week failed to confirm which way he would vote – said that his head triumphed over his heart as he gave his support to the ‘in campaign’.

In a statement, Mr Swire said: “Like many of my Conservative colleagues, I am a Eurosceptic. And like many of them I have been reconciling the views of my constituents, my loyalty to the prime minister, my dislike of many European institutions and my belief as to what is ultimately in the best interests of our country at this time.

“Ignoring the technicalities of the deal secured by the prime minister for the moment - and arguments as to who is right and who is wrong from both the camps - the reality is that it has been a game changer.

“Whatever you think of the deal David Cameron secured, one thing is certain; it has opened a Pandora’s Box. I am of the belief that the EU has to change to survive and I think our prime minister has spearheaded the start of this change.

He said that Europe is not a monolithic force, but a set of evolving circumstances - some good, some bad and some accidental.

Citing the recent refugee crisis as an example, Mr Swire said the EU’s inability to respond to the sheer pace of demographic change means that it will have to evolve further.

The MP confessed that while a complete exit from the EU would in many ways be an easier option for Britain, it ignores the ‘simple truth that in an inter-connected world, problems and threats require a unified global response’.

Mr Swire added: “The reality is that Europe is in trouble; both the Euro and the refugee crisis have done much damage and it must be in all our interests to help fix it. The United Kingdom is a respected voice, our democracy is advanced, our economy is booming.

“I think we should feel obliged to participate in the political order of Europe and be responsive to its demands. After all we are a ‘Western’ country, and being in that club is a valuable concept, it means we are committed to democracy, liberal values and the rule of law, not only at home but in the wider world. We shouldn’t have a pick and mix approach if we believe in western values. The EU is an important pillar of the ‘West’ and we are an important pillar inside the EU. We should not be afraid of providing the leadership and sense of direction that the EU is so desperately in need of.”

He credited the UK with being a ‘leading champion’ on economic policy and said the EU would lack credibility on defence without the UK as ‘one of the EU’s two serious military powers (France the other)’.

While conceding the EU’s threat to Britain’s sovereignty ‘is a concern’, but said a balance needs to be struck between unbridled sovereignty and influence – with membership of the union ‘amplifying the UK’s power and influence on the world stage at this dangerous time’.

In conclusion, Mr Swire said: “There is so much wrong with the EU and I’m not going to list all its faults here.

“But the EU’s weaknesses and growing unpopularity matter for all of those who care about the West and its contribution to foreign affairs. On the plus side, the union has brought peace and stability to its member states and to much of the European continent, it has introduced democratic government into the former communist countries of central and eastern Europe, it has introduced the rule of law and market economics and it works hard to make its neighbours respect those values, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, but at least it keeps trying.

“For me my heart tells me that the UK, given our history, would be fine if we choose to go it alone but my head tells me our place should be in a reformed EU. And my head has triumphed over my heart.”

To read Mr Swire’s full statement, visit: http://www.hugoswire.org.uk/news/blog-eu-referendum-my-personal-view.

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