Archive for octobre, 2016

“Votes for Life” Feedback & Brexit Survey - Heather Harper, Chairman Conservatives Abroad

Vendredi, octobre 28th, 2016

Dear Colleague,

I am delighted to tell you that Chris Skidmore MP, The Constitution Minister, has launched the Government’s policy statement on the Votes For Life Bill. Speaking at our Conservatives Abroad Conference earlier this month on the eve of the launch, he explained how the proposed legislation would remove the ban on expats voting if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years.

You can see the full document here.

The Government is seeking feedback on its proposals so please do have your say.

This is a great victory for Conservatives Abroad. For many years we have been leading the campaign to restore expat voting rights and we are confident that millions will now be enfranchised in time for the next General Election.

Our Conference also looked at how to ensure that Britons living in European Union member states will be able to continue their lives abroad post-Brexit. We have decided to survey members on the issues that concern them and turn this into a manifesto to use in our continued discussions with the Government over the terms of Brexit. We will be sending out a survey over the next few weeks. I hope that those of you living in mainland Europe will be able to contribute to it.

With delegates from countries including the US, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, France, the Czech Republic and Australia, the Conference also explored best practice from delegates on issues such as building up branches, increasing voter registration, campaigning, fundraising, and a discussion about the next phase of growth of Conservatives Abroad.

Our Annual Reception and Dinner on the evening before our Conference was sold out as representatives from all over the world heard Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade, explain how his new department is preparing Britain’s economy for life outside the European Union. You can see pictures of the event on our Facebook page ” Conservatives Abroad“.

Thank you for your continued support of the Conservative Party through our global constituency. Please let us know how best we can support you.

Yours sincerely

Heather Harper MBE
Chairman Conservatives Abroad

The EU Referendum Decision

Samedi, octobre 22nd, 2016

In her opening speech to the Conservative Party Conference this month, the Prime Minister said: “Even now, some politicians – democratically-elected politicians – say that the referendum isn’t valid. … But come on. The referendum result was clear. It was legitimate.”

Well I think that the referendum was neither valid nor legitimate, and am going to use this blog to say why.

There are many reasons. One is that when a referendum is held, the Government decides the question on the ballot paper but the voters decide which question they will use the referendum to answer. Theresa May knows that, indeed she has emphasised it. She used her second speech at the Party Conference to tell us: “For the referendum was not just a vote to withdraw from the EU. It was about something broader – something that the European Union had come to represent. It was about a sense – deep, profound and let’s face it often justified – that many people have today that the world works well for a privileged few, but not for them.”

Prime Minister, I believe that you were absolutely right in saying that. But you cannot have it both ways. Either the result of the vote was clear, or it resulted from something broader than the question on the ballot paper. It cannot be both. I would like to know how many of those who voted Leave, did so because this deep profound sense cited by the Prime Minister and not because they really wanted Brexit. Could it have been one tenth of them? Could it have been more than a tenth? These questions are important: had only 4% of those who voted Leave done so because of that deep profound sense and would have voted Remain otherwise, then there was no majority among the electorate for Brexit. No, Mrs May, based on what you told us at the Conference, there is no way that the result can be thought of as clear.

But there is more. I have been following election campaigns since the late 1950s, and I have never seen such a dishonest campaign. It was not just the barefaced lie about saving £350 million per week to spend on the Health Service, there was much more, including the Brexit campaign claim that the European Commission is an unelected bureaucracy and that MEPs have no power to control it.

In fact the Commission is elected by the European Council, all of whose members are from governments elected by citizens of member states, i.e. an indirect election process similar to that used for the French Senate. But it is more democratic than the elections for the French Senate because the Council is obliged to reflect the political balance of the MEPs who have just been elected to the European Parliament. Also, the Commission cannot take office until it has been approved by the Parliament and it can be dismissed by the Parliament.

Let me pose the Brexiteers two questions: which is the more democratic, the European Commission or the British House of Lords, and when did you last complain about the latter?

