As many of you will know, earlier this year I invited you, my constituents, to take part in an EU referendum ballot. I know from speaking with many of you on the doorstep that many of you have concerns about our current membership of the EU – concerns I share. That’s why I took this opportunity to better understand the strength of feeling about our membership of the EU in Amber Valley.
I asked you to respond the question: “Should the United Kingdom be a member of the European Union?”. I am now able to share the results of this with you. The response to the ballot was overwhelmingly against the UK remaining a part of the EU – with 80.6% of those polled opting to leave the European Union and just 19.4% wanting to stay.
This result makes it very clear that an overwhelming majority think that our current relationship with EU is not working for Britain.
For this reason, I am glad that the Prime Minister has already set out the key areas for renegotiation – including keeping our border controls, cracking down on benefit tourism, taking back more control of justice and home affairs and securing more trade.
I do believe that we should give the Prime Minister a fair chance to renegotiate our position and secure a better deal for us in the EU. I fear to hold a referendum now would produce a result based on an unacceptable situation without allowing for steps to be made to improve the situation.
The result of the referendum I held highlights the growing discontent about the current situation and I welcome the Prime Minister’s steps to remedy this. I also welcome the recent European Court of Justice ruling last week on welfare restrictions. However, let me be clear: I would like to see more fundamental reforms on free movement of people coming here to work and I think this should be a major feature of any renegotiation discussions. The way I see it, unless we can achieve this the British people will quite rightly vote to leave the EU.
I’d like to thank all of those who took the time to take part in the EU referendum ballot I held, it is so important for me to understand what my constituents think, and I did take the opportunity last week in Parliament to raise this issue with Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister. You can read an account of the exchange below:
Nigel Mills MP: In a recent informal ballot I organised in my constituency, more than 80% of those who replied wanted to leave the EU. Is it not now time for a Government Bill so that we can have the referendum that people want?
Nick Clegg MP (Deputy Prime Minister; Sheffield Hallam, Liberal Democrat): I suspect that the hon. Gentleman and I will have been in the same Lobby back in 2011 when we introduced legislation on behalf of the coalition guaranteeing in law something that could not be tampered with by future Governments and Parliaments: the circumstances in which a referendum on our membership of the EU would take place—when the rules next change and we are asked to endorse a new treaty. That was our view then, and it remains my view now. It is perfectly free to do so, but his party has decided to change its mind radically since then.