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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Comment"

May’s Deal 1) Andrew Feldman – Party members must back it and her. Let’s not give Corbyn the crisis he craves.

Andrew Feldman is a former Chairman of the Conservative Party.

In recent months, I have spent time talking to business leaders in the UK and around the world. They all have two questions for me. Is there going to be a Brexit deal? Is there a chance that Jeremy Corbyn will become Prime Minister? My reply is always the same. That those two questions are inextricably linked.

If there is a sensible deal, then it is likely that the UK will enjoy an economic boost, releasing pent-up investment from a period of deep uncertainty. Businesses based here would stop sitting on their hands and commit to the new factories, warehouses and capital projects that we need. Investors abroad would once again feel confident that the UK was ‘open for business’, and would seek out the immense opportunities that we offer.

If this happens, the prospects of Corbyn being elected recede dramatically. Improving economic growth and confidence would facilitate continuing high levels of employment, wage growth and investment in public services. The Conservatives would secure their hard-won reputation for responsible government, fiscal prudence and effective management of the economy.

On the other hand, if there is not a deal, and a chaotic exit from the EU, the picture will change dramatically. Businesses will not only sit on their hands, but may start to withdraw activity from the UK. Investment from abroad may be replaced by dramatic divestment. Now of course, over time things may settle down. But there will undoubtedly be a risk of serious economic dislocation – causing substantial job losses, slowing growth and curbing the ability to improve public services.

And of course, Corbyn and John McDonnell are desperate for that to happen – some kind of shock to the UK that can help to win them power. Ideally, they want to force an early general election, because the Conservatives can’t agree on a plan. Failing that, they would take a violent and disorderly departure from the EU, leading to a recession – and then to election victory at a later date.  Chaos and uncertainty are their route to power.

This is more than ruthless ambition; it is rooted in ideology. Karl Marx predicted the inevitable demise of capitalism as part of the great tide of history. Frustratingly for him, it never happened. Living in England until the end of his life, he marvelled at the ability of the British to adapt their system. To accommodate the needs and demands of their changing industrialised economy. His theory did not predict the peaceful emergence of the NHS or the welfare state. He died miserably ruminating over his unfinished sequel to Das Kapital.

The Marxists in Britain have been continually disappointed. They have lurked at the fringes of Labour politics for many years. Unfortunately, they have now entered the mainstream. They are waiting to seize their moment to impose their already discredited ideology on generations who have not experienced its horrors first hand.

It is the duty of the Conservative Party to stop this happening. A Corbyn-led Labour Government would be a disaster for this country. And although Brexit is undoubtedly a seismic event; there is no need to for it to lead to a Tsunami, destroying all before it. The Conservative Party has faced momentous moments before. The reaction has always been pragmatism. Evolution not revolution. Steadiness and deal-making.

In her speech in Birmingham, Theresa May reminded us of this legacy. She asked her Party to come together in the national interest to deliver a solution to the Brexit conundrum. To help her to thread the needle of respecting the democratic result of the referendum; of preserving our proud Union; of keeping the economy on track and business on side, and of finding a fair basis for trading with our close neighbours and allies.

We are leaving the EU: the referendum result must be respected. As with all marriages, it may end with sour words and slamming doors. But once the anger has subsided, we need to come together to work out the future, to protect the interests of the next generation. We need to be grown up enough to accept that although we are going through a divorce, we cannot just walk away from our responsibilities and move on. This can take time and involve ongoing obligations.

And as the Prime Minister reminded us, it is not just Conservatives who need to stand firm. Our friends in the DUP know what a Corbyn Government could mean. They know that his well-documented Republican sympathies would risk the break-up of the Union. He longs for a United Ireland with the same passion that he dislikes the United Kingdom.

So we need to make sure that we rally behind the Prime Minister and help her to deliver a sensible, measured deal. We need to do this to frustrate Corbyn and McDonnell. We need to do this in the national interest. And we need to do this to keep Marx spinning in his grave up in Highgate.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

May’s Deal 2) Rebecca Ryan – It endangers Leave. Now the 51 MPs who have pledged to Stand Up for Brexit must keep their promise

Rebecca Ryan is Campaign Director for Stand Up For Brexit.

The Conservative grassroots are feeling betrayed. Over the past year, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with activists at every level of the party who are totally outraged by how Brexit has been handled. The reactions range from utter disbelief to volcanic rage. Membership cards have been cut up. Tools are being downed. Since the Brexit referendum, which so many members were so delighted to finally be offered, and were so passionate about delivering – hence David Cameron’s majority in 2015 – the grassroots have been slowly frozen out. The result is that the Brexit which so many of us thought we were fighting for could be slipping away.

All of this could have been avoided had the membership, the beating heart of our party, been listened to and supported. It’s often said that the cliche about cliches is that they’re true. The cliche about party members is that we’re sometimes over-zealous, but that we believe in the cause, and are prepared to give up vast amounts of our personal time and money to try and keep the Conservative Party in office and advance its interests. To expect the Party leadership to at least attempt to reflect our views should not be too much. In fact, a healthy two-way relationship between the senior Party and the troops on the ground is absolutely essential.

Ever-centralising control has not worked. The answer to the Conservative Party’s current and future problems is not for the leadership to hunker down and enclose itself in a bunker, but open its ears and listen. We know that when the leadership works in tandem with the wishes of its members, great things can be achieved: our victory in 2015 is evidence of that. But when it stops listening and goes off in its own direction, problems swiftly occur; our near-defeat by Jeremy Corbyn merely two years later is evidence of that. We should not be afraid of recognising that, at the height of our modern success in the 1980s, associations were far more autonomous and the dialogue between activists and senior party figures was much more open. Messages were sent – both ways.

My Stand Up For Brexit campaign has given me unparalleled access to the Conservative Party on the ground. Our mission is quite simple: to raise MPs’ awareness of the discontent amongst members of the public, Conservative activists, Assocation Chairmen and party members over the Government’s Chequers White Paper. We ask MPs to Stand Up For Brexit by rejecting Chequers, and delivering the Brexit that was promised at Lancaster House and in the Conservative Manifesto. That means leaving the Single Market, Customs Union and European Court Court of Justice overview.