However for me, and I must confess that as an expatriate I am biased in this respect, the worst feature of the referendum was the fact that expatriates of more than 15 years standing were denied the vote. The Conservative Party had promised expatriates votes for life and the Government had over a year to prepare and table legislation to correct this injustice. Alternatively, the referendum could have been delayed until they were ready. The new minister, Chris Skidmore, was appointed Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office on 17 July 2016. His Policy Statement announcing details of the intended Votes for Life Bill was made at the Conservatives Abroad conference on 6 October, i.e. less than three months later. This timing can only mean either that Skidmore achieved within less than three months what it was impossible to do between the general election on 7th May 2015 and the referendum on 23rd June 2016, or that the paper was already prepared and ready before his appointment, i.e. before the referendum, but not released. Either way I now have no doubt that the failure to table the Votes for Life Bill prior to the referendum was deliberate in order to help the Brexit side win.

It succeeded. The majority for Brexit in the referendum was 1.27 million votes. The Government has estimated that there are 2.2 million British expatriates in the EU. T he total number of expatriates who voted in the referendum was 253,111. If we assume that 200,000 of those voters were in the EU, then that means that 2,000,000 expatriates in the EU could not or did not vote. Of course I do not know how many of them are of voting age but, had they been enfranchised, 82% of them voted remain and all the rest for Brexit, then Remain would have had the majority. If the expatriates that I know in France are anything like representative, then 90% would have voted Remain. Of course this does not take into account the votes of expatriates living outside the EU. We can get an idea of how they would probably have voted by looking at the socio-economic analyses of referendum voters. People most likely to have voted Remain were educated to degree level and in socio-economic group AB. People most likely to have voted Leave had more limited education and/or were in socio-economic groups C2 or DE. That makes it appear that a majority of expatriates even living outside the EU would have voted for remain.

The above shows why I am convinced that, had the promised Votes for Life Bill been enacted in time to apply to the referendum, then the Remain side would have won. So it is not true to say, as Minsters are fond of doing, that the British people voted to leave the EU. The British electorate voted for Brexit with the composition of the electoral roll cooked to bring about that result.

Theresa May also said at the Party Conference: “We will invoke Article 50 no later than the end of March next year. It is not up to the House of Commons to invoke Article 50, and it is not up to the House of Lords. It is up to the Government to trigger Article 50 and the Government alone. …. We will soon put before Parliament a Great Repeal Bill, which will remove from the statute book – once and for all – the European Communities Act. This historic Bill – which will be included in the next Queen’s Speech – will mean that the 1972 Act, the legislation that gives direct effect to all EU law in Britain, will no longer apply from the date upon which we formally leave the European Union.”

To understand what she wants to achieve we need to look at Article 50. It provides that the member state concerned must leave the EU “from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period”. So, once notification under Article 50 is given, we are out of the EU unless every single one of the other 27 member states agrees otherwise and does so without imposing conditions that would be unacceptable to the UK. Voting on the proposed Great Repeal Bill would give Parliament no power at all over the decision. With Article 50 triggered, were Parliament to reject the Great Repeal Bill we would still be out of the EU, but we would remain subject to the European Treaties and to EU law. A nonsensical position. Yes, if we leave the EU then such a Bill is necessary but, in terms of giving any power to Parliament, it is quite simply a con. Leaving the EU will take away rights from British citizens given to them by the European Communities Act in 1972. That cannot be done by a simple decision of the Government, it must require a decision taken by Parliament.

I strongly hope that the present legal case to give Parliament the right to decide on triggering Article 50 will succeed. If it does, I hope that BCiP members will use the above to try to persuade parliamentarians to reject all pressure on them to respect the referendum result and maintain the British constitutional principle that it is Parliament that is sovereign and that Parliament should decide in accordance with its members’ views as to what is best for our country.

Robin Baker
BCiP Member

Brexit Negotiations - Erika Angelidi

Vendredi, octobre 7th, 2016

In our guest blog posting below Erika Angelidi, the Conservatives Abroad Representative in Greece, continues her reflections on Brexit:

It is certain that in this week’s Conservative Party Conference, many questions were addressed and now the big issue is the process of the negotiations between the UK and the EU. I hope that next year in the Conference, everyone will be satisfied with the continuing negotiations!

I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart, the British Conservatives in Paris, as they give me the opportunity to express my personal views in various matters.

Erika Angelidi
Conservative Abroad Representative Greece,
Athens