Posts Tagged ‘Conservative Party’

The Conservative Party and Young People in 2018

vendredi, mars 23rd, 2018

The Problem of Commitment to the Conservative Party

A personal view by BCiP Member Peter Huggins:

The CPF paper and covering note* set out the scale of the problem and the background to it in a clear and coherent manner. However, the nature of the problem needs further clarification.

The CPF paper speaks of two thirds of young people ‘supporting Labour’ at the last general election. This reflects the proportion of young people voting Labour. To speak of ‘support’ in this context is misleading. Authoritative and broadly based  survey results demonstrate unequivocally that young people voted Labour for two main reasons unrelated to left-wing ideology:

  1. They found the degree of Europhobia of the Labour party less alien than the more radical Tory version, or at least that of vocal groups in the party;
  2. The Labour party promised them relief from the financial burdens of higher education, especially university education

On point 1), survey results have showed that young people were particularly influenced by the expected worsening of job and career prospects through Brexit. They were also influenced by wider social and cultural considerations. To a young Londoner, Vilnius or Budapest or Coimbra are less remote than Dundee or Scunthorpe were to an older generation. Young Britons do not have a strong feeling of identity distinct from that of the Rest of Europe. To them, most of the rhetoric of the Brexiteers is simply anachronistic. When I was young and my parents spoke of the Boar War, it sounded almost like something from the Old Testament. Many young people appear to locate Brexit arguments similarly far away from their own interests and concerns.

*Reference is to the documentation for the Conservative Policy Forum of 22nd February 2018 and the BCiP response to which is the subject of the previous article on this blog.

Young people in a slightly older age group had other reasons not to vote Conservative. For example, they linked Conservative policies to the lack of affordable housing and to commuting costs which many were aware to be by far the highest in Europe.

Point 2) is very straightforward. If promised free university tuition by one party and tuition financed by massive personal debt by the other, rational self-interest implies choice of the former.

To those  in yet older groups and with wider political and economic interests, the choice was something like that suggested by Heseltine: – five years in the salt mines with Jeremy Corbyn or a life sentence with Boris Johnson in cloud cuckoo land.

There follows an obvious  answer to the central CPF question: ‘What should the Conservatives be doing in policy terms to help restore the confidence of young voters?’ The answer is obvious but its proposal at a Conservative conference would be distasteful heresy. The overwhelming majority of young people are staunch remainers who are not optimistic about the party changing its Brexit course.. Some might be won over by concessions on university fees but the majority will vote for other parties unless the Conservative party changes heart on Europe. For the moment, it seems more attracted to the Brideshead Revisited world of Jacob Rees-Mogg. The party can take consolation from the fact that 95% of the  95+ age group of Conservative voters doubtless share the views of Rees-Mogg. (Jacob, of course, not his very sensible father who ran The Times so successfully.) In doing so, it risks ignoring the fact that only one in five or so young people voted Conservative at the last general election. If the party really wants to win back the young, it must honestly and competently produce arguments and policies to convince them that Conservatism corresponds better to their aspirations than the Labour and LibDem alternatives. The job will be particularly difficult in coming months because of the May local elections. These will be dominated by pro-remain London  with its enlightened, moderate and popular mayor. Skill will be needed to present a convincing Conservative message against the pragmatic and plausible Labour message for London already in place. This message is quite distinct from the ‘loony left’ message of the national Labour leadership.Extraordinarily, the sympathy of the CBI and the City may favour Labour rather than the Conservatives in the May elections

Education, Training and Employment

Finding an under 30 Conservative voter is rather like sighting a Dartford warbler, a rare event worthy of excited reports negating with relief the assumption of extinction. A major factor in the alarming decline of the young Tory  species is that of concern about education, training and employment. At this time of the year, the annual cycle of company recruitment to graduate traineeships starts to get under way. When times are good, this is a season for optimism and celebration as graduates begin to reap the benefits of their studies and move confidently into a new and exciting phase in their lives. First reports on 2018 suggest that UK companies will be recruiting 10/20% fewer graduate trainees this year because of Brexit uncertainties. This is a depressing situation for those in their last year at university but also an alarming indicator about the way UK-based companies see the future. Many have already announced plans to be less UK-based in the future or even to move their HQ from Britain. There is ample evidence for this in reports from the CBI and other employers’ organisations. The City is especially pessimistic. Somewhat more anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a similar trend in apprenticeships, an area anyway long-neglected in the UK compared to Germany, Austria the NL, Scandinavia, Switzerland and other top-end OECD countries.

The CPF note on training and education is thorough and comprehensive. In the main,  it provides a good starting point for government policies to help the economy and young people at the same time as restoring confidence in the Conservative party. If  British  industry, commerce and the financial system are to thrive or even survive in the post-Brexit environment, effective training and education are  essential. Furthermore, the UK government also needs  to think in terms of replacing in the British economy the Polish plumbers, Slovak nurses, Italian hotel staff and French IT start-up aces and all the other bright young people  who may be  repelled by Brexit.

While the CPF note is generally competently written, it does seem to deviate from the traditional Conservative free market doctrine in making the prediction of technological trends rather too much a government function and too little a function for the private sector. Perhaps this is related to a certain breakdown of confidence between the party and employers’ associations whose views on economic prospects do not concur with the Brave New World Brexit ideology of many party members.      There is also some influence from the hard Brexit invent your own facts school.

Too much weight in the note is given to trendy mantras about digitalisation and robotisation linked with neo-Luddite warnings about how these developments will destroy jobs without creating new ones.      Beware also techno-bandwagons.  For example, those now pontificating about the need to prepare for all electric car fleets can learn a lesson from the past. The majority of taxis in New York in 1900 were electric and the electric car, not petrol or Diesel, was then expected to dominate in future. In fact, within half a dozen years,  the market for electric cars collapsed for just the reasons that now, without generous government subsidies, it might not survive. Then as now batteries are too heavy, take valuable space, provide only a limited range and require expensive infrastructure with big questions about who pays.

This is not to say that governments should not be thinking about future techno-trends. They should but not without listening to the players in the market and their organisations. And government should let private investors punt their money on expected trends, not risk tax-payers’ cash.

Fortunately there are valuable mines of information on education and apprenticeships  to be exploited by the government and the Conservative party. Inter alia, I would recommend the regular reports that the OECD makes on education and apprenticeships and the very good Oct. 2017 report by the Dep. Of Ed on further education and skills in England.

Possible Conclusions

Rather than prejudging the results of reflections by the party at this stage, I would recommend scrupulous honesty  in approaching the young voter crisis. Boris Johnson campaign bus slogans  alienate rather than convince the young. The struggle to bring young voters back to the Tory fold requires intelligence and dedication. Bombastic and unfounded propaganda is counter-productive

Peter Huggins, BCiP Member

 

 

Training & Skills for a 21st Century Workforce – BCiP’s Conservative Policy Forum (CPF) Response

vendredi, mars 23rd, 2018
   
CPF Group: British Conservatives in Paris (CPF Group)
CPF Coordinator: Paul Thomson
Email address:  
Number of attendees Student <25s Other <25s 25-40 >40
    2    0    0    8
Date of meeting 22nd February 2018
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1. Whose responsibility should training be: the citizen, schools and universities, the employer, the state, or all of them?   –  ALL OF THEM 

In the Armed Forces when you sign-up all training is paid for in return to several years’ service, but this is not the case in the rest of the public sector. Is this fair? What new contract might we offer our citizens?  –  NOT DISCUSSED

 

2. How might a Conservative Government seek to boost productivity across the UK?  –  PLEASE REFER TO OTHER ANSWERS

 

3. In what ways could the UK build on its world-class reputation for training and expand opportunities for lifelong vocational education and training? Do we need a top-down national skills programme or a bottom-up sectoral or geographical approach?  –  (i) There is too much emphasis on university studies at the expense of technical studies/training.  The Swiss sytem should be noted:  20% go to university; yet the country has one of the most competitive economies in the world (as well as a vibrant democracy).   (ii) Public awareness should be raised as to the export of British engineering services – asserted by a participant to be the largest source of GB exports.   (iii) The disinclination to pursue “STEM” might be countered by different evaluation methods at the secondary level.  Some secondary students may be put off following a STEM area of specialisation on the grounds that it would make it more difficult to obtain a place in a better university.   (iv) More innovative schools like the Paris region one now quite famous called “L’Ecole 42” (founded by Xavier Niel) which uses innovative pedagogical methods to encourage young people (from a variety of backgrounds) to be inventive and development an entrepreneurial bent would be desirable.   (v) More drawing on the successful apprenticeship systems used in Germany, Switzerland & Austria – which ensure a trained young work force corresponding more to employer/market needs and thereby also reducing youth unemployment.  (In France there is also a university level version of the same idea, involving alternating between formal studies and work in for an employer.)   (vi) The quality of the teaching of science in the UK leaves something to be desired:  that likely discourages some young people from embarking on further studies in science.

