A post-referendum verdict on British exit from the EU
Nearly five months after the UK electorate decided by referendum to leave the European Union we are still far from discovering what shape this will take.
The most vocal proponents of Brexit leading up to and during the campaign have now fallen curiously silent or have simply continued to make ever bolder claims about what the future holds.
I have been a long-time proponent of the underlying purpose of the European Union and campaigned for a remain vote. It is by no means perfect but it has brought peace and prosperity to Europe for the last half century and is a force for good in a modern world in which globalisation makes cross-border cooperation ever more necessary. Its reversal or disintegration does not augur well for good global governance.
The EU referendum was conducted in a manner and on terms which I believe gave in some areas a significant advantage to the leave campaign. The exclusion of many Brits living in EU countries - due to the rule that revokes a UK citizen’s right to vote after having resided outside of the country for more than 15 years - was one of the most egregious, and was contrary to the Conservative’s 2015 manifesto pledge to abolish the rule. Following the Brexit vote the new administration has since honoured this commitment and will be proposing legislation.
The referendum, whilst not legally binding, was clearly conducted on an understanding that its result would be respected. There was, however, no accepted view of what leaving the EU would look like and the terms for leaving were poorly outlined. That the overall UK majority to leave was a narrow 1.9%; that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay; that in London 59% voted to remain and that there was a majority to remain in all but five of 33 London boroughs, point to the need for a ‘soft Brexit’.
I have represented London as a Conservative MEP for 17 years and I will continue as long as the UK remains an EU member. That there was a clear majority in London for the UK to remain emboldens me to oppose those seeking to interpret the referendum as a means to completely detach Britain from Europe.
My main priorities over the coming months are to press for continued passporting rights for the City, important if London is to retain its position as the world’s financial capital; continued access to intelligence sharing and databases which will be key to counter-terrorism work and fighting cross-border crime; an ability to fill skill-shortages in the construction and health-care sectors that EU migrants have contributed to; maintaining unfettered access to the single market that is unique in allowing British companies to trade across 27 EU countries; and continued cooperation on CFSP & CSDP foreign affairs and security matters, an area I can meaningfully contribute to after 15 years as Conservative Spokesman on the subject. All of those requirements point clearly to a deal that would see the UK remain a member of the Single Market and the Customs Union on leaving the EU. I was delighted to see the signing of the Canada Free Trade Deal (CETA), which will boost UK trade with Canada by over 20% over the next two years and so we would do well to retain this and the other 60 EU trading agreements post Brexit. Whilst I believe such an arrangement would be inferior to current arrangements, this solution delivers Brexit without the economic and diplomatic damage of a ‘Hard-Brexit”
If continued membership of the Customs Union is not achievable, I advocate using as a negotiation position Article 112 of the EEA Treaty to conclude a Norwegian Lite model for the UK to have a cap on migration as currently enjoyed by Lichtenstein but with full access to the Single Market. However, this would not resolve the negative effects on supply lines, as the Nissan case highlights, nor the dangers of a hard customs border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
If the Supreme Court upholds the Brexit judgement on the triggering of Article 50 I look forward to these issues being fully debated in Parliament. Whatever the future relationship between Britain and the EU, the Government has some very tough choices to make that will affect us for many generations
The unexpected victory of Donald Trump to become the 45th President of the United States will no doubt pose a series of foreign policy challenges, given some of the extraordinary statements he has made during the recent campaign, which I shall explore in further detail in my next newsletter in the New Year.
Meeting PM Theresa May
At Number 10 with Prime Minister Theresa May where we discussed Brexit. At the MEP delegation meeting, I called for the maximum alignment of UK foreign policy with that of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. I also made a plea to guarantee the rights of those EU citizens currently living in the UK who are in work or self-sufficient as this issue is causing a lot of ill-will with our EU partners who have never raised the issue of UK citizens resident in their territories.
