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After the UK referendum, saying ‘we continue anyway’ is not a good enough response

5 July 2016

After the UK referendum, saying ‘we continue anyway’ is not a good enough response

The European Parliament has debated the recent EU summit, and the British referendum on EU membership.

After the UK referendum, saying ‘we continue anyway’ is not a good enough response

The European Parliament has debated the recent EU summit, and the British referendum on EU membership.

ECR Group leader Syed Kamall has warned that seeing the referendum result as an opportunity to continue with ‘more Europe’ would be a mistake.

He said:

“Winston Churchill once said, “When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.”

Thankfully last Tuesday and Wednesday the eagles – the heads of government – spoke. Cooler and calmer heads began to prevail, drowning out the parrots.

While the council does not want to live in limbo forever, it is right that EU leaders say they must respect the treaties and must respect the right of the British government to decide how best to proceed.

In the EU, it is for respective national governments to decide how to best respond to a national referendum.

This is the case even now, where the Netherlands has been given the space to decide its response to its referendum in March.

The treaties are clear. If anyone doesn’t like what the treaties say, blame the authors and the signatories. Who knows one or two of them may be in this chamber today?

Some here are quick to point the finger at others and accuse them of breaching the rule of law, while at the same time casting aside our own rules and precedents when it doesn’t suit the majority. Ganging up on political groups they don’t agree with to deny them committee positions or reports that they are entitled to under the De Hondt system. Interfering in the internal affairs of member states where they don’t like the democratically elected government of that country.

The more Commissioners, European parliamentarians and national leaders try to pressure the UK, the more they justify the decision the British people have taken.

The British referendum was just the latest wake-up call for the EU. And many rightly respond by calling for more reform.

The problem is … it is not the reform that Mark Rutte speaks of when he says:

“European where necessary, national where possible.”

Instead they seek to pursue the 1950s European Project to build a United States of Europe, and ask why it has not happened already?

Donald Tusk was right to say that people are disillusioned with grand utopian visions of the future and just want us to cope better with the present.

Some in Brussels draw different conclusions and instead of wanting to get on with a friendly relationship with the UK they seek to foster hope that maybe a part of the current United Kingdom can remain in the EU, rolling out the red carpet for the first minister of Scotland.

I am sure that the peoples of Flanders, Catalonia and the Basque country will be encouraged to see EU leaders enthusiastically embracing regional self-determination.

In this Chamber we rightly talk about the lessons of history. But what about the lessons that warn of the peril when leaders become disconnected from their people?

And increasingly decisions in the EU are not being made in an open and transparent way – especially in this Chamber. Decisions are not always made by all 751 MEPs from across the Continent. Politics is about perception and there is an increasing perception that they are being made by 5 men, 4 of them from virtually the same place in old Europe, sitting in a room and carving up the continent between them. That is not democracy, and if you really want to show that you are open and transparent, stop the grand coalition backroom stitch-ups.

My group does not want the EU to break up, but to avoid this, the EU must seriously change how it works.

Whatever the challenge, more Europe is not always the answer.

Ignoring the results of national elections and referenda and saying ‘we continue anyway’ is not a good enough response.

EU Heads of State and Government are rightly meeting in Bratislava this September to ask some tough questions.

And that is what the ECR Group was created to do. To sometimes ask those tough questions that people in this chamber do not want to hear.

With or without the UK, there are a growing number of people across the European Union who want change.

So my plea to you all is ..

Listen to those who want the EU to meet the challenges of the future
Listen to those who want politicians to start addressing their concerns, even where we may disagree; and
Listen to those who want their leaders to focus on creating jobs rather than creating political utopias.”

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