 

4. In what ways does training need to catch up with the changing skill requirements of modern technology? Are there any new and innovative models of training in your area that could be used elsewhere?  –  SEE RESPONSE TO Q3

 

5. How should a Conservative Government deal with possible widening income gaps arising from increased automation?  –  (i) One younger participant:  hands off (ie redistribution not welcomed)!   (ii) An older participant:  moving to ensure minimum income levels possibly including redistribution mechanisms may have justification in certain circumstances.  The government has a responsibility to take care that society does not unravel.   (iii) Cf the “gig economy”.  Some considered this to be a promising avenue for individuals to be active in the economy (though the real-life relative impact on personal financial outcomes – income & wealth levels for example – were not explored).

 

6. What policies should a Conservative Government adopt to balance the need for improved training and productivity in the UK with any desire to reduce our reliance on skilled technical expertise from abroad? How might these be paid for?  –  (i)  GB should “copy” the US in leveraging defence spending to stimulate both research (in companies & at universities/research institutes etc) as well as business development for the GB economy not just in the defence sector but in other sectors where applications of technological advances first achieved in the defence sector could be discovered/developed.   (ii) At the same time cooperation agreements (allowing for sharing of IP, marketing rights etc) with suitable non-GB partners should be encouraged especially where GB is not in a position to “go it alone”.  Defence cooperation arrangements and the broader relationship in this regard with France is a positive example.   (iii) Separate from (i) above:  increases in levels of defence spending could have a positive effect by ratcheting up the leverage benefit stimulus impact to a higher level.

 

Other Comments (if any)

A.    On positioning of the Party and certain of its leading figures:  (i) One young participant:  the party is not considered “cool” by young people:  a handicap.   (ii) A different young participant:  the party needs to stand up for itself – its values as well as its policies – more generally and with more assurance:  this would enhance credibility & appeal including to younger people.   (iii) Re J Rees-Mogg:  the young participants:  JRM has a “serious following” among young people.  He has authenticity; & does not hesitate to stand up for monarchy & British values & culture.  Support for him among young people is not tinged with the irony (or professed irony?) signaled by some young people with respect to Boris Johnson – which did not appear to indicated that BJ was not also genuinely appreciated by younger people.

B.   On CPF Brief 17-4 re Youth (as to which we regrettably missed the 31.12.18 deadline and which, to catch up, was discussed at the same 22.2.18 meeting):   (i) Young Participants:  the Party needs to be more aggressive in going out to find young supporters.  (ii) Idem:  … and to welcoming those who do express interest (some offputting experiences of bad management of the same were described).   (iii) Idem:  … and to be more modern in its modes of communication – using more & better such instruments as SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter etc – more friendly and more efficient.   (iv) More marketing savvy was needed:  cf Corbyn’s “coup” by appearing at Glastonbury – deemed effective politically by the the young participants.   (v) Should the glorious history of the Party be played up?  Views varied.   (vi) Re the economic deck of cards stacked against them (for the young):  (a) The young participants did not seem too fussed by this (perhaps not in the line of fire).  (b) Some of the older ones though thought there were real issues to be addressed; and that if they were not addressed in a substantial way the Party would risk substantial political damage among the younger generation because their “plight” is entirely real (not imagined) & is characterized by a simultaneous accumulation of structural disadvantages that can jeopardise their individual economic development & well-being for their entire lives.  If not all older people deign to take cognizance of this, the vast majority of young people are painfully aware of it and it can colour their view of society & politics in a not insignificant way.   (vii) Selling Brexit to young people?  (a) A young participant:  difficult because ski holidays may become more bothersome to organize – ie if a visa might now be needed.  (b) An older participant:  Brexit is inherently unsellable given the current state of uncertainty.   (viii) Tuition fees etc:  (a) It was pointed out that on the Continent such fees in most universities are nominal – how therefore could one say there is no alternative thereto?  (b) The rate of interest charged on student loans (semble 6.1%) was considered apparently by all to be outrageously – and mind-bogglingly – high (in view of current low market interest rate levels).  (c) On the question of lower tuition fees there was no consensus – with there being apparently support for the status quo, for some drawing back from the same (some fee reductions), & for a return to the pre-Blair levels.   (ix) Cheaper Housing for Young People:  (a) Expansion of housing supply was diversely appreciated as a concept:  (I) some did not want new housing “in their backyard” eg on greenbelt or otherwise vacant land nearby; (II) others though it was indispensable to increase supply by significantly increasing building activity – given the ongoing disequilibrium between supply & demand overall.  (b) Disincentives to absent owner-“occupants”:  several agreed that the market was suffering significantly from the distortions caused by wealthy investors taking up housing to invest/park wealth not otherwise engaged.  The marginal benefit to these people, not necessarily all British citizens, should be compared to the marginal detriment to those completely frozen out of the housing market and/or forced to live at huge distances from their place of work, to spend inordinate amounts of time in public transit etc (and many in this latter group may be British citizens – therefore having a certain call to having their needs taken into account by the political decision-makers).  Several considered that higher taxes on empty housing units would be justified; though all did not necessarily support this idea.  The idea of limiting/strictly regulating purchases by foreigners/non-residents of housing was not discussed, however, due to lack of time.

 

 

 

FEEDBACK ON PAPERS
What do you find useful?  –  The two briefs covered above were considered to be of very good quality by the participants – well organised, presented & articulated. 

 

What you do not find helpful?

 

Do you have any suggestions for how we might improve future briefings?

 

Thank You.  Please return to: CPF.Papers@conservatives.com

Identity Politics & Brexit

vendredi, décembre 15th, 2017

Professor Matthew Goodwin, Visiting Senior Fellow, Europe Programme, at Chatham House writes « In 2018, Europe’s Populist Challenges Will Continue« , and that despite the ?Macron moment?, traditional politics remains under pressure across the continent:

A question of identity

« Central to each of these [elections across Europe], and to Europe?s agenda overall, is identity politics. As we showed in another 2017 Chatham House briefing on the ‘tribes’ of Europe, many voters remain instinctively sceptical about how the EU is managing not only immigration and the refugee crisis but also European integration more generally. Indeed, while there is cautious optimism about economic growth and the eurozone, in the latest Eurobarometer survey that tracks public opinion across the continent most voters say that immigration and terrorism are key priorities. »

« If the EU is to really erode the appeal of populist parties then it will need to resolve this underlying angst over refugees, borders and security. »

The Brexit dimension

« Such issues also run through the ongoing Brexit negotiations. Nearly 18 months after the referendum, there is little evidence that Brits are changing their minds. Though they have become more pessimistic about the economic effects of Brexit, and they are more dissatisfied with the Conservative government?s handling of the negotiations, they remain deeply polarized. »

« In the latest poll, 44 per cent of voters feel that the decision was right, 45 per cent feel it was wrong and 11 per cent are unsure. Despite minor fluctuations, few of which extend beyond the 3-point margin of error, these numbers have remained remarkably static since the vote (just 15 per cent want to overturn Brexit entirely). »

« While major shifts in public opinion are unlikely, the recent government defeat on an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill has given MPs a legal guarantee of a vote on the final Brexit deal struck with the EU. Though rebels are divided about what they want, this will inject even more volatility into an already unstable process, perhaps uniting the anti-Brexiteers and paving the way for a showdown of greater significance. »

Conservative Policy Forum (CPF) – Values (3/3)

mardi, octobre 17th, 2017

Our consolidated response to the Conservative Party Policy Forum questionnaire on « Values » can be found below:

Name of Constituency: Conservatives Abroad
Name of CPF Group: British Conservatives in Paris
Name of CPF Coordinator: Paul Thomson
Number of attendees: 8
Contact details for response:
Paul Thomson
BCiP Vice Chairman & CPF Secretary
Date of meeting: 29th September 2017

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Question 1: Compile a list of up to a dozen values that your group considers to be Conservative values ? the distinctive and enduring core priorities that we should draw on in navigating the challenges of our age.
? Favouring reform over revolution ? For representative parliamentary democracy
? For the rule of law and for a law-abiding & orderly society ? For community
? For the notion of human stewardship (a responsibility which brings with it obligations & an ennobling endowment) ? For the dignity of the human person ? associated with a sense of tolerance for differences
? Patriotism ? love of ?nation? (though not in an ethnic sense) and country ? Acceptance of the fallibility of humans
? Appreciation for tradition(s) ? respect for the past at the same time as openness to the future ? For the ?conservatism of the working man?
? For pragmatism ? For ?aspiration?, freedom & a healthy individualism

Question 2: A short summary (up to 40 words) of what you understand by:
a. Modern Conservatism
We did not attempt to define these terms
b. Compassionate Conservatism
Idem
c. One Nation Conservatism
Idem
d. Blue Collar Conservatism
Idem
Having defined each of the phrases, on a scale of 0 to 10, to what extent do each of them resonate with your group?s ideas of Conservativism?
Comment: there was no unitary group view on any of the four items. Specific scores are instead indicated.
Modern Conservatism 0 1X1 2 3X1 4X2 5X2 6 7 8 9 10X2
Compassionate Conservatism 0 1X1 2X1 3X4 4 5 6 7 8 9 10X2
One Nation Conservatism 0 1X2 2 3 4X1 5X2 6 7 8 9 10X2
Blue Collar Conservatism 0 1X1 2 3X1 4X3 5 6 7 8X1 9 10X2

Question 3a: In what areas of life, our communities and the country would you say discrimination, division and the need for real equality [Comment: we agreed this was not the proper concept ? instead fairness should be considered] still persists? Rank the areas that you have identified according to how great a cause for concern you think they are.
? (In no particular ranking:)
– Education is too plutocratic (cf desirability of supporting grammar schools or finding some (better?) equivalent
– Foreign languages should be compulsory to a much greater degree ? to enable those from a less highly educated/cultivated background to be less disadvantaged compared to those exposed to foreign cultures/languages because of family influence
– Young people need to be given a better overall ?deal? going into adult life: the combination of high housing prices, high student debt and low wage growth is crippling ? consider (a) lower tuition fees (university), (b) material increase in housing supply, (c) otherwise employing tools to reduce the cost of housing for the younger generation
?
?
?

