Posts Tagged ‘European Union’

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

Life in Greece today

Mercredi, mai 17th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erika Angelidi
Conservatives Abroad Representative Greece,
Athens

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

Jeudi, février 23rd, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Huggins
BCiP Member

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

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

Brexit - Nick Clegg on the period of phoney peace

Mercredi, août 17th, 2016

“But while the referendum gave the Government a mandate to withdraw from the EU it did not give a mandate on how to do it, or what our new relationship with our neighbours should be, not least because the Brexiteers did not deign to set out a plan during the campaign itself. Therefore we have a duty to hold the Government to account for the way in which it conducts the negotiations.”

Nick Clegg on the period of phoney peace.

Some Thoughts Post Brexit - Erika Angelidi

Samedi, juillet 23rd, 2016

In our guest blog posting below by Erika Angelidi, the Conservatives Abroad Representative in Greece, her latest contribution continues her previous discussions on the critical issue of Brexit, including now the new “Post Brexit” Prime Minister Theresa May:

Since Theresa May became the new leader of the Conservative Party and thus our new Prime Minister, the UK and the Conservatives have taken one more step forward in their respective and common history. Mrs May finds herself in a most challenging position: she is not only to lead one of the most historic Parties in the UK, she will also be the one to shoulder the responsibility of ensuring the unity of the nation while realizing the British people’s decision to exit the EU.

It is certain that her capabilities, her education, as well as her political experience bring great hope for the success of such an endeavour. These are times that more than ever demand unity and solidarity. All should be supportive of her and our common future.

Difficult negotiations with the EU are to ensue: the United Kingdom will exit the EU, but will continue to play a key role in European and world politics.

It is certain that Brexit will cause much controversy in the future. Citizens of all professions within and outside of the UK will protest at leaving the EU. The balance is fragile, and exiting the EU will be a delicate process.

We wait with interest to see how the negotiations with the EU will play out and how long they will take. This is another key point to be taken into consideration, as an extended negotiation period raises the question of prolonged uncertainty. This will put a strain on sterling for instance.

And yet the new page in European and British history is being written, and we are sure that the United Kingdom will continue to have a key role.

Erika Angelidi,
Conservatives Abroad Representative Greece,
Athens

Great Britain and Europe: The EU Referendum Opportunity

Lundi, juin 20th, 2016

Following her hard-hitting political and historical review “Ship of Fools”, BCiP member Monique Riccardi-Cubitt traces the relationship between Great Britain and Europe when addressing as an opportunity the currently hot topic of the EU Referendum vote on 23rd June, 2016.

GREAT BRITAIN AND EUROPE.
THE BREXIT REFERENDUM : AN OPPORTUNITY FOR REASSESSMENT AND A NEW DIRECTION.

…If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.

The verses of John Donne, the 17th century metaphysical poet, seem particularly relevant at this time of uncertainty in the face of the forthcoming British referendum on the continued membership of Britain to the European community, the so called Brexit. The United Kingdom is indeed a promontory in Europe, a privileged look-out post from which to see further and higher on European issues.

Its membership was by no means an easy process. Historically Britain feared any continental alliance with possible imperial ambitions. Its own Empire was slowly disintegrating, but the bonds of loyalty to the Crown, and trade within the Commonwealth, remained as strong as ever. Britain, the first globalized nation, was opened to the world and did not share France and Germany’s heavy moral burden of the Second World War’s negative inheritance, although it had played a decisive role in the final Allied victory.

Churchill, was awarded in 1955 the International Prix Charlemagne of Aachen for his action toward the unification of Europe after the Grand Congress of Europe he had instigated in 1948 in The Hague, which led to the creation of the Council of Europe in 1949, and the Rome Treaty in 1957 on the Common Market, effectively creating the European Community of the Six : France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, ‘ …to establish the foundations of a ceaselessly closer union between European people.’ He had formulated his vision in a Speech to the academic youth given in 1946 at the University of Zurich ‘There is a remedy which … would in a few years make all Europe … free and … happy. It is to re-create the European family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe. The structure of the United States of Europe, if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single state less important.. If at first all the States of Europe are not willing or able to join the Union, we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can.’

