Time for a referendum on the EU

IT’S much harder for European enthusiasts to build an argument against Euroscepticism when a second EU Parliament based in Strasbourg costs £200m annually with no discernible benefit.

Twelve times a year, MEPs and their assistants migrate with a phalanx of Euro officials from Brussels to the French city for debates and votes, which could just as well be held at the main parliament.

Such a costly arrangement provides anti-European MEPs like Ukip’s Nigel Farage with potent ammunition.

I saw him firing some of it during my own visit to Strasbourg last week. Addressing fellow MEPs, Mr Farage condemned the huge parliament complex as a prime example of European extravagence.

I raised the comment with the North West MEP Chris Davies, a man who has no time for Ukip or its ilk, and he had to admit that having the second parliament in Strasbourg was a bit daft.

However, nothing could be done about it because the parliament was created by the Treaty of Edinburgh in the early nineties and it would need all 27 member states to agree a change.

France, I assume, would oppose any move in order to preserve its own status.

In a way, the Strasbourg conundrum illustrates pretty much Europe’s constant potential for conflict and inter-state rivalry.

But only in the United Kingdom, it seems, do such arrangements leave people exasperated enough to shout about wanting out of Europe.

In his Strasbourg speech, Mr Farage claimed Britons wanted to ditch the EU by a majority of two to one.

I doubt that’s true. Or at least I hope, as one who has little time for nationalism, that it isn’t.

Mr Davies reckons Europe is fed up with whingeing Ukip and Tory Eurosceptics, which has ironically led to his only agreement with Mr Farage - that a UK referendum is needed to end the uncertainty.

I also would welcome a vote.

However, I’m sure Mr Farage wouldn’t like where I’d put my cross.

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