Question 3b: To what extent do you think it is the responsibility of the Government, of businesses, of charities, of families, of individuals and of other institutions in society to tackle entrenched disadvantage and to promote equality in these areas?
? Not covered due to shortage of time
? ? ?

Question 4: What Conservative principles do you think should guide the Government?s approach to reforms in each of the following areas? – Idem
? Brexit negotiations

? Social reform

? Political reform

Other Comments (if any)

Thank You. Please return to: CPF.Papers@conservatives.com

Keeping the Bridges Open (Conservative Group for Europe).

lundi, septembre 25th, 2017

The Conservative Group for Europe have published a policy options paper: ?Keeping the Bridges Open?, written by Joe Egerton, a specialist in regulation. He was a research assistant to The Rt Hon Maurice Macmillan MP, he has been a Conservative parliamentary and county council candidate and has his own consultancy business. Advising the Conservatives under a Labour government he became an expert on how determined back bench MPs can force governments to abandon legislation.

The paper is a detailed and indeed lengthy analysis of problems arising from Brexit and the extent to which the negotiation of a transitional period can help to resolve them. Within it there are some very important issues that I (Robin Baker) had certainly not appreciated before reading it. The purpose of this summary is therefore to bring them to the attention of a wider audience.

The paper?s argument is that there is no possibility of a smooth transition taking place in March 2019 to a world in which the UK is no longer part of the European Economic Area. (The EEA comprises the current 28 EU member states plus Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein who are EFTA member states; they largely participate in the European single market.) Even moving from the EU to the EEA in so short a time is highly problematic ? over half the EU body of law, the acquis, would cease to apply overnight, including the EURATOM treaty and its associated international agreements.

The problems that arise from that are the following. The paper argues that a White Paper concerning their resolution is essential.

The Henry VIII clauses

These clauses in the Withdrawal Bill permit ministers to change the law of England without the assent of the House of Commons. They also allow the government to change the law of Scotland, but do not alter the Scottish Parliament?s power to enact primary legislation, that could lead to constitutional conflict. Dominic Grieve has described these proposals as making it ?an extraordinary monstrosity of a Bill.?

Ministers claim that they are necessary because the changes needed to incorporate European Law into British law are too complicated to be considered by parliament in the time available. This could be avoided by having a long transition period to give time for the changes to be considered fully by the British legislative bodies.

Northern Ireland
The problem of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic after Brexit appear almost intractable. The Government has published ?a position paper? on Northern Ireland and Ireland that emphasises the importance of the ?interim period?

Legal Certainty
Many business and individual contracts will continue post Brexit. Continuing legal certainty on their operation and mechanisms for resolving disputes is essential so that judgments and decisions by arbitrators can be enforced. Clarity as to how decisions of the European Court of Justice are to be regarded by British judges after Brexit is essential and Parliament must legislate clearly and unambiguously.

Systems and Physical Infrastructure
Our current trade and border systems were designed for the EU systems. If these were to cease to apply in March 2019 many of them would be incapable of coping with WTO requirements. The problem is not simply one of updating IT systems (complex and costly though that is) but of adding infrastructure and physical resources. This may require complete new facilities ? for example, the cliffs behind the Port of Dover limit the space for lorries and indeed other vehicles. Creating new IT and physical systems would be neither easy nor quick even if we knew what was going to be required, but we do not and will not until agreement is reached with the EU on a number of areas. So, as yet, we cannot even state the system requirements. Big systems are notoriously costly and prone to failure; the Government?s record of managing the introduction of complex new IT systems in a hurry does not inspire confidence. The National Audit Office has doubts as to whether HMRC?s new customs system (designed only to meet the limited needs under EU membership) will be fully functional by 2019. We cannot risk an exit from the EU before we have put in place and tested systems to allow trade to continue to flow.

The Service Sector
Although a strong exporter, the UK service sector is frequently unable to export a service in the way in which a manufacturer exports products because the Single Market in services is not complete in the way it is for goods. A service company will often have either to invest in an establishment in each member state where it seeks to operate or enter into an arrangement with a company that is already established. This makes the service sector highly dependent on the ability of individuals to work in the different individual member states.

That means that any agreement that limits free movement of workers will not in practice permit free movement of services. The service sector generally is highly vulnerable to any restriction on free movement of people. This is especially true of the internet based sector.

As long as the UK remains in the EU or the relevant part of the EEA Agreement applies: the UK will continue to export these services without too much difficulty. Withdrawal from both would pose very serious problems. The service sector is very much at risk ? and the sector that is the most dynamic is most at risk ? unless there is a long Transition Agreement.

Impact on the City
There is worrying evidence that the Brexit vote has hit employment in the City. It is estimated that despite modest improvement after the election, the year to June 2017 saw a 23% year-on-year decrease in jobs available and a 49% year-on-year decrease in professionals seeking jobs. Unlike an assembly plant, human beings can decide to up sticks and move, in most cases having notice periods of one or three months.

An Open University survey of 400 British based firms has identified a loss of high earning (and high tax paying) EU professionals creating a skills gap costing British businesses £2bn a year. There is also wide disillusion among Millennials (those who reached young adulthood early in this century) who are now entering experienced or mid-level positions, making them a central focus of hiring across the financial services sector. They are integral to the future of the British workforce. We?ve already alienated countless EU nationals, we cannot afford to alienate a generation of creative and ambitious Britons too. Action must be taken to prevent a further brain drain of talent out of London. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is reported to have warned the Prime Minister that companies will start to implement contingency plans for a hard Brexit if they are not given reassurance in the next few months. He would be unfit for his great office were he not to have told the Prime Minister this uncomfortable fact.

Transitional arrangements giving individuals and companies confidence that nothing much will change as a result of the UK leaving the EU should do something to limit the decline in investment in both physical and human capital that is currently taking place, and reduce the outflow of skilled EU citizens.

EURATOM
International transfer of nuclear material, technology and know-how must be strictly controlled. This is achieved by the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (?NCA?) between states that have domestic legislation prohibiting nuclear trade with entities in other states with which there is no NCA. One of EURATOM?s functions is to act as an ?umbrella? organisation for its member states so the NCA between the USA and EURATOM allows nuclear trade between the USA and all EURATOM?s members.

The Government have given notice of its intention to leave both the EU and EURATOM. This will require the UK to negotiate a number of new NCAs, which is complex and time consuming. It will mean a new regulatory structure, approved, after inspection, by the International Atomic Energy Authority. Only after that can the UK negotiate an NCA with another state. Apart from the prodigious cost and diversion of resources that this will involve, there is a real timing problem.

Nuclear generation in the UK relies on the USA for imported fuel, nuclear technology and knowhow. If the UK leaves EURATOM an NCA with the USA will have to be put in place. A proper and transparent planning process for leaving EURATOM should have detailed the possible risks and in particular an assessment of the possibility of denial of fuel (fissile material) or components for the UK?s reactors, currently producing around one sixth of the UK?s electricity. Such an assessment should have included an analysis of potential loss of output and plans to deal with it. The Nuclear Paper seems to take for granted that the UK will obtain NCAs before the UK leaves EURATOM, presumably on the day it leaves the EU.

The worst case scenario of a loss of capacity causing a widespread failure of the grid may be highly improbable. But there is no detailed objective assessment of the risks. One needs to be made quickly and subjected to proper scrutiny because, if there are significant risks to generating capacity from leaving EURATOM, then these may be mitigated by transitional arrangements.

Nuclear Medicine
Imported radioisotopes, which have short half-lives and so cannot be stored, are used extensively for diagnostic scans and cancer treatment. Widespread concern has been expressed, e.g. by the Royal College of Radiologists, over continued access if the UK leaves EURATOM. The Government have stated that as these products are not fissile nuclear material they are not subject to international nuclear safeguards. However it is unclear what will happen if other EU member states interpret their obligations differently and decline to supply. If the UK rejects the ECJ for resolving such a dispute, what alternative is there? The risk is that people are going to die. The Commons? Health Committee should demand the evidence on which the Government?s statement was based and also ask the Royal College of Radiologists and the Euratom Supply Agency to give their evidence.

