Posts Tagged ‘Brexit Negotiations’

Keeping the Bridges Open (Conservative Group for Europe).

Lundi, septembre 25th, 2017

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

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

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

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

The Henry VIII clauses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Robin Baker

Brexit Negotiations & Public Opinion - Erika Angelidi

Jeudi, 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

Memoires of a Life Long Eurosceptic - Gillian Bardinet

Mardi, janvier 31st, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gillian Bardinet
Former Member, BCiP.

End of Year Message on Brexit from Erika Angelidi

Samedi, 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

Dimanche, 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

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

Brexit and Science - Erika Angelidi

Mardi, 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