The dark shadow of David Cameron hovers over Westminster

Finally, after a long battle over various proposed amendments, a vote following the third reading of the European Union (notification of withdrawal) Bill saw it passed by 494 votes to 122, a majority of 372. This is slightly down on the 384 majority in last week’s vote, mainly due to an increase in the number of Labour MPs voting against it. In spite of much whinging by a few unhappy Tory MPs, in the end, none of them joined Ken Clarke in the “no” lobby. The full list of MPs who voted against the will of the people can be found here.

The proposed amendments were voted down and the recent announcement by the Government that MPs would have a vote over the final Brexit deal was actually quite astute. It satisfies their demand to have a say but at the same time gives them very little wiggle room. There is no question of MPs vetoing Brexit at the end of the negotiations if they don’t like the deal. The choice will only be about how we leave – either backing the government’s package (whatever it turns out to be) or going for a disorderly Brexit relying on WTO rules only – an outcome that no one in their right minds would support.

So now the bill goes to the House of Lords. One government spokesman said “The Lords will face an overwhelming public call to be abolished if they now try and frustrate this Bill. They must get on and deliver the will of the British people.”  In other words, the Europhile majority must accept the result, just like many of their pro-remain colleagues on the House Commons. A gun is essentially being pointed at their heads and a call by Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone for their Lordships to block Brexit as their “patriotic duty” is unlikely to win many new friends either for her or any peers who follow her advice.

The Upper Chamber can propose amendments, which will then be debated by the House of Commons, but no one can doubt Mrs May’s determination to ensure that the bill will complete its  passage through Parliament in time for her self-imposed deadline next month. For all the huffing and puffing we are likely to hear from the Upper Chamber, it is therefore most unlikely it will amount to anything more than angry noise – just like the sickening behaviour of SNP MPs when following yesterday’s vote, they started first whistling then humming the EU’s “National Anthem” – the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony – in the Commons chamber. They received a justified rebuke from the Deputy Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle.

Of course, all this would not have been necessary were it not for the incompetence of David Cameron, whose dark shadow must have been hovering over Westminster in recent days. Not expecting to lose, he did not draw up the referendum legislation in a competent manner. Whereas there was no ambiguity about how Westminster was to have responded if Scotland had voted to leave the Union, the Government’s promise in its booklet sent to every household that “The government will implement what you decide,”  carried no legal weight, hence Gina Miller’s challenge and the resultant hours spent debating the withdrawal bill.

Mrs May and her team have stood firm on their commitment to deliver Brexit and for this they deserve our respect and full support. However, the really hard bit is yet to come. Tough as beating down the opposition in Parliament has proved, it will not be nearly as tough as the challenges of negotiating a deal which will see us exit the EU seamlessly in two years’ time.

Death of a parliamentary colleague

Death of a parliamentary colleague – Nigel Spearing

Nigel’s death comes at a turning point in our long and arduous campaign against UK membership of the EU. He was always a strong opponent of the ‘European Project’  to build a United States of Europe without first getting the approval of its peoples. He was one of the first Labour politicians to appreciate there could be no compromise with the Eurofanatics in the British Press and Parliament. The weakness of their arguments was finally exposed in the 2016 Referendum campaign. Until his final illness, Nigel was a stalwart of our long drawn out battle to save the country we loved from an ignominious future as an outpost of a superstate. His work for our cause over several decades, in and out of Parliament should be long remembered

Eric Deakins

Former Labour MP

1970 – 1987

A tribute to Nigel Spearing MP

A Master of Parliamentary Procedure

Mr. Nigel Spearing

Born 8th October 1930 – Died 8th January 2017

A glowing tribute to a man highly respected for his integrity and well known for his boundless energy, enthusiasm and opposition to UK entry to the Common Market and persistent opposition to EU membership

As a Labour MP, Nigel held the Newham South seat from 1974 until 1997 when the constituency was abolished.