Nuclear Research and Development
Leaving EURATOM will terminate the UK?s participation in 3 international research projects involving many countries from outside Europe and including two important nuclear fusion projects. There is a clear risk of the UK, with a very substantial physics and engineering base, being excluded from what may prove exceptionally important research projects creating important opportunities for industry and employment.

EU Agreements with Third Parties (?ASSOCIATION AGREEMENTS?)
There are more than 20 agreements between the EU (or EU and the member states) and third party states. Except in cases where the UK is a contracting party to the agreement in its own right, on leaving the EU the UK?s participation and the benefits from them will cease unless the UK has negotiated a new agreement to replicate the benefits.

The WTO
The UK is a member of the World Trade Organisation both in its own right and as an EU member state but all WTO arrangements have been collectively negotiated by the EU. Thus the EU has single quotas (which permit it to export a defined quantity of the goods in question that incur lower tariffs than those that would otherwise apply); when the UK leaves the EU new quotas for the UK will have to established and that will raise the issue of a reduction in the EU quota ? a process referred to as ?carving out?. Because the WTO proceeds by consensus, this could cause problems. For example Poland would be able unilaterally to veto a UK agreement under WTO rules unless its demands for extra permits for Polish citizens were met. Sorting out WTO arrangements could be a protracted process. Transitional arrangements may well be essential while this is done.

Open Skies Agreement
Under the Open Skies Agreement any airline of an EU member state can fly between anywhere in the EU and anywhere in the USA. A new agreement involving the UK will have to be negotiated but this may well be less favourable. The Sun newspaper has leaked a report warning of a drop of 41% in passenger numbers between March 2018 and March 2019 if no agreement is put in place.

Banking
The Prudential Regulation Authority, part of the Bank of England, has warned that UK banks? ability to lend might be constricted since contractual arrangements underpinning long term financial arrangements will cease to be effective after Brexit. That will substantially weaken UK banks? balance sheets, giving the choice between reversing the progress on strengthening the banking system since 2007, creating major risks for the economy and taxpayers, re-capitalising the banks or banks reducing or even stopping lending.

Conclusion

At this moment there is an opportunity for the UK and EU27 to enter into a Transition Agreement. Whether that is based on the EEA Agreement or an extension of the two-year period under Article 50 is less important than both sides signing up to a binding Agreement that avoids dislocation in March 2019.

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The above only covers a minor portion of the subjects covered in the original paper (the whole paper can be downloaded from the publications section of the Conservative Group for Europe website). It was, of course, written before the Prime Minister?s speech in Florence in which she accepted the principle of a Transition Period. So at least some progress has been made, albeit without the detailed information that the subject deserves.

Robin Baker

Brexit and My « Pelican Boat » Woodcut Print – Raf. Pittman

mardi, avril 25th, 2017

As presented by BCiP member and artist Raf. Pittman at our AGM on the 19th April, here is the unabridged story of « Pelican Boat », his personal account of the creation of the original woodcut print from Lima via Havana to the press in Paddington:

This time last year (April 2016) was a very different political scenario when campaigning had not yet started and when Brexit was largely associated with UKIP, a political deviation in terms of party and following from the « Voters’ Parties and Leaders (1967 ) » by Jean Blondel , a text for politics students like myself.

By June 23rd and the referendum we were « out » – the cryptic text I received from a friend in London as I sat on a bench with my iPhone on La Rampa, the main highway in Havana where you can receive wifi with an official prepaid internet coupon.

Shock. My whole career since reading European Studies at Bristol University was about the new world order, a united Europe where I learned the skills of foreign trade, was trained in London, Hamburg and Paris for British multinationals , in a world of peace and harmony for which my father had served in the Armed Forces 1939 to 1945; an England that had welcomed my mother as a Basque teenage evacuee from Nazi Germany aggression.

I was truly saddened that those British voters who voted for the leave campaign had not sufficient understanding of the issues (there was no meaningful and coherent plan policy and analysis), that were to change the course of our history by taking us out of the European Union, and annoyed with David Cameron for wanting to consolidate his position (also maybe giving into the perceived UKIP threat) by offering the electorate a referendum. Worse was to follow with squabbling Tories vying for the leadership when the PM resigned, although sense appeared with the election of Theresa May to replace him, seen as a safe pair of hands at the helm.

This last week in June was my last week in Cuba where I had been working on a print that I had developed in January 2016 from my crayon drawing of pelicans on a boat anchored off the coast of Ica a desert region in south Peru. The flimsy piece of plywood I brought with me to Cuba (wood is in short supply) took shape from a monoprint I made earlier in Cienfuegos , central Cuba, at a society for artists. Then via bus train and ferry I reached the experimental artists workshop in Havana where I had booked myself in for a second fortnight the first being in 2014.

This was the first time I had seriously attempted a woodcut print and news of Brexit added to my ennui, with the project ending up in a mixed media print/ monoprint, the sort of art for which I am known at the Taller Grafica Experimental . The wood cut print per se was clearly still unfinished although we had taken some 20 prints from the ancient press to be used for future mixed media work. Within a few days I had packed half my plywood and donated the other half to my very able colleagues and was back at Heathrow but still with a wedge of dodgy prints.

Again within days I was at an art facility near Paddington and bingo!! Pelican Boat was born as a fully fledged woodcut print. It seemed both myself and Brexit had come out triumphant after a battering maritime journey full of metaphors: uncharted waters, ill-prepared , beleaguered. And yet like Sir Francis Drake’s original vanguard « The Pelican » , renamed « The Golden Hind », there was suddenly promise in this bold confident venture with global vision reminiscent of Drake’s voyage to the New World, and also in my print that had a purpose and meaning now in carrying the spirit of Britain and Brexit.

Raf. Pittman

NATO: A Trusty Shield and Friend under Threat by Peter Huggins

jeudi, février 23rd, 2017

Since Russia in the later years of the post Cold War period has become increasingly bellicose and especially since the Russian incursions in the Ukraine, NATO has been facing severe challenges. The situation has been aggravated by several powerful factors, including the resurgent EU bid for a military function and status. Britain?s loss of say in EU defence issues with Brexit, the erosion of democracy in Turkey, and the advent of President Trump with his iconoclastic attitude to European and North Atlantic defence .All these factors are threatening an institution that has served Europe well, protecting the existence of independent European countries since the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949 and the creation of SHAPE in 1951. Among its achievements, NATO has to its credit the attrition of the military power of the Soviet Union, a main factor in the demise of that bloc, and, when the Soviet Union disintegrated, facilitating the re-integration of East Germany , and the Central European and Baltic countries in the democratic community.

From the outset,Britain has played an important role in NATO. It was the British Prime Minister, Clement Atlee, and Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, who took the key initiative with the US in launching the North Atlantic Treaty signed in April 1949. Since then, British support of NATO has been steadfast. For those of us living on the Continent outside of the re-assuring insular security of the British Isles, the importance of NATO, and its present problems and tasks, emerges in particularly sharp focus.. The Munich Security Conference of February 2017 provided an incentive to re-consider Britain?s position within NATO and present threats to the security of the democratic world.

The situation in 2017 is unfavourable. For the first time in its history, the role and future of NATO has been called into question by the President of the USA. He has exchanged reassuring words with the British PM but confidence in the long-term commitment of the US to NATO has been undermined and President Trump is a long way from determining clearly what will now be the strategy of the US as leader of NATO. His policy on NATO is unpredictable and what he says about NATO often seems arbitrary and even incoherent. At the same time, mainly with a view to expand EU Commission and Parliament activities into new areas, arguably for the sake of EU expansion anywhere regardless of purpose or utility, EU leaders are attempting to build military structures to replace or compete with NATO structures. This process is being accelerated and encouraged by Brexit because the UK had been until now the anchor of EU countries within NATO. At the same time, the EU Commission , although keen to become a player in the military sphere, is not encouraging its members to spend more on defence. On the contrary, perhaps, because Mr. Juncker forcefully rejected the US plea at the Munich Security Conference that EU countries should meet their NATO 2% of GDP defence spending commitment. He argued that EU countries were doing much in development aid and the like which absolved them from their expenditure NATO commitments. This is damaging for all EU and NATO countries but particularly dangerous in a German election year. It suggests collusion and support of the Commission with the SPD in its election campaign. The SPD Foreign Minister in the German government and Juncker?s mutual support friend in the EU, the SPD Chancellor candidate Schulz, has echoed and amplified Juncker?s dangerous message while Chancellor Merkel and her Defence Minister, Ursula van der Leyen, have responded positively to the US plea for greater respect of the 2% commitment.