He was echoing a concept born after the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon, exiled on St. Helena, had himself formulated the dream, which his megalomaniac thirst for personal glory had prevented him achieving : ‘Europe thus divided into nationalities freely formed and free internally, peace between States would have become easier: the United States of Europe would become a possibility.’ But Pax Napoleonica never shone over the world as had done Pax Romana. Yet in Europe, torn by recurring wars and revolutions, this pacifist and humanist ideal found ardent advocates throughout the 19th century. In 1831 Wojciech Jastrzębowski, the Polish naturalist, pionneer of ergonomics, had exposed his vision of a European international organization in a pamphlet : About the everlasting peace between the nations.

This concept was also Giuseppe Mazzini’s, like Napoleon a Genoese born under French rule, a politician and journalist. He was a fervent advocate of patriotism in his political action for the creation of an Italian state, as much as a fervent believer in a unified Europe. In 1834 he founded in Switzerland the Giovine Europe ( Young Europe), a visionary international movement. Its fondamental precept of national liberty denounced and opposed the dictates of the 1815 Congress of Vienna, by which the dominion of a few great European powers, namely Russia, Britain, Prussia and Austria, oppressed smaller nations. In his hope and action for a freely associated Republican league of European nations, where common interests would be shared and be regulated by a central federal assembly, Mazzini the revolutionary was called the prophet of Europe.

This prophetic vision found a bard in Victor Hugo, the French politician, poet, novelist and artist, who declared in 1849 at the Paris International Peace Congress : ‘A day shall come when all of you nations of the Continent : France, Russia, Italy, England, Germany, will fuse tightly together in a higher entity without losing your own intrisic qualities and your own glorious individuality, and you will form a European brotherhood… A day shall come when we shall see … the United States of America and the United States of Europe face to face, reaching out for each other across the seas…A day shall come when they will not be any battle fields left other than markets opening to trade and minds opening to ideas…In the twentieth century it shall be called Europe, then transfigured it shall be called Mankind.’ Hugo’s vision was one of universal peace : Europe, including Britain, the motherland of European democracy, where like Mazzini he had lived in exile, would be the leading example and guiding light.

Little could he foresee the 1870 Franco-Prussian war, which he lived in besieged Paris, and the ensuing 20th century Franco-German conflicts, the two devasting World Wars, which would set the whole world ablaze, radically altering it. After the defeat of Sedan and the fall of the Second Empire, in 1871 the French National Assembly had called for a United States of Europe, and in 1929, after the horrors of the First World War, Aristide Briand, the French Prime Minister, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1926, called for a European Federation at the League of Nations, a vision of Europe also shared by Trotsky before the Russian Revolution. In it the torch of universal peace still shone. Churchill, having foreseen early the danger of Hitler’s rise, and of Nazi Germany’s agressive expansionnist strategy seeking to impose its hegemony worldwide, became its main bearer. He declared at The Hague European Congress in 1948 : ‘We must endeavour by patience and faithful service to prepare for the day when there will be an effective world government resting on the main groupings of mankind.’

Europe’s destiny was to show the way, and England was to play a major part in it. In 1948, at a Conservative Meeting at Llandudno, Churchill outlined Britain’s unique position at the hub of ‘ three majestic circles’ the ‘Empire and Commonwealth’, ‘the English speaking world’ and a ‘United Europe’. These three circles were for him ‘co-existent’ and ‘ linked together’ in a truly globalized vision : ‘We are the only country which has a great part in every one of them. We stand, in fact, at the very point of junction, and here in this Island at the centre of the seaways and perhaps of the airways also, we have the opportunity of joining them all together.’ In May 1947 at a meeting in the Albert Hall of the United Europe Movement, which he had founded and chaired, he spoke of ‘… the idea of a United Europe in which our country will play a decisive part…’ Britain and France would be ‘ … founder-partners in this movement’, and ‘… Britain will have to play her full part as a member of the European family.’

His resolve over the matter was such that, after the German invasion of France in May 1940, supported by his Party and Cabinet, he had announced in June 1940 the Declaration of Union between Great Britain and France, ‘ The two governments declare that France and Great Britain shall no longer be two nations, but one Franco-British Union… Every citizen of France will enjoy immediately citizenship of Great Britain; every British subject will become a citizen of France.’ An Anglo-French stamp featuring King George VI and French President Albert Lebrun was conceived to commemorate the union.
george-vi-and-albert-lebrun
The rise of Marshall Pétain and the creation of the collaborationnist Vichy government in occupied France, brought this plan to an abrupt end. It is in this context of a France divided onto itself between Collaborateurs and Résistants, the latter themselves divided into Gaullists and Communists, that the much used, and misused, rebuff of Churchill to De Gaulle on the eve of the 1944 Normandy landings, must be understood : ‘ If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea. Every time I have to decide between you and Roosevelt, I will always choose Roosevelt.’

