Brexit has destroyed the Conservative art of statecraft - and it could take decades to rebuild - Barnaby TownsJune 19, 2019
This article was initially published by The Independent and shared on the CGE website with the agreement of the author.
Some 10 Conservative leadership elections have taken place since that party’s MPs first directly elected the country’s leader. Edward Heath’s 1965 election, completed in days rather than weeks, ended the reign of what Tory rising star Iain MacLeod called the "magic circle" of Old Etonians. This undemocratic process had, McLeod complained, stitched up Alec Douglas-Home’s elevation as leader, and therefore prime minister, in 1963.
The Conservative Group for Europe AGM took place at the splendid Council Room of One Great George Street - right across from the Houses of Parliament. The room was full, with extra chairs at the back and a number of participants standing. The atmosphere was very positive, upbeat and optimistic with inspiring speeches, convivial discussions and many plans for the future.
An Island with a deep and long history, host to civilizations from the Phoenicians onwards; oozing with natural beauty and a rich culture, Cyprus is a jewel in the Mediterranean. Yet it is Europe’s last divided nation as well. It’s division, history and future prospects were the focus of the three day EDS study mission to Larnaca, where I was honored to represent the YCGE. We were hosted by our friends in EDS, FPK Protoporia, with delegations from across Europe, South America and Lebanon.
The Commons vote on 29 March that rejected the Withdrawal Agreement increased the likelihood of the UK leaving the European Union on 12 April with ‘no deal’. Cabinet ministers have described the consequences of ‘no deal’ as catastrophic. However, in six polls since 1 February 2019, an average of 43% of voters have said that the UK should, if the Commons cannot agree a deal, leave the EU with ‘no deal’. On 27 March, 160 MPs, 25% of MPs, voted in support of ‘no deal’.
What is Common Market 2.0?
Common Market 2.0 is great branding for a new trading relationship with the EU. It resonates with the notion that the European Economic Community was only about trade when the UK joined in 1973. In fact, the founding member states had always seen the overriding objective as achieving lasting peace in Europe. They saw trade as the principal means to achieve that end by building deep relationships between European countries. In 1973 and 1975, UK leaders were clear with the public that the UK would play a key role in developing closer political unity between European countries.
CM2 describes the trade part of the future UK-EU relationship. It has nothing to do with the Withdrawal Agreement and comes after the transition period. The main benefit of CM2 would be to maintain, to a large extent, frictionless trade between the UK and the EU27. CM2 does not provide the smooth, full participation in the Single Market that EU members enjoy, and it will carry some limited economic costs. Note that CM2 would take the UK out of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy.
The Executive of the Conservative Group for Europe regrets and condemns the vote of ‘No Confidence’ by the Beaconsfield Conservative Association in its MP, Dominic Grieve. We believe our Chairman, Mr Grieve, to be a distinguished and honourable MP who has served his country, constituency and Party with distinction. He is a committed and patriotic Conservative in the mainstream of the traditions of the Party. We strongly support his work to ensure that arrangements for Brexit command the full-hearted support of Parliament and fully understand his determination that the public should be afforded the opportunity to pass judgement on those arrangements.
The PM should recognise that no available option has a democratic mandate, and seek one
Whatever else could be said of the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement, it has achieved one seemingly impossible task: that of uniting CGE’s chairman, Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, with his internal polar opposites from the ERG. There is not a hair’s breadth between them in their assessment that the Withdrawal Agreement cherry-picks from each of their ideals and moulds the parts into a uniquely worst-of-all-worlds Dog’s Brexit in which the UK remains inside the EU without a vote.
Following on from the overwhelming support for an Informed Vote by CGE members, we have been organising and taking part in a variety of initiatives. These have ranged from an International Policy Seminar organised by our youth wing, to the March for a People's Vote where we sent a large delegation.