Given Theresa May’s statement last night, and the letter subsequently issued by Jacob Rees-Mogg, I feel confident that the 51 Conservative MPs who have pledged to uphold these key tenets of Leave will stick by their promise. Naturally, I am deeply disappointed by the path that the Prime Minister has chosen. It seems to be the very opposite of what the British people voted for and our Party is committed to deliver. A permanent customs union with the EU, without any guaranteed means of leaving it, is simply unacceptable. It’s hard not to conclude that the current policy is the result of a leadership which has become totally detached both from the Conservative family as a whole, and fro, the wider electorate.

It is time for “the troops” to be taken seriously in the running of the party; we are not just there to deliver leaflets. I know that any mention of ‘party reform’ can be terrifying for senior figures, who fear losing control to curtain-twitching village fete organisers. But that’s a stereotype – it’s not what the conservative membership actually is. Supporters of my campaign come from every part of the party. They’re southern, northern, white, black, gay, bisexual. Everybody is represented, and united in wanting the best for our country through a Conservative Party which is sensitive to the electorate and fulfils its promises.

To achieve this, local associations need to expand their appeal, and in particular, start engaging with 30-55 year olds. We become naturally more conservative when we approach 30 and start looking to settle down. Eighteen year olds are often focussed on in political debate; they are great assets and do fantastic, energetic work. But we need the machinery and vitality to appeal to the “establishing a career”, “just-having-children-and-setting-up-home” demographic. They are our core vote. They need to be harnessed.

Being committed Conservatives, we are worried about damaging the party and, therefore, are squeamish about questioning its decisions and structures in public. As part of our campaign, we had 45 Association Chairmen and senior party members commit to oppose Chequers on the first morning of this year’s conference. They were the brave ones; many more feel nervous about coming forward publicly. A culture of distrust is crystallising between the membership and our Parliamentary representatives. That is unhealthy, and needs to be dealt with. Principles and political careers are not always the happiest of bedfellows – but the grassroots admire those with principles, and are worried that too many of our MPs are abandoning them in favour of possible preferment. 80 per cent of the membership are Brexiteers. 70 per cent of Conservative voters support Brexit. And yet 70 per cent of MPs are Remainers. How has this huge disconnect been allowed to happen? And what can both sides – the volunteer and the professional Party – do to change it?

Ultimately, we need to take the climate of change that delivered Brexit and use it to reinvigorate the Conservative Party at every level. Rather than letting those who leant us their vote disappear off into the disengaged horizon, we must deliver on their expectations, and seize their newfound but rapidly dissipating interest in democracy to remould the Conservative Party into a responsive and engaged vehicle for all. And that happens by re-empowering the grassroots.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Damien Phillips: As Merkel calls for a “real, true” European army, Cabinet members must grasp the threat that this deal poses to our security

Damien Phillips is a public affairs consultant. 

Julian Thompson, the Major-General who led the commando landings during the Falklands War, and who now serves as Chairman for the Veterans for Britain campaign group, has been closely following the development of UK defence and security policy since the EU referendum – and his observations are disturbing as we move towards the Brexit negotiation ‘endgame’.

He believes that “the UK has been ambushed over post-Brexit defence arrangements. The withdrawal proposals would keep the UK in a range of programmes and policies led by the EU. This proximity cannot be granted in the terms that the Government’s proposals suggest: we would be under EU power. The practical consequence is a loss of UK sovereign foreign policy autonomy and a loss of UK political powers over its defence establishment.”

The ‘KitKat Tapes’, revealed earlier this year, showed key Whitehall officials boasting that the defence and foreign policy deal sought by the UK on Brexit would be akin to a chocolate layer hiding UK ties to Brussels. Caught on tape was Alasdair Brockbank, Defence Adviser to Oliver Robbins.  He claimed that civil servants are actively working to keep the UK in the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

Brockbank also said that the plan is for the UK to opt back into the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs programme after the transition period comes to an end in 2021. Such an outcome would entail the UK being much more directly under the auspices of the European Court of Justice than the Prime Minister would care to admit, since the ECJ oversees large swathes of EU judicial programmes, such as the European Arrest Warrant.

The EU views security and justice as inextricably linked: its Justice and Home Affairs Council has the explicit aim of creating an “EU-wide area of freedom, security and justice”.  And only yesterday, Angela Merkel called for a “real, true” European Army.

So far, the Government has presented UK cooperation with the EU on such matters as uncontroversial and desirable. May’s Chequers proposal aims for an arrangement that provides “a legal basis for future cooperation on the basis of existing EU law enforcement and criminal justice tools”; one that is underpinned by “the principle of mutual recognition and trust between member states.”

However, senior officials on both sides of the Channel are suffering under a dangerous delusion about the integrity of EU members. Take, for example, the soon-to-be anointed President of the Council of the European Union, effectively the flagship nation of the EU, which rotates every six months. From January 2019, the position will be held by Romania – recently derided by Due Process, a leading cross-party NGO, as the worst human rights abuser in the EU. Its rule of law crisis has now become so grave that the former Director of the FBI, Louis Freeh, has called for dramatic action to restore confidence in its judicial system amid escalating concerns about how its so-called anti-corruption drive has fundamentally undermined due process, basic human rights – and long been manifestly corrupt itself.

The former Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, wrote to Romania’s President to express his outrage at the “continuing damage to the rule of law in Romania being done under the guise of effective law enforcement”. He highlighted the widespread intimidation of judges, defence lawyers, and witnesses. He also rightly decried the unconstitutional phone tapping, the forced confessions and the unfair judicial processes presided over by the former Chief Prosecutor of the Romanian National Anticorruption Directorate, Laura Kovesi. She is the prosecutor hilariously lauded as “Miss Justice” by the pro-EU Economist magazine, who erroneously claimed she had been sacked for ‘being too good at her job’.

