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Where do you stand on Britain’s membership of the European Union? Your opinion will affect how you respond to David Cameron’s current dilemma. The EU is demanding an additional £1.7 billion by 1st December, which is the equivalent of £66 for everyone who pays income tax.
This comes on top of a row about Britain’s involvement with the European Arrest Warrant and the government’s wish to block the free movement of EU immigrants into the UK. The latter has angered other EU members because freedom of movement of labour, capital, goods and services is what the common market is all about.
Cameron said he would not pay the £1.7 billion but this would incur penalty charges of £42.5 million a month. The European Commission claims this topping up was agreed by the Council of Ministers and Britain’s share is justified by our fast growing economy. Other EU leaders think Britain should pay up. The best Cameron can do is to attempt to renegotiate the amount but any concession to Brussels would be music to UKIP and could win them the Rochester by-election.
If that were to happen Cameron’s leadership could be challenged. One hundred Conservative MPs are already threatening to rebel if asked to vote for British participation in the European Arrest Warrant. They expect him to stand up to the EU but the more he does so the less likely is he to persuade them to support his attempt to renegotiate the terms of British membership. He is caught between a rock and a hard place.
How concerned are you about the size of school classes in your area, waiting times for NHS appointments, and increasing house prices as the demand for housing pushes them up? These are points at which most people experience the impact of immigration and make it a hot political issue.
UKIP’s anti-immigration stance helped it to win the Clacton by-election and threatens to be a major factor in the general election. Numbers coming from outside Europe have fallen but those from within the EU have grown. The Mayor of Calais told the Home Affairs Select Committee there are thousands waiting in Calais, “prepared to die to come to England”.
The Defence Secretary spoke at the weekend about parts of Britain being ‘swamped’ by immigrants and was criticised for using that word. On Tuesday David Blunkett, the former Labour Home Secretary, backed him and said politicians cannot avoid the issue and Mr Fallon was right to “voice the concerns of ordinary voters”.
Politicians don’t want to be labelled racist. Their concerns about immigration numbers may be motivated more by concerns about population density and the capacity of public services to meet the needs of all in crowded communities. England is the most densely populated nation in Europe with 395 people per square kilometre, projected to rise to 464 in 15 years. That is four times as many as in France.
Whatever our views about immigration and the EU we can pray that our leaders have the wisdom to do what is right in God’s eyes.