Brexit Negotiations & Public Opinion - Erika Angelidi

juillet 27th, 2017

Erika Angelidi, the Conservatives Abroad Representative in Greece, sends her warm summer wishes and, for every reader of this blog, to “have a good vacation!”, while also sharing the following thoughts on the Brexit negotiations:

“First thing after the upcoming August vacations, we’ll all put our minds together to the great issue of the [Brexit] negotiations between Great Britain and the EU. I personally hold the opinion that public opinion will play a large role (as expressed through polls) in their development.

It is not to be doubted that there will be rough patches as the discussion moves further; yet at such times optimism is most crucial! There will be crossroads but with unity and proper strategizing, difficulties will be overcome.

And thus we wait to see the course of events and the result of all discussions…”

Erika Angelidi
Conservatives Abroad Representative Greece
Athens

Life in Greece today

mai 17th, 2017

Erika Angelidi, the Conservatives Abroad Representative in Greece, presents her own views on life for the Greek people today, as a new page opens below on the continuing Greek debt saga:

On the 22nd of May, 2017 a new page in the ongoing development of the Greek debt issue will be written. The Institutions are to present a Compliance Report to the Eurogroup. The new “Agreement” reads terms such as further cuts in salaries and pensions, more taxes, legalisation of collective dismissals, the abolition of Sunday as the day of rest and last, but not least, the privatisation of principal public sector companies.

Please, allow me to present my own views of life in Greece under 3 Memoranda.

As the Institutions and Governments pushed forward with more lay-offs, taxes, severed pensions and salaries, life changed dramatically as one may expect in times of crisis. Purchasing power that would fuel the national market and innovation plunged and with it living quality for large masses.

Furthermore, the neediest members of the Greek society have been marginalised and the healthcare system, which is public, experiencing serious problems with shortage in staff, and material.

In addition, sacrifices were made by the Greek people in promise of better days and for the common good. Yet, as the austerity deepens who is to tell why these days have never come over for many years now. What has gone amiss?

The market will move, I believe, with a reduction of taxes on taxes, investments in sectors that are unique opportunities in this country. This will see the market move upwards.

I wish to plead from the bottom of my heart that viable solutions will be given for the national debt. Even more, that policies will be proposed that will see beyond numbers to the human souls, who live with the conditions as have come to be. Great solutions stem from brave attempts to betterment as global history teaches us!

May solutions be found that this Country vastly rich in culture, history, and human warmth see better and brighter days!”

Erika Angelidi
Conservatives Abroad Representative Greece,
Athens

Brexit and My “Pelican Boat” Woodcut Print - Raf. Pittman

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

Lies & Deceits, Postures & Imposture or The Decline of the Western Political Class.

mars 24th, 2017

If throughout human history the manipulation of information and desinformation has always been used as a political weapon, the deceitful manipulation of public opinion as an acknowledged legitimate system is recent. It is the inheritance of the policies of the Bush government in the United States and of Blair’s in the United Kingdom. In 2003 both were said to act on a divinely inspired mission to get rid of a dictator and to forcibly impose democracy on a sovereign state in the Middle East in order to justify its violation and armed invasion, with the ensuing catastrophic results for the country and the region. Bush and Blair have opened a Pandora box that has not ceased since to let loose its monstruous emanations on the Western political scene.

Its poisonous breath has corrupted the Western political leaders. In sympathetic mimetism, they have taken on the postures and techniques of the two Anglosaxons leaders in the use of brazen lies, the manipulation of public opinion through fear and appeal to the lower instincts, the abdication of the public good in favour of their own personal interests, the total absence of moral and ethical principles in the implicit, or explicit, claim of a divinely appointed right to ignore them, to the benefit of their own plans and convictions.