Back in the real world, a series of secret protocols uncovered by Romanian journalists show unlawful and widespread collusion between the Romanian intelligence services and every single arm of the Romanian government and judiciary, going back as far as 2005. They reveal a country that is ruled by a shadowy, unelected cabal of intelligence officers and one that has barely moved on from the days of the old Communist deep state.

Figures from across the UK’s political spectrum have been warning about the dangers of close judicial and security cooperation with EU members like Romania for several years. These include Andrew Robathan, the former Conservative Defence Minister, and David Clark, the former special adviser to Robin Cook. Indeed, their views are further reinforced by the prescient warnings of John Scarlett, the former head of MI6, as well as others in and around Britain’s intelligence community.

Security and justice are both areas in which the UK should be much more discerning about who it cooperates with and to what extent. Richard Dearlove, another former MI6 head, pointed out, “Britain is Europe’s leader in intelligence and security matters and gives much more than it gets in return.” Our European partners can be unreliable and, in cases like Romania, dangerously compromised. Germany is another example. Its increasing dependence on Russian energy, particularly with the two countries pressing ahead with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and a worrying pro-Putin tendency starting to dominate at the highest levels in German politics, is at odds with the UK’s justified hostility to the Putin regime.

The Cabinet may thus end up backing today a very bad security deal for Britain. It is not inconceivable that Theresa May, and those senior civil servants set on a Brexit in name only, could exploit the Cabinet’s ignorance of the real facts on the ground to weaponise the seemingly uncontroversial need for cooperation on these issues during today’s discussion of the deal overall.

A comprehensive soft Brexit package that covers trade, foreign policy, security and justice is thus set to be presented by the Prime Minister, at the eleventh hour as a fait accompli. Potential Cabinet opponents may thus be manoeuvered onto a political killing ground – pressured into voting for a take-it-or-leave-it deal, pre-emptively labelled as weak on Britain’s national security and soft on crime if they don’t back it, with conveniently timed dire predictions made about the threat to the UK if collaboration on security and justice with the EU should cease due to “Brexiteer intransigence”.

To head off this potential ambush, Cabinet members must arm themselves with the arguments and the evidence that a proper Brexit is vital for UK defence, our national security and for the integrity of British justice. Should they fail, the consequences for the country may be grave.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Damien Phillips: As Merkel calls for a “real, true” European army, Cabinet members must grasp the threat that this deal poses to our security

Damien Phillips is a public affairs consultant. 

Julian Thompson, the Major-General who led the commando landings during the Falklands War, and who now serves as Chairman for the Veterans for Britain campaign group, has been closely following the development of UK defence and security policy since the EU referendum – and his observations are disturbing as we move towards the Brexit negotiation ‘endgame’.

He believes that “the UK has been ambushed over post-Brexit defence arrangements. The withdrawal proposals would keep the UK in a range of programmes and policies led by the EU. This proximity cannot be granted in the terms that the Government’s proposals suggest: we would be under EU power. The practical consequence is a loss of UK sovereign foreign policy autonomy and a loss of UK political powers over its defence establishment.”

The ‘KitKat Tapes’, revealed earlier this year, showed key Whitehall officials boasting that the defence and foreign policy deal sought by the UK on Brexit would be akin to a chocolate layer hiding UK ties to Brussels. Caught on tape was Alasdair Brockbank, Defence Adviser to Oliver Robbins.  He claimed that civil servants are actively working to keep the UK in the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

Brockbank also said that the plan is for the UK to opt back into the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs programme after the transition period comes to an end in 2021. Such an outcome would entail the UK being much more directly under the auspices of the European Court of Justice than the Prime Minister would care to admit, since the ECJ oversees large swathes of EU judicial programmes, such as the European Arrest Warrant.

The EU views security and justice as inextricably linked: its Justice and Home Affairs Council has the explicit aim of creating an “EU-wide area of freedom, security and justice”.  And only yesterday, Angela Merkel called for a “real, true” European Army.

So far, the Government has presented UK cooperation with the EU on such matters as uncontroversial and desirable. May’s Chequers proposal aims for an arrangement that provides “a legal basis for future cooperation on the basis of existing EU law enforcement and criminal justice tools”; one that is underpinned by “the principle of mutual recognition and trust between member states.”

However, senior officials on both sides of the Channel are suffering under a dangerous delusion about the integrity of EU members. Take, for example, the soon-to-be anointed President of the Council of the European Union, effectively the flagship nation of the EU, which rotates every six months. From January 2019, the position will be held by Romania – recently derided by Due Process, a leading cross-party NGO, as the worst human rights abuser in the EU. Its rule of law crisis has now become so grave that the former Director of the FBI, Louis Freeh, has called for dramatic action to restore confidence in its judicial system amid escalating concerns about how its so-called anti-corruption drive has fundamentally undermined due process, basic human rights – and long been manifestly corrupt itself.

The former Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, wrote to Romania’s President to express his outrage at the “continuing damage to the rule of law in Romania being done under the guise of effective law enforcement”. He highlighted the widespread intimidation of judges, defence lawyers, and witnesses. He also rightly decried the unconstitutional phone tapping, the forced confessions and the unfair judicial processes presided over by the former Chief Prosecutor of the Romanian National Anticorruption Directorate, Laura Kovesi. She is the prosecutor hilariously lauded as “Miss Justice” by the pro-EU Economist magazine, who erroneously claimed she had been sacked for ‘being too good at her job’.

Back in the real world, a series of secret protocols uncovered by Romanian journalists show unlawful and widespread collusion between the Romanian intelligence services and every single arm of the Romanian government and judiciary, going back as far as 2005. They reveal a country that is ruled by a shadowy, unelected cabal of intelligence officers and one that has barely moved on from the days of the old Communist deep state.

Figures from across the UK’s political spectrum have been warning about the dangers of close judicial and security cooperation with EU members like Romania for several years. These include Andrew Robathan, the former Conservative Defence Minister, and David Clark, the former special adviser to Robin Cook. Indeed, their views are further reinforced by the prescient warnings of John Scarlett, the former head of MI6, as well as others in and around Britain’s intelligence community.