De Gaulle did not share Churchill’s lofty vision of a unified Europe as a premise for universal world peace. He held a French traditonalist view of Germany, and for him the settlement of the centuries-old rivalry and conflict between, as he said : ‘Les Gaulois et les Germains’, (The Gauls and the Teutons ), was the main motivation : ‘Europe, it’s France and Germany’. In this he did not share either his French compatriots Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman’s opinions and active involvement in the realization of European unity. Jean Monnet had declared in 1950 : ‘ The prosperity of our European community is inextricably linked to the development of international exchange. Our Community shall thus contribute to the solving of the world’s free exchange problems.’ He resumed his humanist ideal in stating : ‘We do not form a coalition with the various States, but their people.’ It was at the antipodes of De Gaulle’s beliefs who violently denounced Monnet and Schuman’s initiatives in the face of the rising Cold War towards a common Western European economic, political and military policy supported by the United Sates, with the creation in 1952 of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), a consultative assembly of 78 to neutralize any future return of the Franco-German rivalry, the signing of the Rome Treaty and the paving of the way for Britain’s entry. Schuman, then Prime Minister, had declared in 1949 : ‘Wihout Britain there can be no Europe.’

De Gaulle expounded his views on the Common Market as directed by ‘ a common commission which would, of course, be composed not of people like Jean Monnet, a supranational stateless man, but with qualified civil servants.’ Thus the European Parliament, which started as the consultative Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community with 78 appointed parliamentarians drawn from the member states national parliaments, with no legislative mandates, has now grown over the years into an overblown structure of byzantine complexity, where discordant voices are heard, powerfuls lobbies exercise pressions on commissions, where there is no vision for the future, no guiding master plan and true common policy. The splitting of the Parliament between Brussels and Strasbourg, to comply with France’s unreasonable demands, is not only a gross waste of time, of ressources and energy, but constitutes an obvious impediment for the efficient functionning of the structure, which amounts to a near sabotage of the Founding Fathers of the European Union’s dream and ideals. France has a heavy responsibility in the floundering of the institution, having imposed upon it its ancestral nationalist interests without thought of the future common good, its cumbersome administration, and its fastidious bureaucracy which calls to mind Aesop’s fable of The Dog and its Reflection. La Fontaine took up its moral in his own fable:

We all are deceived in this world.
One can see so many madmen
Running after the shadow of a prey,
That one cannot count them all.

De Gaulle staunchly opposed Britain’s entry in the Common Market, and twice vetoed its membership in 1961 and 1967, on the same grounds which, one must say, had made Churchill doubt about the good of it for Britain, as he told the House of Commons in 1950 ie : Britain’s position, ‘at the centre of the British Empire and Commonwealth’, and, ‘ our fraternal association with the United States of America.’ But he went on ‘ We are prepared to consider and, if convinced, to accept the abrogation of national sovereignty, provided that we are satisfied with the conditions and the safeguards… national sovereignty is not inviolable, and it may be resolutely diminished for the sake of all men in all the lands finding their way home together.’ Britain’s former Prime Minister Edward Heath, who successfully negotiated the United Kingdom’s entry in the European Community on January 1st 1973, who had known and worked with Churchill, wrote in an article in the Guardian in 1996 : ‘… I am sure Churchill would now favour a policy that enabled Britain to be at the heart of the European Union… Churchill would be the first to realise that in the world today, where an isolated Britain would be dwarfed by five great powers, the United States, Russia, China, Japan and the European Union, Britain’s full participation in the European Union is vital, both for Britain and the rest of the world.’