The communication techniques of the British spin doctors, such as Alastair Campbell, who confessed cynically having sexed-up the Iraki dossier to force Parliament into war, has created a precedent. The same meticulous manipulation of public opinion for months spreading lies and false promises, honing up a sustained rethoric in acting on ancestral fears and the lowest of passions, whipping up xenophobic hatred, has allowed Nigel Farage and his UKIP party to push through the Brexit in the June 2016 referendum. Farage like David Cameron, the initiator of this referendum, has since resigned from his party and left politics, assuming none of the catastrophic results of his 17 years personal campaigning against the European Union as a European member of Parlement. The ensuing chaos left behind is beyond belief, it puts into jeopardy the very fate of democracy and of the European Union. Can a referendum be lawful when its premices are deliberately distorted through the use of propaganda and millions spent on lies, concealment of reality, media hype, manipulation of public opinion? Is such a vote valid when the voters are deliberately blinded and unable to assess the actual consequences of their vote ? The United Kingdom has wakened up too late to the fraud and crude imposture that has blinded the country and divided it as it was over the Irak war. It now seems that Tony Blair, this conjurer of deceit and political maneuvring, who earns astronomical sums in preaching his inflammatory gospel, has the impudence of contesting a Brexit won through his own spin methods. No doubt he sees there a way to regain power : he enjoys the distinct honour of being the most hated Prime Minister in Britain.

Donald Trump has done the same in the United States, using lies, insults, mediatic one-upmanship, inflammatory speeches and financial power allied to a blatant and deliberate vulgarity of manners, with the same calamitous results : a divided country cut from the rest of the world through isolationism, social, racist and xenophobic hatred expressed in verbal and physical violence spreading like a plague all over the nation. In the Neetherlands, Geert Wilders, the ally of the French extremist Marine Le Pen, advocates the ‘shock of civilisations’ of George Bush, whipping up religious hatred against Islam, and nationalist hatred against Europe. Marine Le Pen is becoming more and more legitimate on the more and more chaotic and unstable French political scene. Her party, the Front National, is based on the worse of France : xenophobia, chauvinism, opportunism under the guise of hypocrisy, physical and verbal violence. Its nationalism is anchored in the ignorance and denial of the rich and varied roots of this ‘France profonde’ it claims to be the sole representative. The Front National is the voice of a shrunk, narrow-minded France, turned back onto itself in a suicidal rejection of the others, of their human value, of the intrinsic richness of their diversity. Le Pen puts herself above Republican laws and institutions, judging ‘ ‘immoral and illegal’ all attempts from the Law to stop her excesses ; she claims that she is been victimized by the system. In fact, among others, she is guilty of corruption and embezzlement of public funds in a case of fictitious employment at the European Parliament of one of her assistants, but refuses to appear in front of the juges.

Nicolas Sarkozy, Tony Blair’s clone, had acted in the same manner throughout his career. He whipped up racial hatred in his infamous Grenoble speech against the Gypsies in 2010, opened pointless and pernicious debates on national identity, openly insulted French citizens calling them ‘ scum’ who should be ‘got rid of with a Kärcher’. When need be he invokes the Republican principles of past illustrious French personalities, while scorning them when it suits him. His attitude towards the Law is just as perverse and ambiguous : all attempts to call him to account provoke indignant protestations and accusations of victimization and persecution against him. Whereas he uses the legal system with ruthless efficiency against his opponents, even in his own party, to discredit them and eliminate all opposition that could threaten his position and his power. He does not act as a responsible and rational politician, with the good of his country at heart, but as the boss of a mafia type gang using methods associated with delinquants. To make a public declaration of his wish to see Dominique de Villepin – a colleague and fellow member of the same party- ‘hanging from a butcher’s hook’ is unworthy of the presidential function, and an unacceptable example of verbal violence.
With the implausible Clearstream affair, in which Sarkozy had targeted and persecuted Villepin, he has effectively eliminated him from the French political scene. To any clear-headed and enlightened observer the whole affair was a vast deception destined not only to discredit a statesman superior to him in every way, but mostly to create a smoke screen and divert public attention from his own illegal activities. In particular the unlawful Libyan financing of his presidential campaign in 2007, for which Gaddafi and other protagonists paid with their lives. And as is stated by a parlementary attaché at the Senate, in the field of communication : ‘ Everbody knows that Sarkozy has abank account abroad, but it is not in Luxembourg…’