Russia, in the meantime, is expanding its military budget rapidly, regardless of the crushing poverty of much of its population. In Georgia, the Caucasas, Syria and elsewhere, it is achieving its military and political objectives. In the Ukraine, Russian forces posing as indigenous Russian speaking patriots are consolidating and expanding their positions. Although exact numbers are difficult to obtain, there is ample evidence of the presence in the Eastern Ukraine and the Crimea of huge numbers of Russian tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery, rocket launchers and aircraft The expansion of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea and Mediterranean area is also clearly apparent. EU and NATO support for the Ukraine has been lukewarm and ineffective. Further expansion by Russia might meet only token resistence. In the meantime, Russian minorities in the Baltic countries are being ?stirred up? to an extent that Putin could justify intervention to ?protect? them. NATO forces in the area are being expanded, particularly by Germany and Poland. While welcome, the numbers involved are unlikely to impress Russian strategists Overall, Russia is making huge investments in its nuclear arsenal, high-tech air defences, already massive armoured strength, submarines and other warships. It is testing the NATO shield with frequent ?buzzing? and incursions, continuously probing to test what it can do with impunity. On the IT front, there is strong evidence of Russian meddling in the French presidential election and the German Bundestag election. More generally, Russia is rapidly building its capacity for cyber warfare. This involves the whole gamut of cyber weapons. Cyberthefts of confidential government files attributed to Russia have been reported in many countries including the Ukraine, Germany and the USA. Use of cyberweapons and malware against government and power supply systems has been reported from the Ukraine. A former Russian intelligence officer has described mechanisms used for Russian disinformation and disguised propaganda in the US.

The weakening of NATO in Europe is also being aggravated by the strong development of extreme nationalist political movements in Europe. Unthinkable some years ago, the Front National is now a strong and well-established force in France. Similar movements are thriving in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and elsewhere, some of them distinctly friendly towards Russia and indifferent to the fate of the Ukraine and the Baltic States. Britain?s own UKIP has one foot in this club. Paradoxically, these ?right wing? movements are often sympathetic to Russia. As at the time of the Ribbentrop/Molotov Pact, a common loathing of ?decadent bourgeois capitalism? is a unifying factor between forces of the extreme left and right.

Britain can claim to make one of the strongest contributions to NATO of any EU country It is one of only four countries of 28 meeting their NATO budgetary commitments. (Another is Greece, an economy held on life-support by its creditors, which spends huge amounts defending itself against Turkey, a NATO partner.) In fact, the British record on defence is unimpressive, qualitatively if not quantitatively. Successive strategic defence reviews have accurately diagnosed the growing proliferation of security threats to Britain and her allies. Governments have responded perversely by imposing an arbitrary limit to defence spending. It was approached from the wrong end in that they opted for, not what was needed to do the job, but what seemed the plausible minimum. Threats to British security and interests have increased dramatically but the defence budget has been severely constrained. The peace dividend has long since proven to be a chimera. New threats emerge constantly from rogue states, terrorism, territory grabbing and piracy, all often backed by sophisticated weapons. . Britain is unable to respond effectively to these threats. Russia?s aggression in the Ukraine, for example, constitutes almost a carbon copy of the Nazi takeover of the Sudetenland but it has drawn little more than raised eyebrows from Britain which has preferred to remain on the sidelines and witness France and Germany coming away from meetings with Russia about the Ukraine clutching re-assuring pieces of paper.. Meanwhile, ex-German Chancellor Schroeder actively promotes the increasing dominance of the European gas market by Gasprom, an economic and political arm of the Russian government, notably by promoting the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany via the Baltic, avoiding Poland at great cost.

In several recent dangerous situations , the British government could have sent a clear diplomatic and military message if it had possessed the army, air force and particularly, naval forces available for speedy movement to the danger zone. Compared to a continental country such as Germany or Poland, there is an obvious and natural naval vocation for Britain. Moreover, naval forces are needed because of their ability to deploy vessels flexibly in international waters without diplomatic clearances. If they were available, naval response groups could provide the ability to operate aircraft in locations chosen by the government ,virtually British islands mobile in the high seas with major control and command potential. As of now, Britain has neither the carriers nor the aircraft. The scarce resources available should at least to be used efficiently and effectively in naval task groups held in a permanent state of readiness for rapid response . In particular, aircraft carriers and their supporting frigates, destroyers and submarines, have been neglected to an extent completely incompatible with Britain?s pretensions to act as a naval power.

More generally, however, with naval, land and air forces, Britain and its European allies should build on the success of NATO which has held the line since soon after the Soviet takeovers of the then democratic countries, Czechoslovakia and Hungary in the late 1940s, the blockade of Berlin and the salvation in the 1950s of countries such as France and Italy which seemed ripe for Communist coups d?Etat.

Within the British military budget, there is much evidence that limited resources are being used badly. Drones ordered twelve years ago are not yet available for frontline service, tanks do not fit into the transport aircraft intended to carry them and the much-vaunted Type 45 destroyers are so noisy that they are easily detectable by Russian submarines at great distance. They also have defective diesel generators which will take many years to replace. The Type 26 frigates have had to be re-designed to provide landing for SAS helicopters. The one aircraft carrier appears to have no suitable aircraft to carry. Britain now has fewer front line troops than Poland. (Top marks to the Poles!) More generally, the MoD has a firmly established tradition of downgrading, tinkering with obsolete technology and inefficient extension systems.

NATO is now some 66 years old and has many achievements to its credit. In spite of EU Commission claims, most serious historians attribute the ?Cold War Peace? and the eventual crumbling of the Iron Curtain to NATO, not the EU. Indeed, a key EU member and important but volatile military power, France, withdrew from the military organisation of NATO from 1966 to 2009, and weakened NATO politically by ?playing footsie with the Kremlin?.

While NATO was never able to compete with the Soviet Union/Russia in terms of men and tanks, the technical superiority of the US, including the nuclear shield, were overriding factors. NATO did a good job, ask the Poles, the Lithuanians, the Latvians, the Estonians. They will tell you that NATO is more important to them than the EU, in spite of the lavish subsidies..

While Putin and Trump are, in their very different ways, an existential threat to NATO, a real immediate danger in Europe comes from the EU Commission and Parliament. For political, super state aspirational reasons implausible players such as Mogherini and Juncker, aspire to an EU military command in Brussels/ Strasburg which would arrogate to itself powers siphoned off from the NATO military and political organisations. Among the principles of William of Ockham, there is one of profound banality but great importance, ?entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem?, that is, you should not create entities of any kind unless they do a job that was not being done before. An EU military command would be less efficient and a worse use of resources than a body within NATO looking after European interests. Moreover, it would risk discouraging the military and political commitment of the US, and encouraging President Trump to downgrade the US NATO commitment which dwarfs anything available from EU countries. From the viewpoint of France , for example, that might perhaps appear politically desirable. Other EU countries should beware. We need NATO to guarantee our existence. We should beware of the EU using new defence arrangements as a building block for a European super state.

NATO has been doing a good job for some 66 years but that is of little importance for those who wish to use defence as a means to expand the operations of the EU to new areas gradually covering all the responsibilities of the nation state regardless of mandate or efficiency. Brussels sees the control of armed forces as essential to its aim of creating a United States of Europe. The European Parliament on 24 November 2015 even endorsed a report recommending that the Security Council seats of Britain and France should be abolished and replaced by one for the European Union.. The call for a European army is political, not based on efficiency or the basic necessity for European countries to ensure their own survival. Against the background of Trump?s unpredictable policies, Britain should use all its powers of persuasion and diplomacy to ensure the cohesion and strengthening of NATO. It should also play a much more convincing operational role by increasing its defence budget and, above all, ensuring that its military capabilities are modern and fully efficient. Britain has a solid military and diplomatic tradition. It should be providing a model to other European countries. Such policies and actions would provide desperately needed encouragement to Britain?s friends and allies in Europe, helping to restore Europe as a paragon of freedom and democracy in a world where these precious qualities are under threat.

Until 2011, the UK and both EU and non-EU countries had an excellent fall-back mechanism for European cooperation on defence and foreign policies in the shape of the West European Union. It was prematurely deemed to be superfluous, largely because of the continuing UK integration in to the EU at that time. The WEU survives in its inter-parliamentary European Security and Defence Association which regains importance as Brexit takes effect. It deserves urgent support from the UK.

During her speech to the Republican Party in Philadelphia last month, Prime Minister May said of Britain?s commitment to its NATO and EU allies ?we cannot stand idly by when the threat is real and it is in our own interests to intervene?. Whatever individual positions on Brexit, which has sorely divided the Conservative Party, the PM?s position on NATO and defence is surely one that the whole of the Party should endorse wholeheartedly. The erosion of the free territories of Europe cannot be ignored nor sacrificed to the vainglory of EU empire building.

Peter Huggins
BCiP Member

In publishing this article Peter Huggins also wishes to acknowledge the considerable help received from his RN Association friends in Paris, notably Captain Colin Cameron, RN, former Head of the WEU Secretariat, and his Coder Special Baltic/GCHQ friends with whom he has kept close contact after some sixty years. Sir Roger Carrick, of that group, was particularly helpful on the political side of the draft. Robin Baker also helped but we agreed to differ on matters EU.