Security and justice are both areas in which the UK should be much more discerning about who it cooperates with and to what extent. Richard Dearlove, another former MI6 head, pointed out, “Britain is Europe’s leader in intelligence and security matters and gives much more than it gets in return.” Our European partners can be unreliable and, in cases like Romania, dangerously compromised. Germany is another example. Its increasing dependence on Russian energy, particularly with the two countries pressing ahead with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and a worrying pro-Putin tendency starting to dominate at the highest levels in German politics, is at odds with the UK’s justified hostility to the Putin regime.

The Cabinet may thus end up backing today a very bad security deal for Britain. It is not inconceivable that Theresa May, and those senior civil servants set on a Brexit in name only, could exploit the Cabinet’s ignorance of the real facts on the ground to weaponise the seemingly uncontroversial need for cooperation on these issues during today’s discussion of the deal overall.

A comprehensive soft Brexit package that covers trade, foreign policy, security and justice is thus set to be presented by the Prime Minister, at the eleventh hour as a fait accompli. Potential Cabinet opponents may thus be manoeuvered onto a political killing ground – pressured into voting for a take-it-or-leave-it deal, pre-emptively labelled as weak on Britain’s national security and soft on crime if they don’t back it, with conveniently timed dire predictions made about the threat to the UK if collaboration on security and justice with the EU should cease due to “Brexiteer intransigence”.

To head off this potential ambush, Cabinet members must arm themselves with the arguments and the evidence that a proper Brexit is vital for UK defence, our national security and for the integrity of British justice. Should they fail, the consequences for the country may be grave.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Gisela Stuart: The EU referendum gave the political class a chance to mend their ways. So far, they haven’t.

Gisela Stuart is Chair of Change Britain. She is a former health minister.

Successful or not, these are the final days of Theresa May’s negotiations and, as with all EU negotiations, they are getting heated as time runs out. So far, so predictable. But as the media focuses ever more tightly on Downing Street and the Commons, and MPs tour studios promoting solutions from second votes with two options or second votes with three options to Norway, EEA, the Customs Union, a customs union, backstops and backstops to backstops, it may be a good time to remember what this is all about.

It’s about implementing a direct mandate given to the Government and MPs in Parliament by the people they entrusted with the decision of whether we should remain in the European Union or leave. It was to be a generational decision – accompanied by the promise that whatever they decided, the Prime Minister would implement.

The mandate then was and still is to leave the European Union. That means that the UK has the final say on laws, borders, taxes and trade deals. The mandate, delivered in the referendum on a turnout of 72 per cent and with a clear majority of 3.8 per cent, was accepted by the two main political parties in the 2017 general election. The Liberal Democrats, who promised to overturn the referendum, were trounced.

Parliament endorsed the time table by voting to trigger Article 50, thus giving the Government two years to complete a Withdrawal Agreement before the end of the multi annual financial framework, the European Parliamentary elections and a new EU Commission.

Now, as the months count down, the deal that the Government is trying to secure is being rejected by MPs who campaigned for Leave and Remain alike. No one deal, we are told, is capable of winning a majority in Parliament. Brexit is unworkable. The whole project was doomed from the start. We need another referendum, where we can change our minds and vote to go back in.

Three observations may help to add clarity. Whilst politicians in Westminster have argued with themselves, there is no evidence that the public has changed its mind. Another vote would undermine the validity of the first, but probably produce the same result. Fearing that outcome, some are already proposing a vote with multiple options and an alternative voting system, overlooking the irony that AV was rejected in an earlier referendum.

The EU has identified and pursued its strategic goals and remained united. UK negotiators have failed to split EU capitals from one another and from the Commission, while at the same time seeming ready to compromise at every opportunity to avoid the appearance of conflict. Our political classes have been out-performed. They have lacked clarity of purpose and vision. Even basic skills of political management and analysis have seemed woefully lacking.

One reason that the political classes were so surprised by the 2016 vote to Leave is because it was in part a referendum on their failure to understand or engage with the experience of ordinary voters in towns and villages across the country, and on their tendency to get stuck within their own unconscious bias about what ought to be in the best interest of the majority of the UK.

The referendum offered a second chance; an opportunity to start listening, think about national renewal and to bring politics home to communities across the country as we took back control from the EU. Instead, political leaders in Westminster are signalling they have learned very little from 2016.

What is to be done? Chequers and the backstop do not allow us to leave the EU, and there is a real danger that if we fail to deliver Brexit the breakdown of trust between London and the rest of the country will be hard to repair. In Westminster, the hope will be that Parliament can take control, postpone Brexit so that we can have another referendum or have time for a change in government to refresh the negotiating team. 

The most significant point of Jo Johnson’s resignation statement was his reference to the failure of statecraft. He was right. As Mervyn King put it recently, you have to ask yourself how the world’s sixth largest economy, with a reputation for political stability and administrative capacity, has got itself into such a mess. If government, the civil service and MPs are unable to deliver Brexit, the correct diagnosis is not that Brexit is impossible, but rather that our politicians have failed. 

It’s not too late. There is still time for a change in policy, for adoption of a comprehensive free trade deal on offer from the EU and applied to the entire UK, which even now could provide a way forward. Faster and more comprehensive preparation for departure on WTO terms would both strengthen the UK’s negotiating position and give us another way out as an independent and self-governing country.

Such a change, however, requires a grasp of statecraft we have so far found lacking. It is what the people voted for – but we may find our political class are found wanting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Benedict Rogers: Hunt has made a strong start in placing values at the heart of British foreign policy

Benedict Rogers is the East Asia Team Leader at the international human rights organization CSW, the co-founder and Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, the co-founder of the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea, the co-founder and Chair of Hong Kong Watch, and author of three books on Burma.