Italian TV discussion
Speaking on Italian national television discussing Brexit, the migrant crisis and the EU Council meeting. I noted that whilst the deal between the EU and Turkey has substantially reduced the number of people reaching Europe, the current figure of 316,000 people for 2016 is too high to sustain in the long-term. Prime Minister Renzi is threatening to veto the EU budget unless some migrants are relocated to other member states.
Backing the City during Brexit
The launch at the Capital Club in London of the Financial Services Negotiation (FSN) Forum with its chair Anthony Belchambers and consultant Graham Bishop. I am on the Advisory Council of this platform for industry practitioners and policy makers to agree a consensus on critical issues relevant to the Brexit negotiations.
Rough sleeper charity
With Jason Eades of De Paul UK at its London headquarters, learning of the fabulous work this homelessness charity does helping rough sleepers in my constituency.
Brave released Ukraine pilot
Welcoming Nadiya Savchenko to the European Parliament, the recently freed political prisoner and brave Ukrainian pilot illegally detained in Russia.
Citizenship event in Greenwich
With Polish Consul in London Michal Mazurek at an event in Greenwich Town Hall to welcome EU residents in the Royal Borough of Greenwich and mark their contribution to the UK.
Bratislava night shelter
Visiting the De Paul night shelter in Bratislava, Slovakia run by the international charity for the homeless.
Ambassador to Armenia
Meeting with HE Tatoul Markarian, Armenian Ambassador to Belgium and head of its mission to the EU. We discussed the situation in Armenia and the region, as well as what lies ahead for UK-Armenian relations following Britain’s decision to leave the EU. I have recently received as a great honour the second decoration from the President of Armenia for services towards the recognition of the Armenian genocide in 1915.
Supporting the Peshmerga
Supporting the brave work of the Peshmerga, the military forces of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan in the fight to free Mosul, alongside fellow MEPs from across the political groups. Since June 2014 Mosul has been under the control of Islamic State but a major offensive is taking back the city.
Slovak journalist briefing
Pleased to have had the opportunity to practice some of my beginner’s Slovak and to explain to a group of Slovak journalists what Brexit means for Britain and the EU. It was fantastic to meet them, and realise how well informed they are about UK affairs. They share my deep sorrow as fellow Europeans and Anglophiles about Brexit.
Australia's Foreign Minister
I was delighted to welcome Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop MP to debate the European Union-Australia Free Trade Agreement as well as discuss Asia-Pacific security and managing migration flows. In the debate it was clear that Australia wishes to keep all its diplomatic and commercial channels open to a deal with the EU and will not formally negotiate a deal with the UK before it leaves the EU.
Discussing Turkey's direction
With the EU’s External Action Service’s Head of Delegation to Turkey, Christian Berger, discussing the current situation in Turkey. I outlined my ongoing concerns about the direction in which Erdogan is taking the country, particularly following the failed coup and the Government’s response in arresting thousands of journalists, academics and civil servants.
It is always a pleasure to greet Ambassador of India to the EU Manjeev Singh Puri in order to discuss EU and UK-India relations.
Amnesty Iran meet
Ahead of publication of a European Parliament report on EU Iran relations, meeting the Amnesty EU team to discuss juvenile executions and denials of medical treatment to political prisoners.
Speaking about Russia propaganda
Speaking to RTE Spanish Television about EU-Russia relations, Syria, EU sanctions and the Russian propaganda machine.
Giving an interview to Montenegrin Television in the year of the country’s tenth anniversary since independence. Montenegro has secured its place on the international stage as an economically viable state and is working its way successfully to membership of NATO and the EU. I have been the Standing rapporteur for Montenegro for the last seven years.
Syrian refugee impact on Lebanon
With the Ambassador of Lebanon to the EU HE Rami Mortada discussing the Syrian refugee crisis as Lebanon is under enormous strain from the sheer numbers fleeing their neighbour and also other wider Middle East challenges.
Belgian television debate with Greens
With the Leader of the Greens in the European Parliament, discussing on Belgian TV the current political situation in the UK post-referendum.