The TRG recently conducted an email survey of its membership asking for their opinions on the Prime Minister’s EU renegotiation priorities as well as their current voting intentions in the upcoming EU Referendum.
There were over 450 comments and suggestions submitted regarding the renegotiation and our membership of the European Union, and this article is intended to briefly summarise the views of the TRG membership.
Firstly, on the voting intentions, our survey found that only 10% of TRG members currently support ‘Brexit’ no matter what the final outcome of the Prime Minister’s current renegotiations.
Secondly, while responses showed that our membership is far from uncritical of aspects of our EU membership, 60% of TRG members support remaining in the EU, and intend to vote to remain a member regardless of the details of the renegotiation as finally agreed.
Thirdly, some 30% of our members are waiting to make up their minds, and their voting intentions will depend on the details of the deal that the Prime Minister strikes with the other members of the EU.
Our survey therefore enables us to state that we expect between 60% and 90% of our members to vote to remain in the EU, depending of the extent to which they feel the UK has secured a good deal from the renegotiation process.
If the 30% of our membership that are awaiting the detail of the renegotiation were to split fairly evenly, then it would mean that three in four TRG members will vote to remain in the EU.
Since it was founded in 1975, the Tory Reform Group has been the home to One Nation, Liberal and progressive Conservatism. One of the constituent groups that came together to form the TRG was a voice for pro-Europeans in the Conservative party, so it should perhaps come as no surprise that the membership remains positive about the role of the UK in Europe and will be voting to stay in a reformed European Union. The TRG is far from a single issue group on Europe. We welcome members with a wide range of views on the EU who share in our beliefs in promoting economic policies with a social conscience – One Nation Conservatism. It is vital that our Party govern in the interest of One Nation whether the UK remains inside or outside of the EU.
In response to our survey, carried out at the end of last year, members were forthright in expressing their opinions on both the UK’s continued membership of the EU, and the Prime Minister’s current renegotiation, and we have highlighted below those areas that our members thought most important:
1) Immigration – the pressures that free movement of people has on the UK, the draw of our welfare system and the need for the UK to have options to address this
2) Sovereignty – the notion of ‘ever closer union’ is one which many of our members stated that they did not support; the importance of ‘subsidiarity’ and national parliaments
3) Trade and competition – members stressed the importance of further progress to extend and fully realise the single market, and agree effective trade deals
4) Eurozone/two speed Europe – members sought assurances and safeguards for non- Eurozone countries like the UK, and specifically for the City of London
5) ‘Red tape’ and bureaucracy – continued and redoubled efforts to tackle waste, bureaucracy and regulations are required
6) Importance of the EU referendum – for many respondents the UK’s future prosperity and security depends upon a continued membership of a reformed EU and the case needs to be made loudly and clearly
These views, taken from over 450 submissions from our members, make it clear that the TRG membership broadly supports the Prime Minister’s efforts to secure a revised deal for the UK in advance of what will be a critical vote for the future of the UK. If the Prime Minister can secure agreement from his European counterparts on these priorities, then a clear majority of TRG members will be supporting him and voting to remain in the EU.
In the upcoming EU Referendum, everyone of voting age in the UK will have a vote on this crucial matter and each TRG member will of course vote as they each see fit. Given that the majority of our members’ support staying in the EU, the TRG as a body will join the campaigns that support remaining in the EU.
We have always respected diversity in the views expressed by our members, and those who wish to vote and campaign for the UK to leave (representing as they do, a small but not insignificant minority of our members) should of course feel free to do so. The TRG Board, will commit itself to ensuring the organisation campaigns in a thoughtful way, respectful to those who have differing views on this key issue.
Once the referendum result is known, the TRG believes it will be vital, whatever the outcome, that the result is accepted by all, and that those within the Conservative party – on both sides of the debate – come together to ensure that the fight is once again taken to our political opponents to ensure our continued success for the benefit of all across the UK.
Written by David Fazakerley & Neil Lindsay
Research Compiled by Owen Meredith & Alex Challoner
TRG Board Members February 2016