"I know that our country could survive outside the EU. However the uncertainty of leaving the European Union weighs heavily on my mind. We have no idea what out would look like, and different leave campaigners have wildly different views on what it should look like. We could be a member of the EEA like Norway, and be subject to most European Union regulations anyway with very little influence over them. Whatever happens British businesses will still have to comply with EU rules in order to do business in the EU. Surely we should retain a formal influence over the composition of these rules if our companies are going to be bound to them?
Moreover, Brexiteers make much of the fact that we would still be part of a trading area from Iceland to the Russian border if we left the EU. While this is true, this is not a tariff free zone and our exporters will face the burden of having to comply to differing both domestic and European regulations to gain access to the market. So we would still trade with the EU, but the costs of doing this would inevitably rise. We would survive outside the EU, but the real question is would we thrive?
In a globalised and interconnected world our country will be affected by many issues that are outside of the control of one Government alone, be it global pollution, the threat from terrorism or the conduct of the world’s financial markets. Therefore, I believe we must continue to work together on these external issues to ensure that the UK can continue to exert maximum influence over how they affect us.
I love the United Kingdom and I do not love the European Union. There is much about the EU that irritates and frustrates me, and there is much I would like to see reformed. I would also accept that the Prime Minister’s deal does not make the EU perfect and I will never say that the UK could not survive outside the EU. However, should we leave a reformed EU which gives us access to the single market and stops ever closer union and political integration out of irritation and pique? I do not think such a move is in our national interest."
Stephen Hammond attended the annual dinner of Stevenage Conservative Association a couple of years ago. I'm delighted that he is standing with David Cameron in calling for Britain to stay in a reformed Europe.