A non-conformist Christian, Nigel was my mentor and friend from the days I joined CIB and met him. He was a Vice-President of CIB under Lord Stoddart and Sir Richard Body and before then a well-established elected member of the national executive of our Campaign for an Independent Britain

He was the last Opposition MP to speak before the government minister wound up the debate before the vote was taken to pass the Bill to accept European Communities Act 1972 into UK law, stating at the time that MPs were being asked to sign a blank cheque since the terms of entry had been withheld from them. Nigel made a great play on the Parliamentary democratic bypass still in effect to this day because of Clause 2-1 of ECA 1972. He was without power to have the wording changed from EU legislation being introduced to UK law “without further enactment” to “may with further enactment” to enable full scrutiny and debate by our Parliament. I am quietly proud that I was able to have two films made of Nigel and his Labour MP colleague, Mr Eric Deakin in Nigel’s home, both of them recounting their memories of their opposition to the Common Market in one of the films quoting from Hansard open on their laps. These films can be found on the internet You Tube under Nigel Spearing’s name or in the video section of CIB website here and here. Both films are of historical importance

Nigel was well known for his perilous travelling to all meetings in London on his bicycle as well as his fitness by rowing on the River Thames. Both he and his wife Wendy enjoyed their holidays on their boat on the Norfolk Broads.

I treasure three special memories, including walking the corridors of Parliament with Nigel and being impressed by the way he was so affectionately greeted by older politicians who remembered him. Secondly, I remember as we waited together for a meeting to start he embarked on a long and expert explanation how weather and tidal conditions around the coast of Britain could, and can still, overcome the flood defences and overwhelm London. I wish that day I had a tape recorder with me.

Thirdly, when I was Chairman of CIB Regional Planning Sub-Committee, our meetings were held in an upstairs room in South Kensington in a pub populated downstairs by boisterous Australian back-packers in those far off days. On an occasion the room was packed and I found the meeting difficult to control because of the level of heckling dissenting voices. Nigel sat to one side in the front row listening intently. I noticed his sparkling eyes. Afterwards to my surprise bearing in mind the countless debates he would have attended in his career he told me, ”That was one of the most exciting debates I have ever attended”. In his final years his mind remained focused upon and stimulated by EU matters of great concern to him

Of the e-mails I have received praising Nigel, I have selected a few.

“Nigel Spearing had something of the manner of a benevolent house master. He was very kind and patient with us new boys in explaining the geography, history and procedures of the House of Commons, an institution which he loved deeply. It was this love which drove his resolute opposition to Parliament’s subordination to the EU. He was very generous with his time and advice to all who supported the cause. He was unstuffy and realistic about the way politics worked. He once told me “I was brought up in the Evangelical Christian tradition, so I avoided the scrapes which some of my colleagues got into and the whips never had anything on me”. He used to cycle to our committee meetings in the House of Commons well past his eightieth birthday. He continued as long as he was able. When we knew his mind was beginning to cloud over, he invited us to tell him when to leave. Of course, we never did. As my colleague Stuart Notholt remarked “Nigel is family” and that is how we remember him” – Edward Spalton, Chairman, CIB

I am sorry to hear of Nigel’s death. From what I know about him – mostly of all his tenacity and also the disgraceful manner in which the Labour Party removed him as Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee for no reason other than the things which have turned out in the referendum that he was right – his passing is a great loss to the Labour party and the country.” – Sir William Cash MP

“I knew Nigel from fringe meetings etc, a 100% good man.  Sorry to hear of his death but at least he lived to see his objective within our grasp.” Idris Francis (outstanding political activist)

How sad to see yet another of our fellow-warriors passing away. I too met him in 1999; he sought me out about Corpus Juris, we met several times (he came to Vincent House, he took me to the H o C where he had been an MP and introduced me to another EU-sceptic Labour MP, from Wales, whom I had lunch with, and we met again in Bournemouth).

It was he (Nigel) who provided me with the Parliamentary Report on the Tampere EU summit, where the EU decided to “replace” the Corpus Juris idea of a single criminal code for all, with the idea of “mutual recognition” which led to the European Arrest Warrant. I say “replaced” but actually it was a stepping stone to the ultimate Corpus Juris destination.” T.D. Erikson (Journalist)

I am so sorry to hear of the sad loss of Nigel. He was one of the great parliamentarians, having not only a great knowledge of parliamentary procedures but a great respect for them as well. Having been present in the House of Commons when his colleagues voted away the sovereignty of that esteemed House, he worked tirelessly to recover it. His knowledge and experience have been of immense benefit to the campaign to restore Britain’s sovereignty.”  John Harrison (previous CIB Treasurer)

“I’m very sorry to hear of this news. I know from the videos you provided that Nigel was a very eloquent speaker who made a passionate and principled stand against the Europhiles. I hope he was able to derive much satisfaction at the referendum result of 2016 and deserves recognition and our gratitude for the significant contribution he made in bringing us to where we are today.” Nigel Finnis  (Retired television film-maker)

A memorial service will be held in the weeks ahead at a time and place to be later announced

George West, President

The Campaign for an Independent Britain

 

Supreme Court’s ruling won’t derail Brexit

 

It has come as no surprise that the Supreme Court has upheld the original ruling by the High Court that Parliament must vote on the triggering of Article 50.