In his seminal speech at the Congress of Europe in 1948, Churchill had called for a European Charter and a Court of Human Rights. France, the European nation which had issued in 1789 the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, directly inspired by the 1776 American Declaration of Independance, ‘ All men are born equal’, with the right to ‘ Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’, conceived by President Jefferson of English ancestry, was not at the vanguard of this visionary humanist initiative. It had to face its own demons which have haunted the French for centuries. Without going back to the northern Crusade against the southern Cathars, the fight between the Armagnacs and the Burgundians, the Wars of religions, French history is the story of an endlessly violent internal fight beween conflicting values and factions, interspersed with intermittent periods of remission. It is a country forever divided onto itself, and the shadow of a national psychosis has grown heavy over the centuries, in particular since, in more recent times, for all its claims to rationalism in the ‘Age of Enlightenment’, it has never adequately dealt with and exorcized the moral trauma of the 1789 Revolution : its regicide and the horrors of civil war perpetrated during the ensuing Terror. Bonaparte did manage to bring back some stability and prosperity for a while during the Consulate and First Empire, but at the price of endless wars which devastated Europe and did not create permanent political cohesion internally. Throughout the 19th century the pendulum swang between Monarchists and Republicans, between the radicalised socialist revolutionary urban society and the traditionally conservative Catholic large population of rural France. The situation exploded with the 1871 Paris socialist Commune, which ruled over the city for 3 months, its repression during the ‘ Bloody Week’, and the formation of the Third Republic by Thiers.

Usually united in the face of common ennemy, it was not the case in 1940, and after the Second World War, it was the noxious inheritance of the Vichy government and Collaboration that France had to face up to and deal with. It was by no means an easy task, even Alsatian-born Schuman, one of the Founding Fathers of Europe had at one time participated in the Vichy government, to be reinstated in political life by De Gaulle in 1945. It was of course a matter of degree of involvement and circumstances. Thus Maurice Papon, the former Bordeaux police prefect, who, under the Nazi occupation had sent French Jews to death camps, became a Gaullist after the war and held important official posts. He played a key role during the Algerian war, using torture against prisoners and ordering the 1961 Paris massacre of the FNL demonstrators whose bodies were thrown in the Seine in unknown number. De Gaulle, who had been called to the presidency to deal with the Algerian crisis in the hope of retaining this French colony, awarded him the Légion d’Honneur that same year. It was not until 1998 that Papon was caught up by his bloody past, he was then put on trial and condemned for crimes against humanity. Mitterand, who as President abolish the death penalty in France in 1981, had sentenced 45 Algerian members of the FNL to the guillotine in 1956-57 as Minister of Justice during the Algerian war. Mitterand also came under strong suspicions of collaboration in the 1980’s and 90’s for his involvement with the Vichy goverment and his close friendship with René Bousquet, the former Vichy chief of police who sent thousand of French Jews to their death. Among other misdeeds he was responsible, for the infamous 1942 Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup. He was assassinated in 1993 before his trial for crimes against humanity had started.

Put into this context, it is easy to see that France’s involvement with the European Community has never been from the beginning an easy and straigtforward one, but tinged with ambivalence and overshadowed by the spectres of the past. It is also easy to understand Churchill’s sometime wavering and reservations about joining the European Union. Yet Britain’s membership can be seen, in some respects, as bringing an outer necessary balancing element in the European union between the two major protagonists, France and Germany. This precious independent voice must be preserved, even if it becomes at times dissonant. This is the case with the present referendum which emphasizes many of the deficiencies of a nearly 60 years’s old institution, which has grown in a fairly haphardly manner, assuming an overblown dimension, with redundant features. The whole structure of the European Community needs to be reassessed in the light of the realities of a changed world : globalization, immigration, financial crisis, the threat to the environment of an over-industrialized world, the threat to European and world peace of growing radicalized extremist groups whether terrorists or right-wing populists, the rise of Daesh in the Middle East. Britain’s call for a referendum can act as a gad-fly, a necessary evil, to trigger off a salutary reassessment of Europe’s state and status, and redefine its aims, its role and position, within its own frontiers and in the world at large.

It is time also to take stock of European’s policies on solidarity and humanitarian issues, as well as protection and defense of its frontiers. The richer Northern countries cannot expect the poorer ones such as Greece, Spain and Italy, to have to deal alone with the surge of migrants leaving their own countries spurred on either by wars, as in the Near and Middle East, or economic disasters, as in Africa. They are often the results of Western interventionnism in their inner politics, or over-exploitation of their natural ressourses to profit large international groups.