Why I am no longer a member of BCiP – Robin Baker

mardi, février 7th, 2017

No-one who knows me will be in any doubt as to how difficult and painful it was for me to decide to leave the Conservative Party, after having been a member since 1958. That decision can be explained very simply, I can no longer vote Conservative in general elections in the UK, so how can I remain a Party member? But I need to explain this change in my voting intentions.

I voted for David Cameron in the election for Party Leader at the end of 2005. I had heard his speech at the Party Conference a little earlier at which I had represented British Conservatives in Paris. It was brilliant. Cameron gave me the impression that, as Leader, he might well be able to end the period of Labour rule that Britain had been enduring since 1997.

Of course he did win the election and become Prime Minister, initially of a coalition government. As Prime Minister he had many important achievements that benefited the country. However he also had one failing which led to his downfall: that was his willingness to sacrifice the long term interest for short term political advantage.

This was shown firstly in his promise, if elected leader, to withdraw Conservative MEPs from the European People?s Party in the European Parliament. He did so in order to ensure that he would be one of the top two candidates in the vote by MPs, and thus be part of the choice to be made by the Party membership. That was, in fact, unnecessary; in the final vote by MPs Cameron came comfortably top with 90 votes, i.e. 45% of the total, thanks to most MPs who voted for Clarke in the first round switching to Cameron in the second. It is not possible to think that any MP who had initially voted for Clarke, then decided to vote for Cameron because of the promise to withdraw from the EPP.

Before Cameron implemented this promise he was given a clear warning; the parties in the EPP, e.g. the then UMP in France and the CDU in Germany, are the Conservative Party?s natural allies and form the largest political grouping of MEPs. Everyone needs friends. Cameron was warned that, when he needed powerful friends within the EU, he would not have them if he were outside the EPP. He neglected that warning. Of course it is impossible to know how his attempts at renegotiation would have progressed had the Conservatives still been in the EPP, but I think it probable that the outcome would have been sufficiently different to have affected the referendum result.

His second sacrifice of long term interest for short term political advantage was his inclusion in the 2015 election manifesto of a commitment to ?a straight in-out referendum on our membership of the European Union by the end of 2017?. He did succeed in winning an overall parliamentary majority for the Conservative Party. Of course we cannot know the extent to which this commitment affected the election result but one thing is clear, had he not made it he would still be Prime Minister today.

It was a very bad decision. It is why we are now faced with the disaster of Brexit. Also we do not take policy decisions by referendum in the UK for very good reasons. In a referendum, despite the actual question on the ballot paper, no-one really knows what question the voters have decided to use the referendum to answer. More importantly, the UK is a parliamentary democracy. Governments are formed by the party that wins a majority in the House of Commons and that government is accountable for its performance firstly to the Commons and secondly to the country at the next election. If a government is required by a referendum to follow a policy that they oppose, and let us not forget that Theresa May voted Remain, then how can that government be accountable for what results? So the Government?s insistence that the Commons must respect the referendum result regardless of how they see the country?s vital interests, is overturning a political system which has served Britain well for centuries. Further, it is engendering a popular clamour for more decisions to be taken by referenda, which could be the end of British parliamentary democracy.

Now we have the Prime Mister?s speech of 17th January which justified her position using arguments that are intellectually dishonest. Here are two examples:

1. So we will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain. Memberships of the Single Market would mean complying with the EU?s rules and regulations. We will pursue a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. If we agree a bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the EU, although it is unlikely that they would have any interest in such a negotiation, the new free trade area will need rules and an enforcement authority to prevent the erection of non-tariff barriers to trade. Without that it could not work as non-tariff barriers can be very effective in protecting national commercial interests from other countries? imports. So why do we have to leave the Single European Market and spend probably years negotiating a new trade agreement that will not enhance UK sovereignty in any way? In the more probable eventuality that we do not achieve such an agreement with the European Union, we will fall back on our membership of the World Trade Organisation. But the WTO has its own rules which members are obliged to follow, for which the British Parliament did not vote and which it cannot change. WTO also has dispute procedures which members are required to accept. So if our trade is undertaken under WTO procedures we will still be subject to the jurisdiction of the WTO. What is the difference?

2. So we will get control of the number of people coming to Britain from the EU. Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe. And that is what we will deliver. As Home Secretary Theresa May was the Secretary of State responsible for the control of immigration from non-EU countries. She was charged with significantly reducing it. This she totally failed to deliver. That failure had nothing to do with EU rules on free movement, she was just unable to achieve it. So her promise to control the number of immigrants from the EU, which even post Brexit will be more difficult than controlling non-EU immigration because of pressure from their potential employers, needs backing by her telling us what she is going to do to achieve that that she failed to do for non-EU immigration as Home Secretary.

I have a further worry. Nationalism as an evil creed; it has been the cause of countless wars. It has shown its ability to gain power by pseudo-democratic means, as it did in German in 1933. It is now growing in strength in the USA, where it will probably lead to an international trade war that will repeat the mistakes that helped lead to the Great Depression of 1929; it is strong enough in Britain to have led to the referendum result and the subsequent increase in hate crime; it is growing in France and in Holland. It must be fought under all circumstances. We now see a British Conservative government pursuing policies that have been engendered by nationalism.

So this explains why I can no longer vote for the Conservative Party and so why I have to leave BCiP. That is my personal decision; most of my friends take a different view. I am not seeking to change their minds, to an extent I envy them. However I do not see their choice as being open to me.

Robin Baker
Former BCiP Member

Ken Clark on the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

samedi, février 4th, 2017

31 January, 2017
Debate on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

With thanks to Robin Baker for supplying our blog page with the following contribution of Ken Clark to the debate:

Mr Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con)

Mr Speaker, you will not be surprised to hear that it is my intention to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill, if a vote is called, and to support the reasoned amendment, which I think will be moved very shortly by the Scottish nationalists.

Because of the rather measured position that the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) had to present on behalf of the official Labour party, it falls to me to be the first Member of this House to set out the case for why I believe?I hope that I will not be the last such speaker?that it is in the national interest for the United Kingdom to be a member of the European Union, why I believe that we have benefited from that position for the past 45 years and, most importantly, why I believe that future generations will benefit if we succeed in remaining a member of the European Union. It is a case that hardly received any national publicity during the extraordinary referendum campaign, but it goes to the heart of the historic decision that the House is being asked to make now.

It so happens that my political career entirely coincides with British involvement with the European Union. I started over 50 years ago, supporting Harold Macmillan?s application to join. I helped to get the majority cross-party vote for the European Communities Act 1972, before we joined in 1973, and it looks like my last Parliament is going to be the Parliament in which we leave, but I do not look back with any regret. We made very wise decisions. I believe that membership of the European Union was the way in which we got out of the appalling state we were in when we discovered after Suez that we had no role in the world that we were clear about once we had lost our empire, and that our economy was becoming a laughing stock because we were falling behind the countries on the continent that had been devastated in the war but appeared to have a better way of proceeding than we did.

I believe that our membership of the European Union restored to us our national self-confidence and gave us a political role in the world, as a leading member of the Union, which made us more valuable to our allies such as the United States, and made our rivals, such as the Russians, take us more seriously because of our leadership role in the European Union. It helped to reinforce our own values as well. Our economy benefited enormously and continued to benefit even more, as the market developed, from our close and successful involvement in developing trading relationships with the inhabitants of the continent.

The Conservative Governments in which I served made very positive contributions to the development of the European Union. There were two areas in which we were the leading contender and made a big difference. The first was when the Thatcher Government led the way in the creation of the single market. The customs union?the so-called common market?had served its purpose, but regulatory barriers matter more than tariffs in the modern world. But for the Thatcher Government, the others would not have been induced to remove those barriers, and I think that the British benefited more from the single market than any other member state. It has contributed to our comparative economic success today.

We were always the leading Government after the fall of the Soviet Union in the process of enlargement to eastern Europe, taking in the former Soviet states. That was an extremely important political contribution. After the surprising collapse of the Soviet Union, eastern and central Europe could have collapsed into its traditional anarchy, nationalist rivalry and military regimes that preceded the second world war. We pressed the urgency of bringing in these new independent nations, giving them the goal of the European Union, which meant liberal democracy, free market trade and so forth. We made Europe a much more stable place.

That has been our role in the European Union, and I believe that it is a very bad move, particularly for our children and grandchildren, that we are all sitting here now saying that we are embarking on a new unknown future. I shall touch on that in a moment, because I think the position is simply baffling to every friend of the British and of the United Kingdom throughout the world. That is why I shall vote against the Bill.

Let me deal with the arguments that I should not vote in that way, that I am being undemocratic, that I am quite wrong, and that, as an elected Member of Parliament, I am under a duty to vote contrary to the views I have just given. I am told that this is because we held a referendum. First, I am in the happy situation that my opposition to referendums as an instrument of government is quite well known and has been frequently repeated throughout my political career. I have made no commitment to accept a referendum, and particularly this referendum, when such an enormous question, with hundreds of complex issues wrapped up within it, was to be decided by a simple yes/no answer on one day. That was particularly unsuitable for a plebiscite of that kind, and that point was reinforced by the nature of the debate.