His malevolence towards an opponent who threatens him through his achievements, his moral, intellectual and political international stature, knows no limits. According to some commentators, in 2006 he had already encouraged and supported the demonstration against the Contrat Première Embauche (CPE) First Job Contract, proposed by Dominique de Villepin to reduce unemployment. In 2012 Sarkozy systematically undermined and sabotaged de Villepin’s presidential campaign, to which I participated, see my website: http://www.monique-riccardi-cubitt.com/ 9. Political engagement. Day by day he stole away the supporters of République Solidaire, he isolated his opponent whose movement became, in the contemptuous words of Xavier Bertrand, Sarkozy’s spokesman in the 2007 campaign, ‘République solitaire, Solitary Republique’, and eventually forced him to give up his candidacy. Dominique de Villepin once more showed himself superior morally and intellectually in rising above Sarkozy’s violent attacks and his own personnal and political prejudices. He pursued his own peace mission at the service of France and of his ideals, see his last volume, Mémoire de Paix pour temps de Guerre. Ed. Grasset, 2016 : ‘Throughout the whole of my life I have endeavoured to put the peace process at the heart of my action… The moment has come to get down to the peace process, to open our eyes to the wounds of the world and to create the tools necessary to build a new order, more just and more stable…I am convinced that France has a role to play in this new world, if it renews with its vocation to initiate, to mediate, to promote a dialogue, if it is loyal to its message and to its history.’ He has magnanimously forgiven to Sarkozy, and following his pacifist and diplomatic ideals, he offered his mediation in Tunisia in 2011 to try to prevent the armed intervention in Libya. Which did not fit with Sarkozy’s designs and interests. In emulation of Blair in 2003, and prompted by the ill-advised action of publicity-seeking Bernard-Henri Lévy, he blatantly lied on the Libyan situation in order to secure Britain and the United States’ support, with the approval of the United Nations.

The report of a House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee’s enquiry published 14th Septembre 2016 questions the legitimity of the armed intervention in Libya. It claims that : ‘…Despite his rhetoric, the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence… the immediate threat to civilians was being publicly overstated’ to serve French interests in North Africa. The main purpose was to have access to Libyan oil resources, and more particularly to serve Sarkozy’s own political interests in gaining in prestige. He also wanted the international community’s approval to get rid of a generous sponsor who had became an embarassing witness to eliminate. In 2008 France had sold 168 million euros worth of weapons to Libya, in 2011 it spent 300 millions euros to fight Gaddafi’s regime with terrible losses in human lives. The allied intervention destabilized the whole region and created a vacuum filled by the forces of the Islamic State, Daech, forcing the population to migrate towards Italy and eventually to the North of Europe. Dominique de Villepin had predicted in 2011 : ‘ To win a war is one thing, to win peace is much more difficult… It is going to take many efforts from France’s diplomacy …a wealth of savoir-faire to prevent this Libyan revolution to turn back against those who helped them yesterday’. Against the ensuing terrorist attacks on French soil, his position stated in September 2014 on French national TV France 2, in the programme Ce soir ou jamais, remains the same : ‘We cannot win the war against terrorism because terrorism is an invisible hand, all the time in mutation, changeable and opportunist. It requires a capacity of thinking an action well beyond military action. One must be able to use cunningly the powers of the mind and all peaceful means available to desintegrate the forces that congregate around those terrorist forces.’ He adds : ‘ All we know of this type of war since Afghanistan has led to failure… We need a political strategy, a political vision and a capacity to think our action beyond the use of bombs… We must become aware that this Islamic State, Daech, we have created it ourselves for the largest part from war to war…There is a vicious cercle in which we have locked ourselves up. It is not only ineffective, but it is dangerous because this region in the Middle East is shaken by crisis, by wounds. It is in a profund crisis of modernization.’ His words reflect the long-standing French diplomatic tradition. It is one of France’s past glories : French was the diplomatic language by excellence until the Second World War. It stood not only for a culture but for a civilisation. Thus Philippe-Joseph Salazar sees it in his essay Blabla République. Au verbe, citoyens ! Ed. Lemieux, 2017. Rethoric or the oratorical art and science to convince in Aristotle’s manner, is also the art of the beautiful speech of Quintillien, the Roman orator. This art of debating with form and substance has become in the modern world ‘a speech technology’, a political speech devoid of its essential meaning, where slogans and trivialities stand for action for the elite in power. The citizens themselves are baffled by this constant verbiage and unable to express their own legitimate needs and aspirations. Salazar adds : ‘ Since the Third Republic there is no longer a moral authority in France’.