Since many voices are being heard speaking of ‘European Christian roots and values’, these various people or groups would do well to remember that ‘Caritas’ is a cardinal Christian virtue. It is neither ‘condescending’, as had said Margaret Thatcher when asked about compassion, nor is it gratuitous charity. It encompasses the concepts of fraternal brotherhood and solidarity, it is a basic value, which the Founding Fathers of Europe advocated, for all men, whatever their race, their creed, their religion. They were Christian Democrats and their vision was meant to bring peace, harmony and prosperity to all, in accordance with the recognition and respect of the dignity of man in his spiritual dimension, for all men and all religions, a religious pluralism as recognized by the Belgian Jesuit Jacques Dupuis. All men are equal is a basic Christian tenet. Man as a spritual being enjoys a fondamental right, and this right is unalienable. It depends in no way of the State and must be recognized and acknowledged. And all men are linked in the working for the common good of all.

This equality between men has little to do with the radical socialism which erupted in France in the 19th century. Whereas Karl Marx, who had lived in the Commune in Paris in 1871 and written a book about it, saw in it a source of inspiration as ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat…, the withering away of the state…, the glorious harbinger of a new society’ Mazzini, ‘the prophet of Europe’ condemned its excesses, denounced the Socialist and Communist materialism and ‘class struggle’, advocating instead ‘class collaboration’. He also denounced the evils of rationalism and atheism, rejecting the revolutionary concept of intrinsic ‘Rights’ owed to men as a source of individualism, for those of human ‘Duties’ whereas one earn one’s ‘Rights’ through virtuous living, contributing to society through hard work and self-sacrifice, which allows for man’s spiritual dimension to grow in tolerance, altruism and humanity, and thus brings peace and harmony between men and nations.

Mazzini’s Jansenist inspired ethics are similar to those of the Christian Democrats. They are also close to those of Thatcher’s own Methodist upbringing, with its emphasis on the importance of a virtuous life, education and hard work. However she may well have quoted Francis of Assisi when moving in at 10 Downing Street, but the Raegan type neo-liberalism she introduced to Britain, which Tony Blair, her ‘best follower’ in her own words, also pursued, is responsible for the worldwide grip of over- powerful financial international bodies, which precipitated the 2008 financial crisis. Untold misery has resulted for millions all over the world. Its effects must be taken into account in some of Britain’s present ills, which do not all come from the inadequacies of the European Union. In an equitable society economy and capitalism should be put at the service of all men, for their benefit and well-being. The majority of men should not be slaves to the system for the greed and profit of the few. The respect of others would then go together with the respect of their environment, and nature would be preserved as a common inheritance to be protected and husbanded in the care and awareness of the natural ressources made available, to ensure a sustainable development. This is also a Christian Democrat notion. As is the decentralisation of the State’s administrative powers to percolate down to the various social groupings, allowing for a better respect of individual liberties, including religious ones, and the free teaching of the various religions, with obvious implications for Europe.

The present situation in Europe hardly reflects this earlier ideal, when in France, for example, under the pretext of laïcité, which should be tolerance of all religions, but is repression of all forms of religious symbols for the sake of secularisation and Socialist atheism, there is a constant vociferous debate over the wearing of the veil for Muslim women. Britain who can boast in London the first Muslim mayor of a European capital city, brings a pacifying note to the widespread European clamour of racial and religious discrimination. The United Kingdom in its ancestral institutions, the Common Law set by the Norman William the Conqueror, the Magna Carta, the Parliament, its monarch anointed according to the ancient French coronation ceremony, the traditions and people inherited from its former Empire and Commonwealth, enjoys a historic continuity, right to the survival of earlier Saxon’s features. It is the source of Britain’s inner sense of pride and security enabling the nation to face, and to survive, the vagaries of life and the passing of time. Is it necessary to recall that England’s mottoes are in French, Dieu et mon Droit, and Honni soit qui mal y pense ?