Constitutionally, when the Government tried to stop the House from having a vote, they did not go to the Supreme Court arguing that a referendum bound the House and that that was why we should not have a vote. The referendum had always been described as advisory in everything that the Government put out. There is no constitutional standing for referendums in this country. No sensible country has referendums?the United States and Germany do not have them in their political systems. The Government went to the Supreme Court arguing for the archaic constitutional principle of the royal prerogative?that the Executive somehow had absolute power when it came to dealing with treaties. Not surprisingly, they lost.

What about the position of Members of Parliament? There is no doubt that by an adequate but narrow majority, leave won the referendum campaign. I will not comment on the nature of the campaign. Those arguments that got publicity in the national media on both sides were, on the whole, fairly pathetic. I have agreed in conversation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union that he and I can both tell ourselves that neither of us used the dafter arguments that were put forward by the people we were allied with. It was not a very serious debate on the subject. I do not recall the view that £350 million a week would be available for the health service coming from the Brexit Secretary, and I did not say that we going to have a Budget to put up income tax and all that kind of thing. It was all quite pathetic.

Let me provide an analogy?a loose one but, I think, not totally loose?explaining the position of Members of Parliament after this referendum. I have fought Lord knows how many elections over the past 50 years, and I have always advocated voting Conservative. The British public, in their wisdom, have occasionally failed to take my advice and have by a majority voted Labour. I have thus found myself here facing a Labour Government, but I do not recall an occasion when I was told that it was my democratic duty to support Labour policies and the Labour Government on the other side of the House. That proposition, if put to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) in opposition or myself, would have been treated with ridicule and scorn. Apparently, I am now being told that despite voting as I did in the referendum, I am somehow an enemy of the people for ignoring my instructions and for sticking to the opinions that I expressed rather strongly, at least in my meetings, when I urged people to vote the other way.

I have no intention of changing my opinion on the ground. Indeed, I am personally convinced that the hard-core Eurosceptics in my party, with whom I have enjoyed debating this issue for decades, would not have felt bound in the slightest by the outcome of the referendum to abandon their arguments?[Interruption.] I do not say that as criticism; I am actually on good terms with the hard-line Eurosceptics because I respect their sincerity and the passionate nature of their beliefs. If I ever live to see my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) turn up here and vote in favour of Britain remaining in the European Union, I will retract what I say, but hot tongs would not make him vote for membership of the EU.

I must move on, but I am told that I should vote for my party as we are on a three-line Whip. I am a Conservative; I have been a decently loyal Conservative over the years. The last time I kicked over the traces was on the Lisbon treaty, when for some peculiar reason my party got itself on the wrong side of the argument, but we will pass over that. I would point out to those who say that I am somehow being disloyal to my party by not voting in favour of this Bill that I am merely propounding the official policy of the Conservative party for 50 years until 23 June 2016. I admire my colleagues who can suddenly become enthusiastic Brexiteers, having seen a light on the road to Damascus on the day that the vote was cast, but I am afraid that that light has been denied me.

I feel the spirit of my former colleague, Enoch Powell?I rather respected him, aside from one or two of his extreme views?who was probably the best speaker for the Eurosceptic cause I ever heard in this House of Commons. If he were here, he would probably find it amazing that his party had become Eurosceptic and rather mildly anti-immigrant, in a very strange way, in 2016. Well, I am afraid that, on that issue, I have not followed it, and I do not intend to do so.

There are very serious issues that were not addressed in the referendum: the single market and the customs union. They must be properly debated. It is absurd to say that every elector knew the difference between the customs union and the single market, and that they took a careful and studied view of the basis for our future trading relations with Europe.

The fact is that I admire the Prime Minister and her colleagues for their constant propounding of the principles of free trade. My party has not changed on that. We are believers in free trade and see it as a win-win situation. We were the leading advocate of liberal economic policies among the European powers for many years, so we are free traders. It seems to me unarguable that if we put between us and the biggest free market in the world new tariffs, new regulatory barriers, new customs procedures, certificates of origin and so on, we are bound to be weakening the economic position from what it would otherwise have been, other things being equal, in future. That is why it is important that this issue is addressed in particular.

I am told that that view is pessimistic, and that we are combining withdrawal from the single market and the customs union with a great new globalised future that offers tremendous opportunities for us. Apparently, when we follow the rabbit down the hole, we will emerge in a wonderland where, suddenly, countries throughout the world are queuing up to give us trading advantages and access to their markets that we were never able to achieve as part of the European Union. Nice men like President Trump and President Erdogan are impatient to abandon their normal protectionism and give us access. Let me not be too cynical; I hope that that is right. I do want the best outcome for the United Kingdom from this process. No doubt somewhere a hatter is holding a tea party with a dormouse in the teapot.

We need success in these trade negotiations to recoup at least some of the losses that we will incur as a result of leaving the single market. If all is lost on the main principle, that is the big principle that the House must get control of and address seriously, in proper debates and votes, from now on.

I hope that I have adequately explained that my views on this issue have not been shaken very much over the decades?they have actually strengthened somewhat. Most Members, I trust, are familiar with Burke?s address to the electors of Bristol. I have always firmly believed that every MP should vote on an issue of this importance according to their view of the best national interest. I never quote Burke, but I shall paraphrase him. He said to his constituents, ?If I no longer give you the benefit of my judgment and simply follow your orders, I am not serving you; I am betraying you.? I personally shall be voting with my conscience content, and when we see what unfolds hereafter as we leave the European Union, I hope that the consciences of other Members of Parliament will remain equally content.

Memoires of a Life Long Eurosceptic – Gillian Bardinet

mardi, janvier 31st, 2017

Very instructive and thought provoking as a contribution to the debate that should have taken place before the Referendum but could do well to help shape the final form of Brexit, here are the thoughts of former BCiP member Gillian Bardinet, who confesses herself a romantic historian, starting with the signing of the original treaty which took the UK into the then European Economic Community (EEC):

?Qu?allait-il faire dans cette galère??
This was my question on January 22nd 1972 when the Conservative P.M. Edward Heath signed the treaty that took Britain into the EEC the European Economic Community, then more often called ?The Common Market.?

What was the United Kingdom thinking of? Had no-one in government read the speeches of Europe?s founding father Jean Monnet? In his speeches his determination to create a single European country was explicit. ? Europe has never existed; one must genuinely create Europe.? And how was this to be done?

?Nothing is lasting without institutions? he said. Had no-one among British politicians understood that Robert Schuman?s Coal and Steel pact with Germany was a clear move towards that same goal?

Who had taken notice of the Cassandra warnings issued by the respected Oxford historian, A.J.P. Taylor who had written, 3 years earlier, ?Politicians of all parties, seek to turn Great Britain into a purely European Country??

How many people fully understood this? In January 1972, the answer, one must conclude, was very few.

By June 1975 the numbers had swollen: doubts, even fears were emerging. There was a call for Harold Wilsons?s Labour government to renegotiate the terms of British entry: these calls were as futile and fruitless as those which heralded David Cameron?s doomed quest for reform of the E.U. in 2016. Faced with this situation, the preferred answer, to assuage doubts and fears, was to call a referendum posing the bald question.

?Yes or No to continued membership of the E.E.C.? The popular arguments on both sides were marginally, only marginally, more succinct and better formulated than those of June 2016.

However, within Wilson?s Cabinet were a number of ambitious intellectual sophisticates, notably Roy Jenkins, and the core statement of Her Majesty?s government was one of clever dupery and deception. ?The government has established that there is no agreement in the Community on what European unity means beyond a general aspiration to closer co-operation. The government?s view, which is shared by other member states, is that closer co-operation is desirable and must be pursued in a pragmatic way, but there is no support elsewhere in the Community for moves towards a centralized Federal State.?

Before the British referendum, the Belgian Prime Minister, Leo Tindemans had been asked to prepare a report on the possibility of European Union, and Willy Brandt, then Chancellor of Germany, clearly and consistently stated his desire for ultimate political union!

Nonetheless, there was no mention in the official British core statement of a European country or state with all the accompanying paraphernalia of bureaucracy. Emphasis, throughout the country was placed on the benefits of membership of a Common Market.

While this phrase may not have excited French idealists and ambitious continental Europhiles it did appeal to the British voters. From car boot sales to the Antiques Road Show, they do enjoy buying and selling, as Napoleon himself had disparagingly noted! But, they are far less enamoured of creating institutions and above all, of writing constitutions which perforce, reflect the political and intellectual climate of the time, and as seen so clearly in the U.S.A., require frequent amendments and High Court judgements.

As Theresa May so rightly pointed out in her recent speech on Jan. 17th 2017 ? the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty is the basis of our unwritten constitutional settlement?. She also noted that ? the public expect to be able to hold their governments to account very directly, and as a result, supranational institutions as strong as those created by the European Union sit very uneasily in relation to our political history and way of life?.

However, in the summer of 1975, with a resounding ?Yes? to the Common Market, Britain was securely anchored to the emerging European state.