In the prevailing cacophony some voices still sounds true, such as Villepin’s own. But they are quickly stiffled and deliberately discredited, as says Claude Angeli in an interview with Mediapart on the 12th February 2017, incidentally quoting the former French Prime Minister on war and terrorism. The ex-editor of the satirical weekly, Le Canard enchaîné, talks about his recent book Les plaisirs du journalisme, Ed. Fayard, where he denounces : ‘ a mediocre epoch’, ‘a sluggish society’, where ‘ plain truth is been discredited’. In reference to the financial scandals and the corruption of the political class that have beset France for some months, speaking about the former socialist Cahuzac, and of the Right-wing presidential candidate, François Fillon, he adds grimly : ‘ I think that I have more respect for genuine thieves…’ It is difficult to understand how the French Right-wing can still support a candidate whose legitimacy was based on ethics and moral integrity ( Tweet 18th September 2016. To govern a country, I am convinced that one must be above reproach. I want to bring forward the principle of examplarity for the President and the ministers.) After years of nepotism and embezzlement of public funds kept secret, Fillon has several times lied to the nation he pretends represent. He has played Tartuffe to great acclaim, discrediting the very religion he invokes, his heart on his lips, and his hand on his heart : ‘I am a Christian !’ . Like Sarkozy he plays the victim, speaks of media persecution, condemns the Law and the press, denouncing in the same breath his own party by asking them ‘ to make their own examination of conscience’.

The very structure of the French political system is brought into disrepute, according to Mediapart ‘The Assemblée Nationale (French Parliament) has remunerated 52 wives, 28 sons et 32 daughters of members of Parliament in 2014’. France may have abolished the Ancien Régime but not its privileges : some are more equal than others. But no one wants to change this system of nepotism and favouritism, too many profit by it : the unscrupulous, not to say the crooked, politicians and civil servants. As for those, like de Villepin, who do not enter in these fiddles and rackets, his integrity is being discredited in vain attempts to prove that he has in some ways benefited from the Libyan financing of Sarkozy’s campaign. Which in the circumstances described above is highly implausible. So a so-called ‘ficticious employment’ for a Saudi firm is invented whereby a report in January 2009 apparently used some notes from a previous lecture. This is just an example of intellectual property when an author, or a lecturer, uses already researched material in a new service or performance, and is remunerated as such at the given rate by the contracting party. It is the same for a Tintin album bought at the aution sale of his library by a friend. An item put at auction has no intrinsic value other than that of the offer, as I have witnessed in London at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Whether it be Elton John’s diamanté glasses, Marilyn Monroe’s underwear, or the huge tartan underpant John Brown, the faithful servant, and some say perhaps lover, of Queen Victoria, wore under his kilt. And I can therefore now answer the intriguing question : What do the Scots wear under their kilts ? other than the lemon yellow and pale pink Marks & Spencer pants I have observed at the Scottish Highlands Games during the tossing of the caber ! The value given to an item depends on its provenance and is reflected in the covetousness of the buyers who, through the aution process, bring the price up. If one wants to discredit the integrity of someone honest, all means are used to cast doubt on his or her reputation. It would then confirm public opinion in its conviction : ‘They are all rotten !’ and encourage the ones who are truly so to carry on their rackets and cover-ups.

