No more project fear

Andrew RT Davies calls for more positive arguments to be made by those on either side of the EU debate.

Wherever you stand on the issue of our European Union membership, it’s clear that there needs to be a more positive tone to the debate in the final weeks and an end to the doomsday predictions of armageddon.

We need to see an honest, open and positive debate of the choices facing the public on June 23, and voters will see right through the propaganda.

Let’s be frank, if Armageddon really was waiting just the other side of a vote to leave the EU then it would never have been put to a public vote in the first place.

That’s why, in the last few weeks of the campaign it’s time for a more positive tone from all sides – and an honest discussion of the choice we face as a nation.

Starting with the remain camp: be honest and open about what a vote to stay means for the future of this country, and what it means for the future direction of travel of the European project.

I know that there are plenty of people who would support the idea of the EU taking on more and more of the functions of a nation state, such as tax-raising powers, or control over health policy. And even though I’m not one of them, it does frustrate me that it’s not the case being put to voters at present, who are instead being encouraged to fear the idea of change – not invited to buy into a positive vision.

On the continent itself people are much more open about the EU and the political union it has become, but for some reason here in the UK there is an apparent reluctance to call it what it is.

In reality, a vote to remain in the EU amounts to a vote for a United States of Europe, which is fine if you support that; many people across the continent do. But be in no doubt that it’s a one way road to ever closer political union.

On the other hand, there are people like myself who believe that we should stay true to the principals on which we originally joined the EU; to drive the UK towards economic prosperity and to boost trading relationships with our neighbours.

It is my belief that we can no longer achieve those aims within the EU, and that’s why I’m backing a Vote to Leave.

But I want to see that case being made positively, and rather than being tempted to join in the politics of fear we should be painting a positive vision for the future of our nation outside the EU.

There can be no disputing that the EU project is political in nature and its reach will only continue to expand in coming years. It already has a distinct presence in foreign affairs, a fledgling defence force, national flags and an anthem.

The logical next step is for the EU to develop tax-raising powers, particularly with the Euro so central to the project.

For my part, I don’t buy into the vision of the EU as my nation and I believe that a Vote to Leave would be a shot in the arm for British democracy, and allow us to take back control over our economy and trade.

If we leave the EU we can revitalise the democratic process, clawing powers back from a supranational, undemocratic institution and bringing them into national and local governments, so that the decisions which affect Wales are made here in Wales, and the decisions which affect the United Kingdom are made in the United Kingdom.

We need to remind voters that there is no such thing as EU money – that it belongs to the UK taxpayer – and highlight the huge benefits that a Brexit dividend would have for the country.

The UK pays around £10 billion a year surplus to be a member of the EU – over and above the money we receive back from our taxes, in structural funds and agricultural support. Just imagine what Wales’ share of that money could achieve in the hands of local communities, in terms of support for farmers, businesses, and areas in need of regeneration.

We also need to remind voters that a Vote to Leave will empower us as a nation. We could strip away some of the burdensome regulations that stifle small firms, and frustrate Welsh farmers. And we could once again be masters of our own destiny, free to sign trade agreements with new trading partners the world over – including with the EU itself.

Above all, we have a responsibility to the public to hold an honest, open and positive debate of the choices facing the public on June 23. Project fear just won’t cut it.

Andrew RT Davies is the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives.

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