However, there was one crumb of comfort – the judges dismissed calls for the Scottish Parliament to have any veto over the deal.

With this verdict widely anticipated, we understand that the Government has already drafted an enabling act designed to provide minimal opportunities for Remain-supporting MPs and peers to table amendments and it is unlikely that Parliament will try to derail it.

There have long been concerns that the House of Lords, which has historically been predominantly Europhile, may seek to block Brexit, but a statement earlier this month from  Lord Fowler, the speaker of the House of Lords, provides us with some encouragement:-

“The Lords recognise the primacy of the Commons based on the fact that they are the elected chamber and we are not… In return most MPs value the check that scrutiny by the Lords provides. We are not here to sabotage legislation – we are here to improve it.” 

In Mrs May’s speech last week, she ruled out continued membership of the Single Market, but did not go into any detail as to how British products could  circulate freely “within”  EU, as she has mentioned several times – or indeed, what the transitional arrangement at which she hinted  might entail

Consequentially, Labour sources have indicated that while they would try to amend legislation in four areas, including  a demand that the Government sets out its plans for Brexit in full, the party would not try to block the triggering of Article 50.

Jeremy Corbyn, interviewed by Sophy Ridge for Sky TV on Sunday was adamant that “We accept the result of the referendum. Parliament must reflect public decision.” and added “I will ask Labour MPs to respect the decision.”

It is likely that the opposition to the enabling act will be greater than the 89 MPs who voted against the earlier vote on triggering Article 50. Nevertheless, for all the concerns expressed in some quarters about Mrs May’s speech, the remoaners’ tactics have won them few friends since June 23rd, which has taken away their credibility, regardless of the legitimacy of their concerns. The latest outburst, from the philosopher A C Grayling, who called for a general strike over Brexit, is all too typical.

So Mrs May’s timetable for Article 50 looks still to be on course. We should be on our way out by the end of March by which time we will hopefully know a lot more about how she plans to extricate us seamlessly from the EU.

People’s Charter pro-Brexit rally

The People’s Charter Foundation, whose recent series of pro-Brexit protests, have featured in the media have announced a new event in collaboration with the Bruges Group. The next pro-Brexit rally will be on Saturday the 21st of Jan as requested by the people.

Our “full Brexit” campaign is non-partisan, welcoming all the 52%. We are bringing together as many Brexiteers as possible for a Pro-Brexit Rally on Jan 21st at the George V Statue, opposite the Houses of Parliament

Mrs May calls the remainiacs’ bluff

David Cameron bequeathed a tough job to his successor. He had not expected to lose the referendum and had forbidden the Civil Service to produce any sort of Brexit plan. It did not help that the various leave groups had not managed to unite around an agreed plan either.

This meant that, having won our amazing victory against all the odds, we have tasked Mrs May’s government and the Civil Service with the challenge of working through a huge number of extremely important issues relating to Brexit virtually from scratch.

With so much information to digest and to turn into a viable exit route within a tight timescale, the relative silence from the government is understandable. It is wise indeed not to give a running commentary as the complexities are analysed and options evaluated. Nor is it a good idea to reveal your negotiating hand prematurely. The odd hint has crept out, such as the “Have cake and eat it” memo which caused such a stir last week, to be followed very quickly by a denial that it was any indicator of official government policy.

There seems very litle point bothering readers with idle speculation based on what at this stage can only be guesswork. However, whatever the Supreme Court decides about the role of Parliament in triggering Article 50, there is much to be said for our MPs being given some sort of briefing before Article 50 is finally triggered so that they know the escape route the government plans to take.