It would also justify the need for new blood, a so-called maverick, out of the system, who wrote a book on his political intentions entitled Révolution. Emmanuel Macron’s political programme is anything but revolutionary. In fact his movement with the slogan En Marche, using the initials of his name, is walking backwards. His economic plan is inspired by the neo-liberalism of the 80’s et 90’s of Thatcher and Reagan, then of the Clinton’s and Blair’s era. According to economists this system is damaging to society, and it is denounced even by the IMF. Macron is supported in his campaign by the merchant banks from which he draws his wealth and expertise, and by the large multinational companies. Like Trump in the States he wants to give back to the banks all the privileges they enjoyed before the 2008 subprimes crisis, notwithstanding the devastating consequences on the middle class worldwide, and the resulting human tragedies. His stand over l’Europe is far from being innovatory, he only takes on the instructions of the Council of Europe. He brings no answer to the radical rethinking and restructuring of a 60 years old institution required by the present crisis caused by the rising of so-called populist movements that have triggered off the Brexit. Lasting solutions have to be found to the humanitarian crisis bred by terrorism in the Middle East with a resulting incrontrollable emigration. Economic and environmental crisis due to the diminishing of natural resources over-exploited by the very multinational businesses who finance him must be talen into account, as well as the global warming of the climate and the rise in economic and political power of new nations such as China and India.

Fillon serves the High Mass if hypocrisy and invites Molière to the political scene, playing Tartuffe and M. Jourdain. His Pater familias image as a paragon of virtue and morality, a gentleman farmer with Landed Gentry ideals in his provincial manor house where his wife’s horses frolic around, is forever shattered. He has become Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, The middle-class aristocrat whose bright plumage conceals a venal and grasping soul, with the mean and petty spirit of a small provincial bigwig who, as in one of Balzac’ novel, has made it good in the capital through crooked means. In refusing to acknowledge his donwnfall, he has taken hostage the country and his own party, to further his own interests and ambitions. In any other country he would have had to resign and leave his place as presidential candidate to the second candidate, Alain Juppé. It is the logical outcome in such a case, as Dominique de Villepin pointed out. But the crazed obstination of Fillon has played in favour of Sarkozy, who cunningly went on supporting him, thus preventing the second candidate to take on the party candidacy. With malicious forethought he has put his own henchmen into place to pave the way for his eternal return.

As for Macron he officiates as the high priest of a narcissic cult at the service of Mammon, with for vestal virgin a mother goddess who plays Pygmalion : ‘We need young French people who want to become milliardaires’ . He is the guru at the head of a sect, manipulating the adepts and sending them into trance with the brainwashing methods and collective hysteria used by American companies to motivate their employees at the end of the 20th century. His lieutenants, brainwashed young people, are conditioned to react to the meeting planner’s SMS orders, and clap or shout theur approval at the given moment. Their reward is an all-night party paid by the party in a local nightclub. They are bribed to belong to what is made to appear as an exclusive club, a group of chosen few adepts with its own language, an incomprehensible franglais jargon taken from the business world. ‘I know the grammar of business’ says Macron, it is obvious in his political stance, a market research to build his programme, as much as in his way of conducting meetings. On December 10th 2016 in Paris at the Porte de Versailles, he got carried away by his messianic zeal and yelled at the end of his speech: ‘ What I want is that wherever you go you are going to carry it, because it is our project. Vive la République, vive la France’. His astonishing stance recalls Leonardo di Caprio’s performance in the film The wolf of Wall Street, brainwashing his traders at the New York Stock Exchange in the 80’s : ‘I want you to deal with problems by becoming rich, we are going to be f…telephone terrorists…’ The verbal violence, the collective hysteria are those of the American evangelist meetings where considerable financial and media hype are used to attract, brainwash and psychologically manipulate the adepts. The Macron sysrem has the same hypnotic effect on the pyblic and the media It is an imposture on a large scale supported by a powerful financial apparatus and dubious éminences grises, such as Alain Minc, who was a long-standing adviser to Sarkozy.

