On June 23 the people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will have the opportunity to vote on whether they should remain in the European Union or leave. They will have the opportunity to vote on whether or not we reclaim our national sovereignty.
I welcome the fact that there is to be a referendum. I also remember the last European referendum on membership of the European Economic Community, as it was then known. That referendum took place on June 6, 1975 — almost 41 years ago — and, at that time, I voted against membership of the EEC.
Since then the EEC has become the European Union and the case against membership is even stronger than it was then. That is why next month I will be voting to leave the EU.
As far back as 1951 and the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community, a forerunner of the EU, it was clear that the ultimate aim of those behind the project was a federal United States of Europe.
That is still the ultimate aim of the Eurocrats and, as time goes by, we hear more and more talk of European federation.
Is that what we really want for the United Kingdom — to be absorbed into a federal European superstate? Is that in the best interests of the United Kingdom — including Northern Ireland?
Already our parliament at Westminster is subservient to the EU, and that is something I deeply resent. If we vote to remain in the EU then EU laws will continue to overrule UK laws. But if we vote to leave we can take back control of our laws.
As well as reclaiming our national sovereignty, there are other good reasons for voting to leave. Every week the United Kingdom sends more than £350m to the EU. That is our money being handed over to the EU, and it is enough to build a modern hospital every week of the year.
If we vote to remain in the EU we have to keep on sending this money to the bureaucrats in Brussels; whereas, if we vote to leave the EU, we can keep that money in the United Kingdom and spend it directly on our priorities, whether that be the health service, schools, housing or job creation.
The United Kingdom is a major world economy, but at the moment we have no trade deals with important countries like China, India and Australia. If we vote to remain in the EU we still won’t be able to make our own trade deals.
However, if we vote to leave the EU we can have a new and better relationship with the EU based on trade, as well as regain our seat on global bodies such as the World Trade Organisation.
One of our most successful companies in Northern Ireland is Wrightbus, based in Ballymena, which has supplied buses to London, Las Vegas, Singapore and Hong Kong. It is significant that the founder of that company William Wright is also a strong advocate for leaving the EU.
The EU must be one of the most profligate institutions in the world and the financial incompetence and general waste is appalling.
Last year the European Court of Auditors — the EU’s independent fiscal watchdog — refused to give its accounts a clean bill of health, and that was the 21st year in which it had identified billions of pounds of payments that were irregular, or possibly illegal. Indeed, last year it identified errors of around €6.3bn in expenditure of €144bn.
Overall, the report gave an “adverse opinion on the legality and regularity of payments underlying the accounts”.
The recovery of our national sovereignty, the ability to spend all our own money on our own priorities, the freedom to trade with the whole world... those are just some of the reasons why a vote to leave the EU is the safer choice.