Jeremy Hunt is the first Foreign Secretary since William Hague to really articulate a values-based foreign policy, and a plan to implement it. Even when Brexit dominates, when the Government is fragile, and when others are more concerned with trade deals than human rights, he appears to be thinking bigger.

He wisely avoids Robin Cook’s “ethical” terminology, but speaks actively of Britain’s role in defending our beliefs. While Boris Johnson hinted at similar themes, with talk of ‘Global Britain’ and girls’ education, his tenure was so overshadowed by his ambitions, character and Brexit that he never developed the narrative. Philip Hammond’s two-year stint was associated only with bean-counting. Not since Hague as Shadow Foreign Secretary promised to put human rights “at the very heart of foreign policy” have I heard an articulation of a vision for a British foreign policy that I could wholeheartedly cheer. Until Hunt.

And it is not simply his rhetoric. The Foreign Secretary has already taken some bold steps. On his first visit to Beijing he met the wives of imprisoned human rights lawyers in China. His foreword to the Foreign Office’s six-monthly report on Hong Kong was noticeably stronger than previous reports, and his statement in response to the expulsion from Hong Kong of Victor Mallet, the Financial Times’ Asia Editor, was robust.

In his Diwali message he spoke of the “victory of good over evil” and the need to defend freedom of religion or belief, and in the Evening Standard he pledged to make the defence of press freedom a priority. His statement in response to the appalling death of Jamal Khashoggi was good. His decision to visit Burma in September was welcome, and his call for accountability for appalling crimes against humanity and genocide there, while long overdue, was further than his predecessor had gone. “What is essential now,” he said, “is that the perpetrators of any atrocities are brought to justice, because without that there can be no solution to the huge refugee problem. We will use all the tools at our disposal to try and make sure there is accountability.”

So where does he go from here?

In his recent speech to Policy Exchange, the Foreign Secretary set out his vision. Post-Brexit, Britain must establish a new role for itself as a defender of democratic values and human rights, and a builder of multi-lateral coalitions to protect liberty in an era when it is under increasing threat. As the home of parliamentary democracy, and “an outward-looking, seafaring nation,” with a network of friendships that is “unparalleled”, Britain has the opportunity and the responsibility to lead. “Our democratic values are under greater threat than at any time since the fall of the Berlin Wall,” he said. “We can use our influence, our reach and power to defend our values by becoming an invisible chain that links the world’s democracies.”

How will he do this? Through the biggest expansion of our diplomatic service for a generation, the opening of more embassies, increasing the languages taught to our diplomats and reform of major multi-lateral institutions – the United Nations, NATO, the World Trade Organisation and the Commonwealth. These are bold, necessary and welcome steps.

There is, however, much further to go if this vision is to develop into a lasting narrative. There will be many competing areas in which Britain could develop multi-lateral leadership, but two different but equally important focuses come to mind. Both are areas where Hunt has shown interest and could shape further.

The first is ensuring accountability for mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. In the case of Burma, will he lead an international effort to ensure that the perpetrators of crimes are brought to justice, either through the International Criminal Court or an ad hoc tribunal? Will he work to build international support, to invite other countries to follow if he leads?

Similarly, will Britain step up to hold China to account for its horrific repression of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, investigate allegations that prisoners of conscience are targeted for forced organ harvesting, and put pressure on China to stop the intensifying persecution of Christians and Tibetan Buddhists?

Will the Foreign Secretary play a leading role in ensuring that North Korea’s crimes against humanity are not swept under the carpet in the rapprochement with South Korea and the United States?

Will he hold IS/Daesh accountable for genocide?

Will he study the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission’s recent report on Russia – Poison, Torture, Lies and Repression: Human Rights in Russia Today – and act to end the impunity with which Vladimir Putin’s regime behaves by ensuring that targeted sanctions under the global Magnitsky legislation are implemented?

Hunt’s willingness to call on the Security Council to act to stop the war in Yemen was right, if overdue. Let’s hope such boldness can be applied to the world’s other mass atrocities.

The second area in which Britain should lead is in response to the erosion of basic freedoms, the rule of law and autonomy in Hong Kong.

Over the past five years, democratic values in Hong Kong have taken an enormous hit. Booksellers have been abducted, peaceful protestors jailed and pro-democracy legislators and candidates disqualified. I was denied entry to the territory a year ago, and the Financial Times’ Asia News Editor, after being expelled, was then barred. The undermining of press freedom, academic freedom and freedom of expression is spiralling daily. “Asia’s world city,” as its slogan puts it, is increasingly closing its doors and becoming just another Chinese city.

Here Britain has a special responsibility, as a signatory to the Sino-British Joint Declaration. We have a legal as well as moral duty, and it is in our own interests too. If Hong Kong’s openness, transparency, rule of law and autonomy continue to unravel, it puts at grave risk British business and trade.

But it is also a matter of international concern, and I was encouraged that in China’s recent Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations, twelve countries, including the UK, raised Hong Kong. In the previous review Hong Kong was not mentioned. In Washington DC, Ottawa, Berlin, Geneva and Brussels this year, policy-makers have indicated to my colleagues and me growing concern and willingness to work with like-minded allies to address the deteriorating situation. It is in everyone’s interests, including China’s, that Hong Kong remain an open, free international business centre.

“When we act in concert, we are strong. When we act together, the price for transgression becomes too high for the perpetrator,” Hunt said. “We must be better at standing together to defend the values we share. Whether that is: the prevention of sexual violence in conflict, the struggle against the illegal wildlife trade, or threats to freedom of expression. Because access to fair and accurate information is also something we should remember is the lifeblood of democracy.”

He is absolutely right. So I hope he will lead the international community to build coalitions of like-minded nations to ensure accountability for mass atrocities, and a coalition to ensure that the promises made to the people of Hong Kong are honoured, not trampled on. The early signs are welcome. I encourage him to go on and build that “invisible chain” to defend and promote democratic values and human rights for everyone. Not only because it is right, not only because we have a responsibility, but also because it is in our national interests to do so.