Macron is in no way the little creative genius he believes himself to be, and the media hype presents. The little Mozart of the Élysée, after 3 years musical studies at the Conservatoire, ( Mozart himself has not done as much !) has still to give us his version of The M agic Flute. His Papageno is more like the Pied Piper, the definition of which states: 1. A person who offers others strong yet delusive enticements, 2. One, such as a leader, who makes irresponsible promises. In both cases the ineluctable end leads to death and destruction, the hidden symbol of the flutist.

This Mr. Macron clad in a variegated political plumage is a bird of sinister omen. In fact there is around his couple a strange and disquieting aura of fakery and artificiality. It would be easy to describe this malaise in Freudian terms : the Oedipus complex is far too obvious. Macron has effectively eliminated and killed the father figure in getting married to his teacher, of the age of his parents, and taking on the banking profession of her former husband, whose family he stole in settling in his nest like a cuckoo. He shows no loyalty toward the men who have helped him on his way to power, such as François Hollande : symbolically he kills him in standing as a presidential candidate (Sarkozy did the same with Pasqua and President Chirac). It is a very bad example of ruthless betrayal, of a total lack of principles and ethics given to the youth he pretends to lead. However Jung suggests a subtler profile : the Peter Pan syndrome. It stands for the emotionally immature man, the eternal narcissic teenager, suffering from contradictory emotions with an impredictable beahaviour and incontrollable urges, Sarkozy is one example as is Donald Trump. In fact there is a strange correlation between the political couple formed by Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka ‘The woman Donald Trump cherishes most’ according to Newsmax, who is also his adviser, and the Macron couple. The Trump couple in their father/daughter relationship seems to be the verso of the Macrons (wife-mother/son). Even to the disturbing physical similarity between Trump et Brigitte Macron’s artificial image going back to the 80’s : same shock of blonde hair crowning a permanent orange tan.

‘In the realm of the blind, the one-eyed are kings’ , according to the defination of the Robert Dictionary of French phrases and expressions ed. 2017 :
‘Even a person of mediocre quality appears to be outstanding in the midst of people without discernment’, an apt description for Macron. He would lead France to disaster, tranforming it in a vast tourists’ Disneyland where large publicity panels would disfigure the countryside and promote consumerism as in Las Vegas (This Macron project was vetoed against by the Hollande government). On can also expect the French countryside to be devastated by the extraction of oil shale. And this French culture he says does not exist: ‘ There is no such thing as French culture’ he declared in London the 4th February 2017, would be diluted, distorted into an ersatz of American culture dominated by money. Far from being a trend-setter, the man himself is an ersatz : he says all and its contrary, adopting a particular posture according to the circumstances in Sarkozy’s manner. In Algeria, he described colonisation as ‘crimes against humanity’ and in emulation of the Général de Gaulle during the Algerian war, he ended his speech by the historical words ‘Je vous ai compris ! I have understood you !’. Carrying on this patriotic note, he quoted in his Lyon speech the words of the French poet René Char, engaged in the Résistance, from his work Les feuillets d’Hypnos : ‘On that day I fiercely loved my companions, well beyond self-sacrifice’. For a technocrat without empathy towards others, a man without any sense of collective history and memory, it is no longer theatrical trickery, it is a a shameful melodramatic fraud, indecent in its cheap sham.

