18 December 2020
Let us establish a Parliamentary EP-UK delegation to remain in dialogue and to meet old friends in a new era. Speech of Derk Jan Eppink, ECR Representative in the UK Coordination Group of the European Parliament
We have come a long way, but now is the time to close the deal. History will be harsh on both the European Union and the United Kingdom if we fail on the ultimate stretch. My group, ECR, wants a deal. We have always been very close to the British, in particular, the Conservative Party. British Conservatives were co-founders of our group, they offered us professionalism, pragmatism and a sense of humour. In the Conservative Party, an understatement is an expression of survival since your opponent within is never far away, basically, behind you.
However, that party also produced historical leaders like Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, with a power of strong personalities. Since the British have left, the European Parliament has become more boring, if I may say. And without Nigel Farage, over there in the corner, rather quiet like a provincial assembly. But Mr Farage has found other topics to play the ‘naughty boy of Britain’. Without the British, the right to dissent seems to disappear from this parliament, unfortunately. There is a mounting pressure for ‘la pensée unique’. Open debate and conflicting arguments, however, are ways to test ideas to reality. Too many narratives in this chamber remain in a void of self complacency, missing the much-needed reality check.
Without the British, the European Parliament tends to become a kind of religious congregation, mainly convinced of itself. We have to look for ways to keep these qualities the British have brought to this Parliament, in which, ironically, English remains the main language of communication without interpretation. The Brexit negotiations have also shown cultural differences. The French always have ‘une logique’ and a big design. The British rather proceed case by case, picking the cases that serve them best, as Mr Barnier may have noticed.
I thank Mr Barnier, Mr Šefčovič and Mr Frost, including their teams, for all the efforts to find common ground from different positions. Madame President, we have to close the deal. The Parliament should not resort to grandstanding, regarding a possible agreement as simply yes or no. Political groups should work on a resolution up for debate here in Brussels. The vote would be carried out by remote, a useful practicality we have mastered in this eventful year. Let us establish a Parliamentary EP-UK delegation to remain in dialogue and to meet old friends in a new era.
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