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Amber Rudd & Andrew Percy: Brexit. Why a Canada-type deal won’t work for Britain.

Amber Rudd is a former Home Secretary, and is MP for Hastings.  Andrew Percy is currently trade envoy to Canada, and is MP for Brigg & Goole.

Canada, a great and progressive free-trading nation, of so much more than moose and Mounties, is an unwitting participant in our Brexit debate. Canadian friends are a little nonplussed to find their wonderful country, or rather its trading relationship with the EU, quoted repeatedly as a basis for a future UK-EU relationship.

We are two Conservatives who voted for different sides in the EU referendum; one Leave, one Remain. We both understand that there was a public call for change. Moreover, we are two patriots who want the best for our country and recognise the difficulty in securing a deal that works for everyone, let alone one that satisfies everyone!

There has been plenty of talk on what that deal should look like. Politicians from across the political divide have spoken out in favour of various arrangements, the advantages that they feel each option would bring and how they plan to get there. Perhaps none more so than ‘Canada’, with or without the addition of any number of ‘pluses’.

We understand why a Canada-style deal is, on face value, attractive. Those who argue for it say that it will give the UK a ‘clean break’ from Europe. But at what cost? To our mind – Remain and Leave alike – a Canada-style deal fails to recognise that the UK’s relationship with the EU is wholly different to that of Canada, and fails to understand such a deal could exact a heavy price.

First, it could be economically damaging. A Canada-style deal is not an extension of the status-quo, and in many ways could be seen as a failure of the UK’s negotiating position. The EU-Canada trade deal, positive though it is for that trading relationship, is a somewhat limited agreement, principally focusing on the elimination of tariffs and the raising of quotas on certain sectors, such as dairy.

In the context of the UK, it would introduce considerable friction in our trading relationship with Europe, where there is presently none. There would be customs checks at the border, disrupting established supply chains of British success stories; car manufacturers, aerospace and pharmaceuticals companies. A Canada-style deal wouldn’t cover services, the overwhelming majority of our economy; accountancy, insurance and legal services would be impacted. It seems ironic that at a time when we might be free to talk to Canada about co-operating more in the area of services as part of a future UK-Canada free trade agreement, we would be putting up substantial, and potentially damaging, barriers with the EU.

Second, it would be constitutionally dangerous. Such a deal would need a hard border – and there, we have two choices; one on the island of Ireland, or one down the Irish Sea. No serious politician, who cares for either our security or our Union, can accept that. A hard border in Ireland would split communities, throwing away decades of work to bring about cohesion and peace. A hard border in the Irish Sea would split our country and recklessly put our Union at risk.

Finally, it is politically impossible and flies in the face of parliamentary arithmetic. There is no majority in the Commons that would see a Canada-style deal voted through. It would fall at the first hurdle. No plan riddled with so much uncertainty and reliant on goodwill alone would win the requisite number of votes.

Brexit is about making tough decisions in the national interest. It is about pulling together to secure the best possible deal for the UK. We should also be realistic about what we can deliver for the British people. When Canada negotiated its free trade agreement with the EU it did so on the basis of what was in Canada’s economic interests. It secured a good deal for Canadians, and did not seek to copy anyone else’s arrangements: neither should the UK. Canada works for Canada. The UK should copy Canada only in regard to how it pursues a deal, and that means securing a deal that is bespoke to the economic needs and realities of the UK.

These matters are too important to play fast-and-loose with. Aspiration and ambition are worthy traits. But pursuing an agreement that ignores the political reality would at best put jobs at risk and, at worst, do the same to our precious Union.  That is why we back the Prime Minister in getting the best deal that she can. But we all have to recognise that, for now, that isn’t, and can’t be, Canada.

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Jonathan Clark: Is it time to sweep away our party system – and replace it with Leave v Remain?

Jonathan Clark was a Fellow of Peterhouse; at Oxford, he was a Fellow of All Souls College; latterly he has been Visiting Professor at the Committee on Social Thought at Chicago, and Hall Distinguished Professor of British History at the University of Kansas. His latest book is a study of Thomas Paine.

Nobody knows when the next Tokyo earthquake will happen. Nobody knows what, exactly, will cause it. All we know is that it is statistically overdue, that it is inevitable, and that it will cause major damage. How does the world economy prepare for this shock? It does nothing. Perhaps nothing can be done.

Similarly with the UK party system. Every 60 or 80 or a hundred years there is a fundamental crisis, a realignment, a radical recasting of the structure of parties in the face of new forces, new challenges, new problems.

The last time was when the Labour Party replaced the Liberal Party in the years after the First World War. The previous occasion was when the Liberal Party split over the issue of free trade versus imperial preference. The time before that was when the Conservative Party split over Robert Peel’s repeal of the Corm Laws, that protectionist system designed to preserve the ascendancy of the landowners in the arable areas of England.

Now again we see a single unavoidable, fundamental, non-negotiable issue at the forefront of national life. Both the major parties are split on it, and in a state of rending, agonizing civil war. The Liberal Democrats are at one, but make little electoral capital out of their unanimity. These stresses seem unlikely to go away. Indeed, they are daily increasing.

Is it, then, time for a structural realignment of parties and party allegiances? Would the public interest be better served if there were just two major groups, a Leave Party and a Remain Party? Then the electorate would know what they were getting. They would no longer suspect that their representatives were saying one thing but about to do the opposite. Democratic participation would receive a massive boost. Consistent policies could be framed and carried through. We might even spell out when and how referenda could be held.

After all, it could hardly be said that the current parties do what it says on their tins. Whatever its origins, today’s Labour Party hardly dedicates itself to forwarding the interest of labourers, people who toil in productive employments to advance the interests of themselves and their families. It is no secret that the Labour movement is an alliance of trades unionists with public sector employees and welfare claimants. That alliance now dictates the ideological content of the party’s agenda more than the earlier attempt to boost the prosperity of labourers.

