EU referendum: Brexit debate needed

Batting for Britain: Former Warwickshire county cricketer Dan Dalton says EU must move with the times.

By Rajnish Singh

Rajnish Singh is Political Engagement Manager at Dods

08 Jun 2015

After standing for parliament in two European elections, the ECR group's newest member Dan Dalton finally realised his ambition of becoming an MEP earlier this year. Sadly the opportunity came as a result of the untimely death of UK Conservative member Philip Bradbourn last December.

Paying tribute to the late Tory deputy - who during his 15 years as an MEP was widely respected across the parliament's political divide - Dalton says Bradbourn was, "well known for having strong views and for standing by them, as well as defending the needs of his constituents. In every way, he was a sterling public servant."

Dalton, a former professional cricketer in the UK before being bitten by the politics bug, believes that the biggest difference between being an MEP and his previous role as a policy wonk for the reformist group is that "as a policy officer you became a real expert in one key area by studying that issue or portfolio in depth. But I've realised pretty quickly as an MEP now that I can't do that anymore, I have to now skirt over lots of different topics."


The other significant change Dalton has had to adjust to has been the sudden increase in the level of scrutiny he now feels, not only from constituents, but from the media and fellow MEPs. The increased pressure on his time has also been a real challenge. "From my point of view, I obviously want to spend as many evenings with my wife and family. But I have demands here in Brussels and obviously there are huge demands back in my West Midlands constituency as well. Trying to manage time is one of the most difficult tasks of being an MEP".

Dalton's relative youth (41) and political inexperience have had little impact on his parliamentary role and he feels that he has been welcomed by his fellow deputies. "I have received nothing but goodwill and respect from other MEPs." This is perhaps more clearly reflected by the fact that despite being a member of the ECR group for just a few months Dalton has already been appointed as their coordinator in the influential internal market and consumer protection committee

With EU renegotiation and an upcoming Brexit vote rarely out of the news these days, Dalton says he is "very supportive of a referendum, as I have previously campaigned on this issue. I think it is absolutely vital to have this debate in the UK. Sometimes people in Brussels really don't realise just how wafer thin support for the EU is in the UK."

Well aware that a possible referendum could result in Britain leaving the EU and kicking him out of a job, Dalton is keen to emphasise that "if the British people decide to leave the EU, we need to respect that decision and then we need to work out what our options are in a different relationship." But he is also quick to stress that Britain's relationship with the EU cannot go on in its current form, "I don't think we can continue in a union like this without the continued support of the British people."

In his view, any new renegotiated relationship should focus on "deepening the single market" and negotiating trade agreements. However he would also be happy to see other member states develop closer integration if they chose to do so "as long as it doesn't impinge on those countries who don't want to."

Dalton adds, "It's important for the EU to move with the times, and if it doesn't, then Britain and potentially several other countries, will also leave." With immigration a hugely contentious and divisive issue in UK politics he is keen to stress that "I'm not suggesting we challenge the fundamental principles of the free movement of labour and people, which is an essential aspect of the internal market. But what we need to do is make sure it is fair for all members of the EU, where we don't have large numbers of people moving to certain countries, simply because there are huge differentials in the wages that can be earned."

Apart from the minor issues of renegotiating Britain's relationship with the EU and a possible Brexit referendum, Dalton's other political priorities, which also reflect the priorities of his constituency in the West Midlands, "are to complete the internal market, particularly in services, achieving TTIP which is vitally important, and trying to get the digital single market going as well."

"The digital single market", he says, "is an example of how the EU very quickly needs to move with the times. We must help facilitate access across Europe."

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