The state? SPQR ? The Senate and the People of Rome ? a new Roman Republic, a new American Republic? Whichever or whatever, as Jean Monnet himself had declared ?nothing can exist without institutions?. And what is a state if not a collection of institutions? The task of creating a European state was one which thrilled disciples of Jean Monnet and the founding fathers. Naturally, they looked back to the ideas of the European Enlightenment, the great period which preceded and profoundly influenced both the French Revolution and the birth of the U.S.A.

Yes, there would be a European state, but would it be a truly federal state as often declared by the Europhiles, or rather, a centralized, unitary state whose nature might disturb if too openly and suddenly revealed? The word ?federal? is applied to the systems of government in Germany, in Canada and in the U.S.A. But definitions of the word may vary, and abuse of it is not infrequent. Thomas Jefferson?s comments in 1810 are of great interest to those who seek to understand, and even define, the character of the nascent European state.

? I have ever been opposed ? he wrote, ?to the party so falsely called federalists, because I believe them desirous of introducing into our government, authorities ???. independent of the national will: these always consume the public contributions and oppress the people with labour and poverty. ?A federal state is defined as one which marks a clear definition between central and state authority?.

Thomas Jefferson rightly feared a unitary centralized state. One of the great unanswered questions concerning the European Union is precisely this: Are the heirs of Jean Monnet seeking to entrench a unitary state? Perhaps.

Monnet himself has been accused of being ?occult? or deliberately misleading in order to achieve his aims. No doubt, as both a sophisticated political scientist and an experienced negotiator, he was, but so too, were other great & successful diplomats, whose aim, like that of Jean Monnet, was the protection and nurture of their own countries: one may think back to the protracted & devious marriage negotiations which Elizabeth 1st conducted with her various suitors in order to gain time and wait for the others to declare their hands and with luck make mistakes.

I confess, I am a romantic historian, and like some others, I love to refer back to 1588, 1815 or even, on some dark days to the Witenagemot, the tragic death of Harold at Hastings and the coming of taxation with William Duke of Normany and the Domesday Book!

But, we romantic historians are in a minority among the Leavers of 2016. Less romantic Leavers, include those like Bill Cash, John Redwood and Bernard Jenkin who for years, have seen the threat to British Parliamentary Sovereignty posed by membership of the E.U.

These three are all Conservative MP?s, but there have been and still are Labour MP?s who share their fears. The most eloquent of these is without doubt, the member for Birmingham Edgbaston, Gisela Stuart. Born into a Catholic family in West Germany she had all the natural, one might almost say genetic characteristics of an ardent Europhile, but life in the Westminster Parliament & Chairmanship of a Committee looking into the relationship of Britain with the E.U. led her to consider that her adopted country should remain outside the burgeoning Eurostate.

Could she already and clearly discern the outlines of a unitary Eurostate whose features would be totally at odds with those of the U.K.? Yes, for Gisela Stuart?s strong links to two of the most important features of the Eurostate enabled her to do so. Firstly, and for many surprisingly, there is the influence of the Catholic Church. It was the former Taoisearch, Garret Fitzgerald, who opened my own eyes to this during a casual after dinner conversation in an Oxford College: in answer to my question posed more out of politeness than desire for information ? ?Why do you think the English are so reluctant to embrace Europe, while the Irish are happy with it??

He replied immediately and emphatically ? ?450 years of divorce from Holy, Mother Church.? An interesting reply, and one which led to more investigation of the subject.

The blue flag and the 12 gold stars are one is reliably told, symbols of the Virgin Mary, and of love, harmony and peace. Yes, but the Catholic Church has also been synonymous for more than Garret Fitzgerald?s 450 years with obedience, authoritarianism and hierarchical societies. Both Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle were unswerving Catholics, when the first foundations of the quasi-mystical, overtly political Franco-German treaty was signed in 1963. Since then, its tenets have been adopted in schools, universities and most aspects of civil society in both countries. It is an article of faith.

At the end of what I had considered to be a successful year?s teaching of the political and economic significance of the E.U. my French students gave me a signed post card of the cathedral at Strasbourg and on it was written ? ?Thank you for an exhilarating year ? but Europe is also this.? And this they believed without question.

The history of Britain, at its best has been one of flexibility, not uniformity; of questioning and reappraisal, of opposition to dogmatism.

Secondly, Gisela Stuart is a socialist and I am a life long Eurosceptic because naturally I am deeply worried by many aspects of Euro Socialism which feature of the move to political unity only became open and virtually unchallenged from 1985 with the arrival of Jacques Delors in Brussels. Previously he had been French finance minister from 1981-1984 under the premiership of Pierre Mauroy an old fashioned Socialist party activist who was appointed to this post by the newly elected President of the Republic François Mitterrand. Red Rose in hand, Mitterrand who liked to be compared to Leon Blum, pledged dramatically to bring in Socialism of the 1936 Popular Front variety. For 2 years, no efforts were spared to nationalize, to bring wages up and working hours down, with retirement up to 10 years earlier than anywhere else in Europe. Wealth was to be taxed and redistributed by the central power, the omnipresent state. To many outside the sphere of French Socialism, this experiment seemed to combine the egalitarian zeal of the Jacobins with the disregard for economic reality of the romantic socialists of the 1930?s.

Jaques Delors, a former banker, was passionately interested in labour law and rose thanks to union activity. A practising Catholic, he was revered by fellow left-wing Catholics who had helped to elect Mitterrand in 1981. Delors was a committed socialist planner and when Mitterrand?s Blum like experiment failed in France in 1983, Delors dispatched to Brussels, was delighted: far from any sense of failure, he whole-heartedly embraced the challenge of establishing socialism, under the guise of social democracy throughout Europe. There would be no re-appraisal of things past; in Europe ?les acquis? however outdated and unfit for purpose were and still are, sacrosanct.

Meanwhile, across the Channel, where neither Heath nor Wilson had prevailed against ?the robber barons of the system? ? the trades unions who had virtually held the country hostage, Margaret Thatcher was creating the conditions in which the British people could create jobs and wealth and recover their self-esteem.

Despite the fact that a clash of opinions between Delors and Thatcher looked inevitable, this was not initially a period of Euroscepticism , but rather one of Euro optimism with British MEP?s representing their own constituencies, holding surgeries, maintaining close contact with the electorate. Such people as Henry Plumb MEP for the Cotswolds, and Diana Elles in the Thames Valley to mention two whom I met and admired personally, were having an impact on the debates within the European Parliament. Margaret Thatcher herself was to declare ? We British are as much heirs to the legacy of European culture as any other nation?.

But, when Jacques Delors addressed the T.U.C. Congress in Bournemouth, ostensibly inviting the members to join with their European brothers under European Law, the gloves were off. Was Europe really to encroach on national territory in this way and to this extent? The immediate result was Margaret Thatcher?s Bruges speech in Sept 1988 in which she notably declared, ?We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels?. Definitions of the state clearly differed and the fear expressed by the British P.M. was exacerbated by the fact that as she said, ?decisions will be taken by an appointed bureaucracy.? Where did this leave the era of the local British MEP in his cosy constituency office, talking to his electors about the impact of European projects on British agriculture or industry?

Interestingly, Margaret Thatcher also mentioned Europe?s Christian legacy ?with its recognition of the unique and spiritual nature of the individual?. To many this might seem to be a definition of Protestant man and woman, with ? clear beliefs in personal liberty.? Would it be unfair to see in this part of her speech, a natural reference to the Reformation as opposed to the enforced uniformity and obedience of the Roman Catholic world?

Two visions of what was still at that time the European Community, not yet the Union: two visions which would lead to acrimony across Europe, splits within the British Conservative party and ultimately to Brexit. January 24th 2017 The British Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a Parliamentary vote on the triggering of article 50. Many ?Leavers? are dismayed by this decision, but surely it should be seen as the restoration of sovereignty to the elected chamber, to the elected and accountable representatives of the people. The role of the over-mighty, unelected House of Lords will no doubt come in for some close scrutiny of its own!

As a Eurosceptic, I salute this decision. I trust that now we shall have the debate we should have had during the referendum campaign. I trust that we shall have talk of government by consent, that we shall talk of the need to have laws which are accepted because, debated and not arbitrarily imposed from above and beyond. I trust that now we shall pay more heed to those in poorer areas who, unfashionably, by voting ?Leave? were seeking the comfort of a land in which social trust engenders, as it has done for centuries, a society of stability and serenity. Fear and incomprehension gave rise to too much emotion in the pre-referendum days. There is no need, no justification to hold a second referendum, falling into the Euro mode of voting and voting again until the answer suits the Euro citadel in Brussels.

To those who voted ?Remain? perhaps thinking wistfully of the delights of Umbria, Courcheval or the Dordogne, may I say, that in very many ways I believe it is Great Britain which has shown itself to be the land of liberty, equality and fraternity, the land which, as with the agrarian and industrial revolutions, is in the vanguard. Time now to make the very best of the freedom & responsibility which Brexit has delivered.

Gillian Bardinet
Former Member, BCiP.