The Lib Dems fare no better. If Liberalism had a clear historic meaning, it revolved around Free Trade in the years when the merchants and manufacturers of the Manchesters and the Bradfords exported their products around the world. Now, Lib Dems instinctively side with the greatest international protectionist group, the EU. Once, Liberals campaigned for franchise extension and more frequent elections; today, they instinctively repudiate the result of the greatest ever popular vote in the UK; they endorse an EU in which the electorate cannot remove the executive from power, and representatives cannot initiate legislation.

The Conservatives are in little better shape. The National Trust, which conserves things, has five million members and rising; the Conservative Party, which conserves nothing, has a hundred thousand members and falling. Once, the Conservative Party conserved institutions, like the monarchy, the House of Lords, the Church of England, the armed forces, Oxford and Cambridge, the family. But all these are now embarrassing topics for many of its leaders, and the party is one of radical reform (even if it delivers much less of that than in the age of Margaret Thatcher).

The electorate may say: what, then, is the point of all of this? Why not sweep the career politicians away and begin again with a new set of faces, people with talent, ideas, principles, and candour? Why not have a spring cleaning of the Commons and the Lords in the manner of Macron? Electors could all list many honourable and able politicians who would deserve to survive such a cull; the problem is that the public increasingly thinks that that number is outweighed by others who would not.

What are the arguments against such a reconstruction? That the major parties are great stores of wisdom and experience. That their leaders are practical, prudent men and women who have taken moderate, feasible steps in policy. That public affairs are well administered. That the parties have big money behind them. That major change would cause uncertainty. Inertia.

The strongest argument in favour of the traditional parties’ divine right to continue in their present forms is that each of them embodies an essence, a set of ideas and ideals that is handed on from generation to generation and that inspire the living to complete the great work of their predecessors. Youthful politicians still sometimes write slim volumes attempting to outline that essence. As a matter of historical method, this task was always difficult; some people may now think it impossible.

The larger problem is that the electorate are less and less convinced by such arguments about party identity and destiny. Far underground, the tectonic plates are moving. There is a deep murmur rising from dark places. A suspicion is growing that public affairs are not well conducted, and that (in all the major parties) a Third Eleven is only shielding itself from insight and appraisal by the widespread use of non-disclosure Agreements.

As a member of a political party, this intellectual hollowing out of parties distresses me. As a voter, what is happening in public policy formation and execution alarms me. Perhaps the show will be kept on the road after all; but, in that case, I would be reassured if it could be better shown what the rationale for the continuance of present party divisions is. But perhaps it will not.

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Martin Parsons: The politically explosive small print in the Climate Change Committee’s report on sea defence

Dr Martin Parsons is a former aid worker in Afghanistan and Pakistan and has a PhD in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations.

At the end of October the government’s Climate Change Committee published its report on how the UK should respond to sea level rise. Not terribly interested? – well you should be because the small print in this report is political dynamite for some of the most disadvantaged communities, who guess what – overwhelmingly voted for Brexit and include a significant proportion of the marginal seats Conservatives need to hold to win the next election.

The purpose of this article is not take issue with the science – it’s what the report recommends the government does that is so politically toxic. The science is fairly straightforward – sea level has risen by around 15 cm since 1900 (actually if you live south of a line from Middlesbrough to Liverpool it’s probably more due to land sinking relative to the sea). At current rates it is likely to rise by a further 50 cm and possibly 80 cm by 2100 i.e. within the lifetime of children living today.

That means that storm surges will overtop existing sea defences more frequently – and the biggest surges will inundate much bigger areas of land. At the moment around half a million properties, including 370,000 homes are vulnerable to flooding. The report estimates this will increase to 1.2 million homes by 2080.

Higher sea levels also increase coastal erosion and the report estimates the number of homes vulnerable to erosion will increase from 8,900 to 100,000 over the same period.

So what does the report suggest we do about it? Well some infrastructure will need to be relocated – including some roads, railway lines and even three railway stations. Once they get damaged by storm surges on more than a couple of occasions it becomes more economic to move them than repair them.

However, the really politically toxic bit of the report deals with coastal communities. It says, because major urban areas and infrastructure will require better sea defences – and there is only so much money available, that is where money should be spent. However, for coastal communities in towns and villages – it is worse than that. The report recommends that 149-185 km of coast which is currently designated as ‘hold the line’ in shoreline management plans should be redesignated as ‘managed retreat’.

Let me explain what that means. Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) designate each part of the coast as one of four categories:

  • Advance the line (never used – although significant parts of the coast were reclaimed from the sea by previous generations)
  • Hold the Line (i.e. protect the existing shoreline)
  • No Active intervention (i.e. do nothing – including not repairing any existing sea defences)
  • Managed Realignment (also known as ‘managed retreat’ – deliberately breaching existing sea defences, for example, to allow farmland to be turned into salt marsh)

In other words, the report recommends not simply saving money by not repairing sea defences, but deliberately breaching them. The justification it offers for this is twofold:

“It has advantages in removing long-term financial commitments to maintain defences and in restoring natural environments and processes. Managed realignment can create new habitat area that acts as a natural buffer to coastal waves and is much cheaper to maintain over the long-term.”

However, the advantages it talks of are clearly not for the local community who sea defences are supposed to “defend”. The advantages are in reducing the cost to the Treasury and creating “new habitat”.

Yet the cost to the local community is extraordinarily high. The report gives as an example of the sort of strategy they envisage, a village in Wales of 1,000 people. Despite a consultation having been done on the latest SMP, most of the residents were shocked to discover somewhat later that their village would only be protected until 2025 which would be followed by a period of working towards ‘decommissioning’ the village in 2055.

Can you imagine what that does to a whole community?

It’s far worse than planning blight – at least then there is the possibility of compensation from a compulsory purchase order. However, with ‘decommissioning’ a village to prepare for managed retreat – every house becomes valueless, unsaleable – and there is absolutely no compensation. That’s right – no compensation – if your land becomes part of the seabed you lose everything and no one pays you anything. And your mortgage – well yes you could default on it and let the building society pick up the tab. But if you do then don’t expect to ever get another mortgage. This is a huge social justice issue.

