Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London


January 2019

Brexit meaningful vote defeated – what next?

We are now at the Brexit endgame ahead of the March 29 scheduled date for the UK to depart the European Union.

The two and a half years since the 2016 EU Referendum have been difficult, as a strong Remainer representing a city that voted Remain and is now even more strongly Remain, according to opinion polls. I believe, after 20 years as a London MEP, that while the EU is by no means perfect it has helped bring relative peace and prosperity to Europe for the last half century.

The EU Referendum was approved by a slim majority, on a franchise that excluded many most affected by the outcome - such as the one million EU citizens living in London. The Referendum also took place at a time of challenges to the EU internally in the Eurozone and externally through the migration crisis. These issues have abated since and were anyway not directly relevant to the UK with its opt-outs, but were nevertheless made part of the campaign.

There was, in addition, no accepted single view of what leaving the EU would look like. The Leave campaign promised simplicity in untangling 46 years of joint work with EU partners. That has not materialised - just as £350 million per week for the NHS cannot be delivered by a non-existent Brexit dividend. Leaving the EU is actually predicted to contract the UK economy, and some £39 billion needs to be found to settle the UK’s liabilities.

Initially, after the result, I campaigned for the softest Brexit, including remaining in the Customs Union and Single Market via what is now known as Norway+. But the Government, after the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech and its redlines, excluded this possibility. What was proposed finally was far from the frictionless trade and cost-free deal promised by leading Brexiteers. I now believe that ship has sailed following the recent heavy defeat of the PM’s deal on January 15.

In the same way that I have learnt in my years as an MEP that many of my views about the EU were wrong, and to appreciate the EU as essential to British national interests, the UK public are also now more aware of what the EU does for the UK and young people in particular fear loss of freedom of movement. Therefore, I have now reluctantly concluded that the only way to resolve the impasse is through a final say second referendum to agree with informed consent to the terms of exit but with the additional option to vote Remain with all our opt-outs intact - as clarified by the European Court of Justice that Article 50 can be revoked.

I am delighted to be associated with the newly launched national campaign ‘Right to Vote’ for a final say Referendum to give informed consent to the outcome of the negotiations process, including a Remain option. This is under the chairmanship of fellow medic Dr Phillip Lee MP, an inspiring politician who resigned as a government Minister to speak and vote freely on Brexit. I believe Parliament which can’t easily find a solution should now accept a popular vote as the best way left to reunite a deeply divided country and party.

My role in the future enlargement of the EU

Whilst the UK is busily engaged in trying to leave the European Union there are a host of other countries in the Western Balkans seeking to join it.

One of those countries is Montenegro and for the past ten years, I am proud to have served as its Standing Rapporteur in the European Parliament, which complements my role as Conservative spokesman on foreign affairs in the European Parliament.

The dissolution of Yugoslavia and the subsequent Balkans Wars have contributed to a poor image for the region in the popular imagination and talk of those countries joining the European Union is met with scepticism and caution by many.

Having witnessed the progress of Montenegro over the past decade, however, I have no doubts about its place in the European Union ultimately.

Since its split from Serbia in 2006, the country has moved from strength to strength, last year being admitted to NATO as its 29th member.

Montenegro has fully aligned its foreign policy with the West, including joining the European Union’s sanctions regime against Russia following the annexation of Crimea.

As part of my duties as Standing Rapporteur, I author an annual report on the country’s progress, working together with colleagues from across all countries and political groups of the European Union to produce the text. Given my imminent departure as a Member of the European Parliament following the Brexit vote in the UK, I am sad to say that it shall be my last.

The UK has traditionally been one of the European Union’s chief proponents of the enlargement strategy and was at the forefront of convincing some of the more cautious Member States on the merits of enlarging to Central and Eastern Europe when 10 new countries acceded to the bloc in 2004. That enthusiasm has been maintained as Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia have since joined and the UK’s engagement in the Western Balkans has remained strong, even since the result of the 2016 Brexit Referendum.