France, with England the oldest European nation, is sadly divorced from a large part of its historical past, and forever shaken by social commotions in an endlessly feverish search for the new, unable to build on foundations made shaky through its own self-destructive tendencies. The last two presidencies are a sad testimony to France’s decline at all levels, nationally and internationally. The governing of the country has just become an empty two-dimensional media show, exercised with neither true authority, nor vision and direction. The country is rapidly sinking into social chaos. Violence in conflicts between various groups and the police is on the rise. Democratic rights and basic liberties are eroded in the name of security by an authoritarian anti-demoncratic socialist government seeking to conceal its inherent incompetence and incoherence in assuming a would-be reassuring posture which is an imposture. The two international events held in Paris, the COP21 for the climate and the recent Palestine summit, are just a pathetic example of France’s incapacity of influencing international affairs through its own contradictions and idiosyncracies.

Once the largest and most important agricultural European country, France is also the Community’s highest consumer of chemical fertilizers polluting land, water and air. It is now selling vast expanses of prime agricultural land to the Chinese, who inundate the European market with its products, often filled with harmful chemicals, at vast production of CO2 during the journey. The Chinese are also colonizing the urban French landscape in buying all the small local cafés and brasseries, the French themselves cannot afford to run any longer for all the intricacies and pettiness of its bureaucracy. It is left to Angela Merkel to denounce the Chinese agressive commercial methods and the unfair dumping of steel on the European market. The French extensive waterways network remains largely unused for freight transport, the lorries’s fuel consumption continue to pollute the air with CO2, for fear of another strike and social unrest. If Sarkozy is once more elected, the mining for shale gas shall destroy an ancient land harmoniously fashioned by the hand of men over thousands of years, and pollute forever the ground water.

France’s position in the Middle East has been totally discredited by Sarkozy’s erratic governement and its perverse and corrupt relationship with Libya and Syria. Holland’s government held a summit on international policy over Palestine, yet it penalizes French people who stand for the economic boycott of Israeli products to stop the spread of Jewish settlements in Arab-owned land in Palestine. France’s guilt over the Jewish persecution during the Second World War still exercises a powerful hold on its home and foreign policy, and does not allow for any objectivity and constancy in its attitude towards the region’s political situation. Despite its former mandates and colonies in Arab-speaking countries, France has never had the equivalent of the British Middle East Centre of Arabic Studies, (MECAS), created after the war by Sir Bertram Thomas in Jerusalem to form an elite Arabist corps at the Foreign Office. The French Intelligence Services do not even have Arab-speaking agents to track and detect potential terrorists on their own territory, and have to employ outside bilingual translators for the job.

Mazzini had advocated the following of thought by action, denouncing intellectualism, and rationalizing for its own sake, a French fault to excess now reflected in the European Union’s management and administration. With the overmediatization of all human actions, it is rarely thought that is now concerned, but rather words. It seems that words are beeing issued without prior rational and reasonable thinking, under emotional impulse and on the spur of the moment, with no sincerity nor convictions. If not meant to deliberately confuse in the perverse disinformation game of political propaganda. With France’s sorry weakened state on home ground, in Europe and abroad, Britain must stand for steadfastness and determination, and give the Community a new direction. It must endeavour to reform the European Union for the better, on the strength of its unique position. It is to be hoped that it shall not relinquish its privileged status with the issue of the referendum, and let the opportunity pass by. Europe would be the poorer for it, and its future, and that of the world, made bleaker.

What more to add but to quote Shakespeare’s verses ? The words of the Plantagenet English king, Edward II, born in Bordeaux, depicted on the Wilton Dyptich kneeling at the Court of the Virgin in the company of the English royal saints Edward the Confessor and Edmund the Martyr, bearing on this mantle his royal badge, a white hart. They come to me every time, when eschewing the speed and modernity of the Eurostar, I choose to see the white cliffs of Dover loom over the watery silver grey horizon, slowly coming nearer as the ferry sails across the Channel, my heart overwhelmed with emotion, my throat tightening and tears rising to my eyes. I learnt them as a teenager, when I studied Shakespeare. Aged 10 years old, I had the prescience while reading Sir Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskerville and Dickens’s David Copperfield, that to live in the modern world I had to be an anglophile. Indeed, I have lived inside Churchill ‘three majestic circles’ the ‘Empire and Commonwealth’, ‘the English speaking world’ and a ‘United Europe’ . My life has been, and still is, the richer, the fuller and the better for it.