Once more in London, on February 21th, and no doubt aiming to flatter his hosts, he reiterated the absence of ‘French culture’, adding that he had never seen ‘French art’. Which is most surprising considering that he has worked for the Rothschild bank. He seemed to have remained totally ignorant of the fact that the British branch of the Rothschild possess in Buckinghamshire one of the msot important collection in the British Isles of the French decorative arts of the 18th century and of paintings from the 17the and 18th century, with the Wallace Collection in Londres. Waddesdon Manor was built beween 1874 and 1889 in the style of the Loire châteaux by a French architect, art historian and collector, Hippolyte Destailleur. The British are enlightened art lovers and collectors and have always been keen on French art, which they have collected avidly. Furthermore French art has had an important influence on the development of British art since the arrival of Huguenot artists and craftsmen in the 17th century after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The two famous British auction houses, Christie’s et Sotheby’s have gained their renown and wealth through the French royal and aristocratic sales following the Revolution. M. Macron is an ignorant and uncivilized philistine, despite the supposedly ‘incredible culture’ of his wife. Smug and vain, he is showing off and strut his stuff, echoing Chérie Blair’s ill-meaning ignorant words during the campaign for the 2012 Olympic Games : ‘And what has Paris got to do with culture ?’. André Malraux created the very concept of a French national culture in 1959, with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs which he headed until 1969. He thus included culture in the social and economic modernisation projects of the De Gaulle government. France’s initiative set an example and has had a worldwide following ever since.

The level of mediocrity of the French presidential candidates makes one shudder for the country’s future. And if one can assess the moral stature of a man by his attitude towards women in general and his wife in particuluar, neither Fillon nor Macron show signs of practising the chivalry and courtesy usually described as French traits. Already Sarkozy treated his wife like a trophy, exhibiting her charms to public applause like a vulgar animal on the market-place. To defend himself and keep his candidacy Fillon has pushed his wife to lies and perjury after her past public statements of having never worked for him. As for Macron, when challenged about an interview in the magazine Paris Match, he accused his wife of ‘blunder and foolishness’. The couple has since given three more interviews to the magazine, of which Mrs. Macron has declared to be ‘very satisfied of the photographs !’ . Her husband does not seem to be overly concerned by her feelings. In his Lyon speech, with a smug, self-satisfied look on his face, he thought it fit to tell a bizarre story about the marital infidelity of the Princess de Ligne, a particularly indelicate act in the presence of his wife 24 years older, who looked very uneasy. Macron is not only a ham actor, he is a cad. His lack of consideration for others, and personal and professional ethics are reflected in his performance as a minister. He neglected his ministerial duties while Minister of Finances to spend his time and the ministry budget creating his own party. In short he is no different in his lack of principles and integrity than Sarkozy or Fillon. He lied to the country in concealing the complete privatisation of Toulouse airport in the 2015 sale to a Chinese investor, when the French authorities : the State, the region, the town were supposed to retain their shares. In any other democracy other than France, he should have had to resign. He is also responsible for the sale of the railway factory Alstom in Belfort. This factory, dating back to the 19th century and creator of the TGV, will stop its activities in 2018 following the sale organized byMacron to the American group General Electric, blocked by the precedent Finance Minister, Arnaud Montebourg, 450 workers and as many subcontrators will lose their jobs. Macron is selling off France’s family jewels to the highest bidders who become thus indebted to him for the future. He does not act for the benefit of the country, but for his own interests.

His wife says of him : ‘He thinks he is Joan of Arc… he comes from another planet’. He seems to be on a divine mission : in Lyon, his hand on his heart in the American manner like Fillon to emphazise the sincerity of his feelings, eyes shut, he sings La Marseillaise. It is an embarassingly ham perfomance worthy of Hollywood. He and his wife are living in the slushy dreamland of a TV soap series they have both created, which is daily recounted by the media : the world of the Wizard of Oz. One expects to see them in technicolor, leaving hand in hand for a new rosy dawn, hopping along like Judy Garland on the tune of Somewhere over the rainbow, in company of the brainless Scarecrow. This was the very role played at school by the 16 years old Macron in the play directed by his French teacher who is now his wife. Video to be viewed on YouTube : Macron fait l’épouvantail.

MONIQUE RICCARDI-CUBITT
BCiP Member
Paris, 15th March 2017

NB. Monique Riccardi-Cubitt is working on an essay on the decline of French prestige and culture.

