On the 23rd June 2016, we will all have to make one of the biggest political decisions of recent times. Do we want to stay in a reformed European Union, or leave? Make no mistake: this is one of the biggest political decisions any of us will ever make. It will affect our communities, our laws and our place in the world for generations to come.
That’s why I have launched a major EU: In or Out? Debate series across Norfolk. The aim is to open up the conversation on the EU to as wide an audience as possible. You will be able to follow the campaign using the Twitter hashtag #EU:INorOUT? and through my website.
I will also be organising a series of debates and roundtables throughout the first six months of 2016, hustings with local sixth form colleges and getting the views of entrepreneurs and the business community across the four towns of Mid Norfolk alongside the voice of our world-leading agricultural community through Anglia Farmers.
Make no mistake: this is one of the biggest political decisions any of us will ever make. It will affect our communities, our laws and our place in the world for generations to come.
If you would like to join my EU: In or Out? Debate, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know your thoughts.
Our next event is on Friday 18th March 2016 - a roundtable with Anglia Farmers where I will be joined by Vicky Ford, MEP for the Eastern Region at AF Offices, Honingham Thorpe, Colton, NR9 5BZ.
Places for the event are limited: please reserve a place by calling Hilary on 01953 600617
Friday 22nd April 2016 Breakfast roundtable at Norwich Research Park with Mills and Reeves solicitors.
Friday 6th May 2016 Lunch with the Wayland Partnership at the Broom Hall Hotel, Saham Toney.
Friday 20th May 2016 Business breakfast booked with Attleborough Business Forum
Friday 27th May 2016 Early evening drinks event with FUTURE50 | EDP | Mustard TV with guest speakers Steve Baker MP and Vicky Ford, MEP for the Eastern Region.
Friday 17th June 2016 Morning roundtable with Wymondham Businesses at Wymondham Town Hall
For any more information on the above events, or to reserve your place, please call Hilary Gauthier in George’s Wymondham Office on 1953 600617 or email email@example.com
40 years ago the British people voted to join a Common Market and over the subsequent 4 decades it has become a political union. I'm proud that under David Cameron's leadership my generation of Conservatives have given the British people the chance to have their say in a Referendum.
I share much of the frustration felt by others at the growth of an unaccountable European bureaucracy, focused too much on driving a political union OF Europe instead of economic integration and prosperity IN Europe, which is why I have been a leading and active member of the Fresh Start Group of EU reformers, strongly supporting the Prime Minister's work for a New Deal in Europe, and working as a Minister to implement and deliver important reforms in the sector for which I am responsible, and to which the European Single Market is a major asset.
Whilst I have a lot of respect for the core argument that the EU has shaken the UK's sense of our own sovereignty and undermined our confidence in ourselves as a sovereign nation, I also believe that 'sovereignty' in the modern world of globalisation, corporate power, social media and an explosion of societal change is not the clear-cut concept it was. There are a myriad of forces undermining the traditional sense of a nation state as a single coherent entity behind its national borders, not just the EU.
Our world has changed dramatically since 1973. We face different challenges in a rapidly globalising economy and society. Technology and globalisation are profoundly changing our economy, society and politics.
This creates huge challenges and opportunities for the UK, and for the EU, and for the globe. So many of the issues we face - whether defence and security, environment, economy or society - require co-ordinated global action.
As a major economy and a former global power the UK is still a significant voice and force in the world - we were recently ranked no:1 in the world for 'soft power'. As such we cannot and must not shirk our international responsibilities. With huge instablity in the Middle East; Russia and China aggressively re-militarising and a fragile global economy recovering from a tumoultous economic crash, we need strong trade and political ties to bind the nations of the world together.
The European Union needs to reform and modernise and become more global and entrepreneurial with a greater focus on the global competitiveness, prosperity and influence which ultimately underpin our security. If the UK were to leave I fear we would make the UK, Europe and the globe a less secure place, and hinder not help the process of global trade.
With the reforms negotiated by the Prime Minister we are now in a privileged position which reflects what most British people want: to be in the European single market but not run by Europe. The PM's reforms will enshrine in law for the first time in the history of the EU that the UK is inside the Single Market but never the Euro currency zone; inside the European right of free movement of citizens and labour and capital, with important protections on benefit tourism and our financial services sector, inside the EU but exempt from 'ever closer (political) union' with protections against a further creeping loss of sovereignty. It may not be perfect, but its a significant deal hard-won.
In my constituency in East Anglia, and in the sector of Life Sciences and the Bio-Economy for which I have the privilege of being the UK Minister, I strongly believe that withdrawl from the European Union would not be in our best interests. The jobs and prosperity being created in our area by the high growth businesses of tomorrow are strongly linked to our membership of the European Single Market, scientific community and to the UK's strong role in influencing the market regulatory framework of the EU.
There are no shortcuts or easy routes to solving the challenges we face. If only there were. "Brexit" wouldn't solve any of these problems. In fact the evidence suggests that - at best - the economic impact would be equivalent to another banking crash in terms of lost GDP/growth, even without possible trade barriers from the EU.
I don't dismiss that we could leave and survive. We could. But I think we'd be poorer. With less influence. With fewer friends in Europe. Leaving us more, not less, insecure in an insecure world.
This is a momentous decision for us all, and one that should be taken not for short term tactical political advantage but with our responsibilities to our country, our children and the global security and development - on whose sustainable development we all depend - at the fore.
For all of those reasons, respectful of the arguments of those who decide to go the other way, I believe our best interests are served by the renegotiated terms of our continuing membership of the European Union.
George Freeman MP
To hear more about my views on the EU, click here to listen to a debate I recently took part in at Ely Cathedral with the Ely Cathedral Business Group.