…This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,…
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

MONIQUE RICCARDI-CUBITT
Paris, June 18th 2016

UK and Europe: Securing the Common Future

Jeudi, mars 17th, 2016

Continuing our guest blog postings by Erika Angelidi, the Conservatives Abroad Representative in Greece, her latest contribution below follows on from her previous discussion of the critical issue of Brexit or not for the United Kingdom (Great Britain: EU or Brexit?).

United Kingdom and Europe: Securing the Common Future

Prime Minister Cameron’s successful “unanimous agreement” concerning “special status” for Great Britain within the European Union has marked an unprecedented state of clarity for EU and GB relations. This agreement solidifies the future presence of GB within bounds of the EU, as well as terms of cooperation on many levels and sectors. This development is to be taken under consideration by British voters in view of the upcoming membership referendum as to the important advantages that the above mentioned agreement entails.

One of the most important advantages that GB may ensure by remaining a member of the EU is apparently financial stability. In case of its exit, the damages would be severe. It is most certain, that job posts would be obliterated, while important manufacturers, as Nissan and Ford, would be to depart, as other investors who are currently enjoying EU privileges. Likewise, unpredictable developments would also arise in the area of commerce and would negatively affect the price of the sterling. Undoubtedly, difficulty in accessing the European market would also come forth. Everyday life for British citizens living in GB and abroad would be rendered most difficult.

Aside from these, one should think that Great Britain has traditionally been a primary actor in the international political life. A potential “Brexit” would diminish its role on the global setting, with negative impact in the country’s international political standing.

These are but some of the potential results in case of a “Brexit”. It is, thus, more than obvious that should Great Britain exiting the European Union materialise, the outcome would be unforeseen in all its expanse. Meanwhile, these who are for a potential “Brexit” fail to offer persuasive counter- arguments as to the matters stated above.

Should British voters reflect on this potential negative impact keeping in mind recent agreement developments, Great Britain’s enduring and prosperous stay in the European Union would be secured!

A United EU Can Address Shared Problems - Continued

Dimanche, janvier 24th, 2016

Only a united European Union may successfully address its shared problems”…continued…in this guest blog posting by Erika Angelidi, the Conservatives Abroad Representative in Greece.

It is not to be doubted that the roots of the issue of immigration lie in impoverishment and life’s conditions, that are climaxing in the countries facing the problem of the almost obligatory flight of their inhabitants. These countries could, perhaps, undertake, in coordination with the UN, a project that may relieve and support their inhabitants. Should such projects have been implemented in source countries sooner, there would have been a notable improvement of life conditions for the natives, and the inflow of immigrants into the European Continent would have been moderate in comparison.

There only remains a single question to be answered before: Is a constructive cooperation among all countries involved feasible? This is the only premise in order for decent life conditions and security for all (immigrants or non immigrants) to be achieved.

While we think these simple words “humane and decent life conditions and security for all”, what comes to mind? Though the answer ought to be self-understood by all, to many it is not, thus the phenomena of social turbulence leading to immigration are to be observed.

Let us revisit these very great and simple words to define their meaning: “humane life conditions and security”…If we were to ask a group of people in various places worldwide about the way they perceive these words, we are bound to receive different, if not contradictory, responses..

As a Physicist, I would like to suggest the adoption of a “common frame of reference” (Physics) or in other words a common point of reference and then these differences would bear only nuances at most. What is this noteworthy point of reference then? None other than our democratic institutions and our common, unquestionable humanity.

This would be the safest way toward the creation of societies respecting the factors “individual”, “person”, “human being”. As citizens of the European Union we bear an abounding legacy that can prove to be indispensable in facing the challenge of the current immigration; we may become main actors in an effort to reach a broader espousal of democracy and human rights in areas of the world where these are yet not solidified.

It is a heartfelt wish that a common multinational effort may be undertaken, in the noble ambition to support source countries and allow inhabitants, who wish to, to start their lives anew. Such a new beginning ought to be characterised by the espousal of democratic values and a dowry of our deeply felt, shared humanity.

Erika Angelidi
Conservatives Abroad,
Athens

EU Referendum Round-Up, January 2016 - Matthew Goodwin

Vendredi, janvier 22nd, 2016

Here’s the latest round-Up of research on Britain’s EU Referendum by Matthew Goodwin, Professor of Politics, University of Kent & Visiting Fellow Chatham House.

Is Leave Gaining Ground?

The Boris Effect - overrated?

What of the Renegotiation?

The Scottish Question.