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

Diplomacy must change to going up with the Sound of the Trump!

novembre 23rd, 2016

I never thought that I would say this, but I have to admit that Donald Trump has now convinced me. The present conventions of diplomacy are wrong and must be changed.

Which country is the more affected by the choice of an ambassador, the host country or the country sending the ambassador. The question clearly answers itself. The host country has to put up with his presence; the country he represents merely gets rid of him. Therefore, from now, it must be the host country who decides whom the ambassador shall be.

So, if President-elect Trump wants Nigel Farage, he should have him; subject only to another country where his presence would be more appropriate, I have in mind North Korea, having the right of pre-emption. Think of the benefits this system could offer. Perhaps we could persuade Zimbabwe to demand Boris Johnson, or outer Mongolia David Davis. A left-wing English friend of mine says that Britain should claim Bernie Saunders as its American ambassador, my personal view is that most British, or perhaps I should say most British men, would prefer Scarlett Johansson. Of course the British would ask for Carlo Bruni from France, even if that meant them having to put up with Sarko coming with her. That would save money, as she could represent both France and Italy à la fois.

Inevitably there would be some minor disadvantages; the UK would have to make it clear that neither of the Middleton sisters are permitted to reside outside Britain, and can anyone think of three famous Belgians whom other countries could seek? But such difficulties are made to be overcome. As someone has not quite said, the sound of the trump means the sound of the trump.

Robin Baker
BCiP Member

Limited Edition Prints with EU Referendum Theme - offered by Rafael Pittman.

novembre 22nd, 2016

Following his successful auctions at the last two Conservatives Abroad Conferences in London, artist and BCiP member Rafael Pittman is offering to BCiP members and friends, two more limited edition, signed prints with an EU referendum theme:

• “Larry the Downing Street Cat” is an artist’s proof, giclee print of an original photograph tryptich taken in Downing Street in 2012 and captioned: Larry on the LookOut….or…..In. A framed print size 28 x 36 cm will be available for auction (€50 reserve price) at our Christmas party on the 10th December.

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“Larry on the LookOut…or…In” Copyright Raf. Pittman 2016

• “Pelican EU” is a giclee print of an original woodcut “Pelican Boat” adapted for Conservatives Abroad as a commemorative EU referendum piece and captioned: Yes we Pelican. A limited edition of 10 only prints at €50 each are available as advertised with image and can be bought or collected at our speaker dinner on 1st December or Christmas party on the 10th December.

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“Yes we Pelican” Copyright Raf. Pittman 2016

You can contact us here to find out more.

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

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

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

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

Brexit and Science - Erika Angelidi

septembre 13th, 2016

In our guest blog posting below Erika Angelidi, the Conservatives Abroad Representative in Greece, expresses her thoughts about Brexit as a physics graduate:

The UK is a pioneer in science. Everyone who has studied physics and other sciences in the UK has received a great education and has acquired important skills.

Please, therefore, allow me to offer some thoughts on the matter of UK’s exit from the EU, as we anxiously wait to see how the negotiations between the UK and the EU evolve and what the post exit period will bring.

In the fields of science and research, the concern has been voiced that with the exit of the country from the EU, the funding for science will cease. This will inevitably influence the scientific research in the country. This naturally leads to further concern and needs to be answered as clearly and as soon as possibly.

It is a wish of all physicists and the entire scientific community, as well as society as a whole, that a satisfactory solution will be found in the matter of funding and research in order to secure this important area.

In my view, research is quite simply necessary for life.

Erika Angelidi,
Conservatives Abroad Representative Greece,
Athens