Think it won’t happen? Well – here’s the sting in the tail – the Climate Change Committee’s report laments the fact that:

“Even the modest amount of managed realignment envisaged in the SMPs is not being implemented at the rate set out in the plans.”

To address this it then immediately calls for Shoreline Management Plans to be placed on a statutory basis so that the plans have to be implemented. That means that if the SMP places your village under managed retreat then the Environment Agency would have a legal duty to breach the sea defences and flood it. The report suggests the current environment and agriculture legislation be amended to do this.

Even aside from the massive social injustice this represents let me spell out why else the government should categorically reject these recommendations:

  1. The report itself admits that ‘Many coastal communities are particularly vulnerable because populations in coastal areas are often poorer and older than the UK average.’ Despite this, it effectively recommends removing funding for sea defence repairs from them in order to spend it on large urban areas, which already get more public spending per person.
  2. It justifies this by claiming it will reduce costs and ‘create habitats’. I’m sorry but we’ve been here before – one of the reasons villages in the Somerset Levels remained cut off by floods for a month in 2014 was because the Environment Agency had prioritised nature conservation and so kept the water levels artificially high and not dredged the rivers. Like most Conservatives I am a natural conservationist – but people come first.
  3. The report’s recommendations significantly increase vulnerability to flooding.  This is despite the report itself admitting that coastal flooding will increase to 1.2 million homes by 2080 and that of all natural disasters coastal flooding claims more lives than almost any other event and in the UK there is a long history of coastal floods leading to many deaths.

While breaching sea walls – which is what managed retreat means – may create salt marsh which could act as a temporary buffer to coastal erosion, it also removes significant protection against the much higher risk of coastal flooding. Replacing a 2m sea wall with a ‘sea level’ salt marsh significantly reduces existing flood protection – at a time when sea levels are rising. This itself reveals the ideological bias of the report which purports to be a response to rising sea levels.

However, this is also a politically toxic issue because so much comes down to money. The report actually says that if the government paid for all the existing sea defences (i.e. hold the line) in shoreline management plans at today’s prices – it would cost between £6.9 and 9.2 billion.

Now try telling those seaside towns and villages, a great many of which are marginal constituencies, that they can’t have that money and that some of their villages are even going to be ‘decommissioned’. While at the same time telling these coastal communities most of which voted Brexit – that we are talking about whether to give four or five times that amount of money to the EU in exchange for what may be little more than the promise of talks about a future trade deal. That’s not just toxic – it’s politically explosive for any government…

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Desmond Swayne: Weaning parents off disposable nappies

Sir Desmond Swayne is a former International Development Minister, and is MP for New Forest West.

The message from the Budget is clear: consumers have made their views known on plastic packaging. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s empower people to cut down on other single-use plastics to benefit the environment, reduce waste and emissions in our over-stretched waste systems, and support household finances.

Both Defra and the Treasury have spent considerable departmental time and resource exploring how to influence consumer and industry behaviour when it comes to cutting plastic consumption, and rightly so.  For now, Philip Hammond says he is content to rely on industry to drive plastic use down rather than resort to taxation. Industry, especially hospitality and independent food retailers, have taken proactive steps over the last twelve months. I’m pleased to see that extraneous packaging has been banished from the majority of fruit and veg in our supermarkets, and plastic straws have been replaced by waxy paper ones in pubs and bars across the country.

But this is only the start. With a recent UN study finding that we have only twelve years to prevent irreversible damage to the climate, people are only now realising it is their own responsibility to limit their impact on the planet – and that they must do this by making real changes to their daily routine.

The good news is that changes can be made quickly and to good effect – and this is why I was pleased to see the subject of reusable nappies being raised by Michael Gove at Party Conference this year. We’ve targeted straws, cotton buds, balloon sticks and shrink-wrap. Disposables, which currently make up four to six per cent of household waste, are the obvious next step.

The average baby uses 4000 nappies up to potty training, the majority of which will go to landfill: eight million of them every day in the UK alone. As well as taking up a large proportion of limited landfill space and putting significant pressure on our waste-collection services, disposable nappies typically contain around 30 per cent plastic material which can end up polluting land or water resources.

Whilst it would not be a very Conservative measure to ban disposables, especially given the other pressures young families have to contend with, we must look at the benefits that reusable nappies can offer, and promote greater awareness so that people can make an informed choice. The time is right for Government to support this with practical and effective policy. Defra is consulting about how to end the use of single-life plastic straws and plastic-handled cotton buds which is important.

But it should also address two aspects of the use of disposable nappies. First, it should consider how to ensure that the plastics used in disposable nappies are as biodegradable and as harmless to the environment as possible. I understand that is something manufacturers are considering, but the development of a realistic disposable recycling system is still at a nascent stage.

Second, we need to look at how to share adequate information with consumers to enable them to make informed decisions – particularly about the impact that disposable nappies will have on the environment, even when they are responsibly removed to landfill. How long do disposable nappies take to biodegrade? What are the products of that process and what are their effects on the environment? What happens to nappies that are not responsibly disposed of, but end up in our watercourses and seas?

Parents should also know how modern reusable nappies work. I understand that nowadays reusables are light-weight and easy to wash – far removed from the heavy terry towelling models of days gone by. This is information that new parents could receive when they are given their Bounty packs during maternity care. Most importantly, parents need to know that it doesn’t have to be a case of all or nothing. An Environment Agency study found that, if parents swap to just one reusable a day, they can save using 800 nappies over the first 2-3 years of a child’s life, and make significant reductions to their own carbon footprint, not to mention savings to the household purse.

The Government has a tremendous opportunity here: better information for consumers; more biodegradable and safer plastics; less plastic going to landfill; reducing the emissions created through waste management; and a burnishing of the government’s green credentials. This policy initiative would be entirely consistent with the Environment Secretary’s record of green pragmatism and with his determination to make a difference to our environment; a small but impactful step that chimes with the growing traction of consumer responsibility.

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