Only last summer, the UK hosted in London the so-called “Berlin Plus Conference”, an annual gathering that brings together the European Union and Western Balkan 6 (comprising Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo) in order to discuss ways that the two groups can work together in step with the enlargement agenda.

will be very important that the UK and the EU27 work together on a shared agenda for the Western Balkans post-Brexit. The UK will have ample opportunity to provide future support to the region, which I believe the EU27 should accept.

Human rights event

In November I hosted and spoke at an event celebrating 70 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, organised by ADF International, a human rights organisation. The concept of human rights is an indispenable tool for working towards international peace and human dignity, protecting the most vulnerable and preserving freedom of expression and religion.

Italian TV interview

In November I hosted and spoke at an event celebrating 70 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, organised by ADF International, a human rights organisation. The concept of human rights is an indispenable tool for working towards international peace and human dignity, protecting the most vulnerable and preserving freedom of expression and religion.

Remembrance service

Paying my respects to our armed forces at Kensington and Chelsea’s Remembrance Service on 11 November at the War Memorial in Sloane Square, in the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Campaigning in London

In Hammersmith campaigning alongside Tony Devenish, Greater London Assembly Member for Hammersmith & Fulham, as well as a number of local Tory activists, for a Conservative victory for our candidate Shaun Bailey in the London Mayoral elections due in 2020.

Georgia meeting

I was delighted to see European Georgia Presidential Candidate David Bakradze, who is the current leader of the parliamentary minority and former speaker of the Georgian parliament from 2008-2012.

Business Brexit concerns

With Richard Perriman of Horizon International Cargo as he collected an award from the London Stock Exchange at the European Parliament. With 25 years experience in the import/export logistics business, he outlined his concerns about future customs arrangements post-Brexit.

Ukraine students

Meeting a group of students from the International Academy of Politics of Ukraine to discuss the work of the European Parliament and relations between the EU and Ukraine.

Citizens on the continent

With Sue Wilson, chair of Bremain in Spain, who is campaigning to stop Brexit and if it goes ahead, for citizens’ rights of UK nationals in the EU.

France TV interview

Giving my thoughts on the Withdrawal Agreement and its chances of passing the House of Commons to France24 News.

Hong Kong policy

Meeting leading Hong Kong politicians Martin Lee and Alan Leong to discuss the situation in Hong Kong and concerns about preserving its democracy as part of the one country, two systems policy.

Montenegro freedoms

Pictured with Camille Petit of the European Federation of Journalists and Radomir Krackovic, Montenegrin journalist and representative of country’s journalists’ trade union, to discuss media freedom in Montenegro as part of my role as Standing Rapporteur of the Parliament for Montenegro.

Bangladesh elections

In the Brussels Parliament hosting and chairing a conference on the December 2018 parliamentary elections in Bangladesh in the presence of a high level cross-party delegation of party representatives from Dhaka.

Heart valve discussion

Speaking at a roundtable event on heart valve disease in September. It is always a privilege as an MEP and a doctor to attend EU-wide public health initiatives in the European Parliament. An ageing demographic affects all advanced countries and I hope Brexit will not prevent such pan-EU medical initiatives which by comparing best practice brings consensus statements to benefit all.

Crimea annexation

Meeting with Akhtem Chyigoz, Deputy Chairman of Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars, to hear about the plight of his people, four years after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

Kremlin prisoners

Showing my support for Ukrainian prisoners of the Kremlin and Oleg Sentsov - this year’s Sakharov Prize Winner - who went on a hunger strike and risked his life for the freedom of his compatriots.

British in Europe

With a delegation from British in Europe, a coalition group dedicated to protecting the three million EU citizens in the UK and the 1.2 million British citizens rights living in the EU27 post-Brexit, whom I met on the their visit to the Strasbourg Parliament.
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