John Redwood, normally quite a sensible fellow, has written a blog entitled “What does a UKIP MEP do?” The gist of his argument is that it is pointless voting for UKIP in the European Elections next May as UKIP MEPs spend more time “{taking} up issues around the country” than they do in the Parliament itself.

He asks five specific questions on what we can expect from the 2014 intake of UKIP MEPs:

“1. Would it continue to be UKIP party policy not to try to amend or block much EU legislation, leaving the detailed work of the Parliament to others?

“2. Should people wanting an MEP to represent their view in Brussels look to MEPs of the other parties, given UKIP’s view on the irrelevance and undemocratic nature of the EU?

“3. Would UKIP MEPs continue to draw  salaries and allowances whilst not wishing to be participating Parliamentarians in a full sense? What will the support money to spent on?

“4. How would the presence of UKIP MEPs speed the UK’s exit from the EU ?  What have the current UKIP MEPs done to speed our exit?

“5. How will UKIP MEPs be whipped to ensure the elected party sticks together and delivers in relation to its manifesto?”

Perhaps Redwood has been at the seasonal tipple, as I’m sure he’s intelligent enough to answer these questions for himself. Indeed he does at one point, as he admits that UKIP MEPs use their staffing allowances to help them campaign around the country. Spreading the eurosceptic message is a much better use of taxpayers’ money than sitting in Brussels getting voted down on minutiae of legislation, I’m sure you’ll agree.

However, as it is the season of goodwill, let us indulge him and answer his questions.

I’ll take the first three roughly together, as they all essentially address the same issue. The answer, in the broadest terms, is that any engagement in the European Parliamentary process only serves to uphold the fantasy that the European Parliament is a legitimate democratic institution, and that the votes of MEPs make a difference to the direction of travel that legislation from Brussels takes. It is not; they do not.

British MEPs will number just 73 out of a total of 751 after the next election, or less than 10% of the total. With the two biggest groups alone in the Parliament (the europhile European People’s Party and the equally europhile Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) making up over half of the chamber, Britain could return 73 UKIP MEPs to the European Parliament and still not have enough representation to influence the workings of the Parliament.

But of course that assumes that the other European nations will continue to send europhile MEPs to Brussels. A more interesting question from Redwood might have been: if the voters of Europe return a eurosceptic majority to the European Parliament, would UKIP MEPs then engage more fully in the parliamentary process?

My personal feeling would be that we should. Partly because we might then have half a chance at blocking, or at least delaying, measures from the Commission.

But it would only be half a chance, and that too would be to our ultimate advantage. As the European Parliament cannot introduce legislation of its own, nor vote legislation out of existence, a fully eurosceptic majority in the Parliament would only serve to further demonstrate the anti-democratic nature of the system. It would not do anything else for the law abiding citizen of any European nation.

As to the specific charges, it is preposterous of Redwood to suggest that eurosceptics back home are cheering our MEPs on as they debate painfully insignificant amendments to the destructive legislation that passes through that place. They do cheer, however, when Farage says “You have the charisma of a damp rag” So who exactly is more accurately representing the views of the eurosceptic public? Not the Conservatives, that’s for sure.

And as regards the drawing of salaries and allowances; our MEPs work very hard on reporting to the British public back home what goes on in the European Institutions. It’s a job that our media has, on the whole, failed miserably to do. It’s a message that the other parties, Conservatives included, don’t want out there because they know how enraged the British public will be. And our MEPs do it very well. I think that deserves a salary, don’t you?

On the allowances, the staffing and office costs are paid directly to the employees and service providers, not to the MEPs; the attendance allowance is only claimable if the MEP is actually in Brussels or Strasbourg, so by definition can’t be claimed by a non-attending MEP.

Which brings us to what our MEPs have done to speed our exit from the EU. Put simply, they have made it impossible for the leaders of the other parties to renege again on their promise of a referendum. It is only fear of lost votes that has forced Cameron to promise a referendum if his party wins the next election, and the same fear will force Miliband to follow suit in time.

Without UKIP, there would be no referendum. Cameron has proved as much by admitting that he will back the ‘In’ campaign whether he can secure renegotiated terms of membership or not. That demonstrates his europhile nature. It is disingenuous of any Conservative to pretend that they are the party granting Britain a say on EU membership. If UKIP weren’t on the scene spreading the eurosceptic message, the promise would never have been made.

And finally, the question of whipping. It may surprise Redwood, and other Conservative MPs who have endured years of being in a party of warring factions, but UKIP members don’t need to be whipped. We all know what we want, and that’s to see our country returned to us as a sovereign nation.

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