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

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

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

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

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.

End of Year Message on Brexit from Erika Angelidi

décembre 10th, 2016

In an end of year message Erika Angelidi, the Conservatives Abroad Representative in Greece, looks forwards positively to developments in the UK’s negotiations with the EU:

Without a doubt, the Year that will soon be left behind brought with it numerous important events, some even stirring as the municipal elections and the referendum!

We all await for new developments regarding the negotiations of the UK with the EU. It is most certain that in the upcoming year the air will clear around the relations of the UK and the EU, especially by the entry into force of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which provides for the withdrawal of a member state from the EU.

We wish for fruitful negotiations in all areas, matters such as the freedom of movement of people and goods and the funding of the education and healthcare system(s) being of paramount importance.

Erika Angelidi
Conservatives Abroad Representative Greece,
Athens

Conservative Group for Europe (CGE): Report on Brexit Meeting 22nd Nov. 2016

novembre 27th, 2016

With Brexit such a contentious issue, British Conservatives in Paris (BCiP) is publishing news of various kinds concerning Brexit negotiations and this report is from one of our members: Edward de Mesquita has given us permission to publish his text.

The Conservative Group for Europe (CGE): Meeting at Westminster on Tuesday evening, 22nd November 2016.
Report by Edward de Mesquita, BCiP member.

The meeting was chaired by Sir Nicolas Soames MP and the guest speaker was Alistair Burt MP, who gave us a short résumé on the current status of negotiations for Brexit.

We were informed that the EU Commissioners are resisting any UK discussions with individual countries and are putting pressure on member states not to negotiate with the UK individually but solely to handle the UK’s departure on a collective basis. (My impression was that this smacked of bullying by the Brussels Commissioners to take away the influence that any individual country may wish to exert.) We were informed that the Commission is very worried about the populism spreading around the world.

As regards our negotiations so far, the Commissioners are discouraging any such talks until Article 50 is triggered. It is becoming apparent that they wish to give the UK a very hard time in order to discourage other member states from doing likewise. However, there is a new fear that if the other member states see the UK being punished for wishing to leave the EU, then this will give the impression that the EU is an institution that, once you are in, it will be near impossible to leave. The latter argument has not really taken hold yet but it is growing.

Anna Soubry MP and former Business Minister, who was a committed ‘Remain’ campaigner before the Referendum, informed us that there is a constitutional hurdle looming whereby the devolved parliaments of Scotland and, Wales, etc. will have to pass their own respective legislation before Article 50 can be invoked. We were told that even if the Commons voted in favour of triggering Article 50, this decision is reversible. If the lawyers find the Scottish vote to be constitutionally obligatory, then when the Scottish Parliament votes against such legislation, which they clearly will, what happens next is anybody’s guess. There was also a representative from the House of Lords who informed us that the vast majority of Peers oppose Brexit.

I was in a room with around thirty people, many of whom had spoken in fringe meetings on Brexit and its consequences at the Conference, so I knew quite a few of them. The CGE are a small group but very determined. There were all sorts of small business people including a lady who ran a farm in Wales and who depended on short term foreign labour for her harvest. When I spoke, I gave a few examples of the difficulties faced by small businesses like mine who rely on the freedom to go ’shopping’ for imported European goods; I briefly cited other examples of small importers who rely on the freedoms of access to the single market. I pointed out that Jaguar-Range Rover and Nissan have attracted huge PR attention but there are literally millions of small businesses who would be devastated by import duties, delays in bonded warehouses and a mass of red tape, etc., who get no press attention whatever. These businesses represent a huge chunk of UK employers and our demise would mean the loss of millions of jobs and tax revenue.

The CGE needs funding to promote the argument that the UK desperately needs to maintain its access to the European free market to safeguard millions of small enterprises who rely on quick and easy importing and exporting to run their businesses.

Edward de Mesquita
BCiP member