Andrew Sets Out Post-Referendum Role
A somewhat calmer atmosphere has been discernable - at least for now - in Brussels after the recess. The reality of, rather than reaction to, Brexit seems to be taking hold. However, the EU Commission and EU Parliament appointing federalists with a less than friendly attitude towards the UK as their chief Brexit representatives will, I believe, only further strengthen the leading role of the EU Council - that is the Heads of Government - in the negotiation process. Pragmatic and practical attitudes are more prevalent there.
The 'state aid' case against Apple and the Republic of Ireland, growing calls for an EU army, a wheeze of not including education spending in deficit levels and the resurgence of plans to impose a 'social pillar' across the EU all show that for too many in Brussels the 'lesson' of Brexit appears to be... you guessed it... 'More Europe'. These wrong-headed plans and the reality of the next crisis for Greece, a potential Italian banking collapse and growing problems from the huge numbers of migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia will, I fear, be coming into headlong collision before long with results that cannot be predicted save to say they will be disagreeable.
For me and other Conservative MEPs the twin roles of assisting in efforts to get the best deal for the UK on the one hand and working with colleagues in the wider European Conservatives and Reformists Group on the other begin to become more distinct, though both retain significance. Meetings with Secretaries of State, Ministers and MPs will now take on an added significance as we offer our expertise about what rules and regulations and which spending and / or investment programmes may usefully be retained, modified or dispensed with. I know that I and other Conservative MEPs were quite disappointed by the lack of interest or even response in some ministerial quarters when we were building up to the so-called renegotiation. Some opportunities for a fuller and wider reform of the EU were not then pursued. We should now try to ensure that the simple and default - but gravely mistaken - response to Brexit of transposing almost every regulation and continuing to participate in every programme is avoided.
Brexit is an opportunity for revitalisation and reform. It removes an excuse for inability to act that was often cited over the years: 'We cannot change X or Y because of EU regulations'. The fact that the extrication process will take a number of years can also be seen as an opportunity. It allows for careful deliberation and for a national debate about what we want important parts of our public sector and regulatory framework to look like. In particular I hope for a revitalisation of and new responsibilities for local government to emerge from this process.
In the time remaining to me as an MEP I will seek to contribute to this national debate and to elicit contributions towards it as well. It will, furthermore, continue to be worthwhile to ensure that we have proper access to and information about EU funds while we stay members.
Both of these objectives are served by a new publication that I shall be producing shortly entitled: 'A Changing Landscape: Farming and Rural Business Funding Opportunities'. The subtitle is: 'An EU funding guide and a Brexit options assessment'. It is my hope that, in addition to providing useful information in a clear and concise format, this booklet will stimulate debate about what has worked and what has not with regard to EU regulations and funding so that by 2020 we have ambitious and well thought out plans in place. If you would like a copy, please do let me know via: firstname.lastname@example.org