Cameron must roll back frontiers of EU super-state
The European Union is different to the one the United Kingdom joined. It is time to renegotiate our terms of membership, says Diane Dodds
The announcement by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, that the British people are to be afforded the opportunity to decide whether or not we should remain in the European Union in a referendum is welcome.
Equally welcome is the Prime Minister's stated determination to renegotiate the relationship between our country and the EU.
These are important commitments from Mr Cameron. Nevertheless, we should recall that similar 'cast-iron' commitments have been made in the past - only to be cast aside once Mr Cameron secured the keys to 10 Downing Street.
This cannot be merely an exercise to assuage the right wing of the Conservative Party and to head off the threat in Tory marginal constituencies from Ukip.
Mr Cameron must see these commitments through to a conclusion, or he runs the risk of creating more cynicism about politics.
The announcement is reflective of the reality of an ever-changing European set-up. The free trade agreement that the United Kingdom signed up to join in 1973 no longer exists. Instead of encapsulating the best ideas of free markets and free trade between co-operating neighbours, it has evolved into an enormous behemoth affecting every aspect of our lives.
More than two-thirds of the laws passed in this country find their origins in Europe. Such a prospect would have seemed absurd at the time of the referendum in 1975 that decided we should remain in the European Common Market.
The Common Market is long gone and successive governments - Conservative, Labour and coalition - have never consulted the British people on the fundamental and far-reaching changes to our constitution and our way of life that have taken place since that referendum.
The never-ending expansion of the European project doesn't come cheap. According to the Treasury, the UK contribution to the EU budget in 2010/11 was £8.9bn, of which we got just over £3bn back.
Some of the money we contribute is well spent in supporting our agri-food sector. But there are numerous examples of where money is squandered and wasted.
The disgraceful waste of money that is the rotating parliament between Brussels and Strasbourg costs taxpayers €200m (£167m), and do we really need to spend £150m on a European history museum?
This vanity project, which strangely enough only starts the history of Europe from the year 1946, epitomises all that is wrong with the current EU structures.
The basis of the UK's membership of the EU has so fundamentally changed from that which was signed up to almost four decades ago that it is time to start the renegotiation of terms of membership.
In seeking to unshackle ourselves from the red tape and regulation that has done so much to stifle economic development and business growth, I do not believe the UK will be fighting alone. I think other countries are prepared to join with us in calling for such deregulation.
Many MEPs, from regions as far apart as Estonia and Spain, the Czech Republic and Denmark, have all made calls for easing the impositions that emanate from the EU.
As author of two European legislative reports on cod regulations, I am all-too-aware of the negative impact the Common Fisheries Policy has had on our fishing industry.
This would be one area where a repatriation of powers away from Brussels and back into local hands would be especially welcome.
Margaret Thatcher once famously declared: "We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state only to see them re-imposed at a European level, with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels."
Few would doubt that her warning has become a reality.
I wish Mr Cameron every success as he attempts to roll back the frontiers of the super-state and restore power to the British people.