A motion by Labour calling for the government to publish its plans on Brexit is not therefore particularly unreasonable in and of itself as long as the party accepts that there are good reasons why it is taking some time for the plans to be ready for publication. Unfortunately, Wednesday’s debate revealed that many of our elected representatives are not up to speed on a number of EU-related issues including, for example, the interface between the Single Market, the European Court of Justice and the EU’s customs union.

The government had put forward an amendment confirming that the House of Commons will respect the view of the British people expressed in the EU referendum and call on ministers to start the Article 50 process of exit by the end of March. Although both the motion and the amendment are essentially symbolic, the amendment turned out to be an excellent way of smoking out the troublemakers. There are thankfully few of these among the Tories; although the majority of Conservative MPs voted for  remain, much of the Parliamentary party has rallied round its new leader in respecting the vote and seeking to get the best possible deal.

On the Labour benches, the rude awakening on June 24th that many voters in their heartlands had chosen to support Brexit has meant that a good few MPs were supportive and will not resist the triggering of Article 50 as long as they can be reassued that it will not  result in economic suicide.

With the vote passed by 448 votes to 75 and the Government amendment by 461 votes to 89, we can take some encouragement that the lower house will not derail Brexit. As the Daily Telegraph commented, “The vote….gives MPs a chance to show that they too acknowledge the primacy of the people on Europe. Those who refuse to back the amendment will be making a public declaration of contempt for the voters.”

Of course, Brexit has pulled away a traditional safety net for career politicians whose ambitions are thwarted. If you lose your seat in Westminster, there will usually be some sort of position available for you in Brussels. Indeed, if you manage to fail spectacularly, like Neil Kinnock or Peter Mandelson, you might end up as  Commissioner with a six-figure salary and without even going through any democratic process to get your new job.

For this reason,  the opinion of the electorate perhaps counts for more than it did before, for if you lose the support of your constituents and thus your seat, there will be one less alternative career option open to you.

So when the vote was finally taken, it was a relief that only 89 MPs voted against the government’s amendment, with the majority of Labour MPs siding with the government. After all, whatever the legal niceties about whether or not the referendum was binding, the government’s infamous booklet couldn’t have been clearer:- “This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.”

Well, we made our decision to leave and as even the Guardian admitted last week, “Remain is still losing rather than winning support. There is no appetite for a second referendum.” It is time for the 89 MPs listed below to wake up and smell the coffee.

Conservatives(1):

Ken Clarke

Labour (23):

Helen Hayes

Meg Hillier

Peter Kyle

David Lammy

Chris Leslie

Ian Murray

Barry Sheerman

Tulip Siddiq

Angela Smith

Catherine West

Daniel Zeichner

Rushanara Ali

Graham Allen

Ben Bradshaw

Ann Coffey

Neil Coyle

Stella Creasy

Geraint Davies

Louise Ellman

Jim Dowd

Chris Evans

Paul Farrelly

Mike Gapes

Lib Dems (5): 

Nick Clegg

Sarah Olney

Mark Williams

Alistair Carmichael

Tim Farron

SDLP (2):

Alasdair McDonnell

Mark Durkan

Plaid Cymru (3):

Liz Saville Roberts

Hywel Williams

Jonathan Edwards

Green (1):

Caroline Lucas

Independent (2): 

Michelle Thomson

Natalie McGarry

SNP (51):

Hendry, Drew.

Stewart Hosie

George Kerevan

Calum Kerr

Chris Law

Angus MacNeil John Mc Nally

Callum McCaig

Stuart McDonald

Anne McLaughlin

Carol Monaghan

Paul Monaghan

Roger Mullin

Gavin Newlands

John Nicolson

Brendan O’Hara

Kirsten Oswald

Steven Paterson

Margaret Ritchie

Angus Robertson

Alex Salmond

Tommy Sheppard

Chris Stephens

Alison Thewliss

Mike Weir

Catherine West

Eilidh Whiteford

Philippa Whitford

Corri Wilson

Pete Wishart

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh

Hannah Bardell

Mhairi Black

Ian Blackford

Kirsty Blackman

Philip Boswell

Deirdre Brock

Alan Brown

Lisa Cameron

Chapman. Douglas

Joanna Cherry

Ronnie Cowan

Angela Crawley

Martyn Day

Martin Docherty-Hughes

Stuart Blair Donaldson

Marrion Fellows

Margaret Ferrier

Stephen Gethins

Patricia Gibson

Patrick Grady

Peter Grant