It has been reported this week that a referendum on EU membership could form part of the Conservative election manifesto in 2015, with a view to being held within 18 months of that election.
It is now time for this referendum.
I am a believer in many of the economic benefits of the EU in terms of trade. I do not share the concerns that some people have around immigration. For many years I have been as pro-Europe as a Conservative could be. However, I do not believe in 'ever closer political union' and I do not enjoy the bureaucracy and lack of accountability in the EU. I increasingly feel that the core benefits of membership of the EU can be achieved from outside of the EU through treaties and other legal and diplomatic mechanisms.
A referendum is an issue of the democratic sovereignty of the people of the UK, and their right to decide on their membership of a multilateral organisation which is able to make laws and legally binding judgements. The argument for a referendum does not need to be pro- or -sceptic. It is an important constitutional issue.
The issue of Europe, hotly debated within the party and within the country, needs to be decided by the people. I support a referendum at the earliest opportunity.