Pages tagged "brexit"

  • Third newsletter for Renew UK in Europe

    Hello and it seems appropriate to launch this New update, on St Valentine’s Day, known for its love of fellow man and women! Of late, there has been far too much bashing of our fellow human beings, with the final throes of the American Trump era and political bullying in Hong Kong and Myanmar (Burma). A cynic would wonder if the much treasured democracy was on the downslide; but I’m not a cynic and you will find this an upbeat and optimistic letter.

    The Renew Party was started some four years ago, by honourable people who were fed up with politicians. Its watchwords can be seen above and, in headlining these, we stand for decency, levelling up and an end to corruption and ‘ME, ME’ politics. Renew is the ONLY fully registered and accredited Party, in the centre of UK life, neither hard Left, nor hard Right. It has pursued a programme of roadshows and seminars, conferences and zoom meetings, during its admittedly short life, to find out what the people of the (still) United Kingdom really want from their leaders, those who manage the economy of a country which is still number six in terms of overall wealth and which lies at the centre of the Western World. It must also be said, without fear or favour, that of all the UK Parties, Renew is solidly in favour of reforging links with Europe, of which we are indisputably and geographically part. More of this later.

    In terms of where Renew is going, you can see on our website, very clearly, the values and main strategic aims, which reflect the feedback from our travels around not only the Union, but also Europe and the Rest of the World, for we must remember that while the UK contains some 47.6 million voters, there are also 1.4 million British passport holders in the remaining 27 countries of the EU and another 3.5 million elsewhere, overseas. All the five million outside the UK have currently either lost their vote in the EU, or if they have lived overseas for more than 15 years, have lost their vote in the UK as well; this in spite of three successive Tory manifesto promises to review the so-called 15 year Rule. After all, a very large proportion of us still pay taxes, in the UK and remember we lost America, under the slogan “No Taxation without Representation”! 

     

    So what is Renew actually doing for me? Well quite a lot. Like all fledgling organisations, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we now have a properly established main office in London, we have volunteer Regional Coordinators set up across all the main regions in the UK and in the EU (as an unpaid volunteer, I head up the latter) and we are fielding candidates in the upcoming elections in Scotland and London. This organisation is not just to burnish our egos. We feed back comment, cases and questions to the main operational group in London, (lets face it, for better or worse, the levers of political power in the UK still rest in London and – as you’ll see from the website, we are now receiving quite a lot of press coverage, getting key issues highlighted and answered.

     

    Progress within the EU is also positive and promising and there are three key initiatives:

    1. European Citizenship. Renew is backing a major legal project, to win European Citizenship for ALL British passport holders, in Europe, in line with an existing EU project for its residents, based on key principles in the Maastricht Treaty. This has passed the first key test, in the French and Belgian Courts, which now rests with the main Courts of Justice for the EU (CJUE), to be considered hopefully early this year. This project is based on a central principle of Maastricht, linked to Human Rights of individuals resident in a country (of the EU).
    2. This has enormous implications and potential for all of us who are resident in the remaining 27 EU countries, in much the same way that, post-Brexit, we have had in most cases to apply for or renew local residency cards. Citizenship if recognised, will reopen the door to Freedom of Movement in the EU, local elections, recognition of professional qualifications etc. The basic tenet revolves around: “Was I living here, before Brexit? Was I therefore in expectation of continuing to live here? Do my rights as a human being, entitle me to democratic rights to representation within and protection by “the State”? 
    3. Renew is sponsoring this legal initiative, by a French lawyer, Maitre Julien Fouchet and his legal colleagues, but you too can spread the word on and support this initiative, which will work for all of us, if it succeeds. Some of that potential is in YOUR hands.
    4. Later on, this initiative has the prospect of being extended to others, who are not full-time residents. Perhaps such individuals will be able to acquire an EU passport, to be held in parallel with your own.
    5. Leadership of this project rests with a Renew Member, Alice Bouilliez, resident in France, who heads up the NEW officially registered Association for the 1.4 million “Britizens” of Europe. A new website, email and funding is being launched NOW. Watch this space.
    6. The Fifteen Year Rule. This rule prevents those living overseas for more than 15 years, from voting in the UK, thus losing democratic protection including for one’s own family. Many civilised countries, including the USA, do not have this exclusion. Sadly the UK Tory Party actively excluded overseas voters, in the recent elections, by refusing to rescind the 15-year Rule. It will be evident that this effectively pushed out a large number of voters who might have supported “Remaining” in the EU. The Private Member’s Bill which looked to rescind the Rule was deliberately “talked out” by a Tory MP in Parliament. It is not hard to see why.
    7. In order to make future elections more fair and equitable, Renew looks to amend or rescind the above Rule, as the combined overall effect of Brexit and the Rule is to remove any democratic representation AT ALL, for some 2 million British subjects, approx. 3% of the UK population.
    8. Constitutional Representation. Of course the ability to vote is all very well, but is limited to a four-year opportunity and a lot can happen in that time. Before Brexit (BB) the British living in the EU also had their interests guarded by elected Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and in one fell swoop, these have been removed. The scope to repair our protective representation can only be replaced by adopting a passport in our local country, or by reintroducing a joint British/EU system, allowing elected individuals to speak for us, either in respective Parliaments, or via the British Foreign Office. This prospect, raised by Paul Fisher, a Renew Member, is in its infancy, but would strengthen your own protection and way of life, where you currently reside. If you support this idea, please let us know.

    One point has been raised by a friend of Renew, based in south Africa, but with a home in Spain. He and his family are also impacted by Brexit and, in due course, it is hoped the Citizenship project will help him and others living outside the EU, to regain their access to the EU. One step at a time. 😊

     

    All of the above work is being actively promoted to the senior hierarchy in the EU, but is only as effective as you make it. You can:

    1. Support it by passing on information, to friends and family
    2. Take an active part in extending the Renew Network, both in the EU and UK
    3. Help with seed funding via the Renew and ‘Britizen’ websites. The former is of course active and the latter will be soon. For the moment we rely upon the generosity of Maitre Fouchet and his colleagues, working pro bono, but as we gather momentum, costs will inevitably increase.

    And finally. As your Coordinator for Europe (and technically Rest of the World!) I am setting up a slim network, across the EU and its 27 countries. We now have a shared leadership in France (* see below) and an affiliation in Spain, with @BremainInSpain, sharing their objectives and values. I am looking to establish leaders in the other major EU countries, from amongst you. It is not a demanding role, but gives us a central clearing house, for key local issues and news about individual Country initiatives, to pass on and inform. Who knows, you might even establish an active and sociable life around us, post Covid! Whoever you are, you would network to me and provide an amazing service to your fellow Brits, at a time when truth, probity and democracy are in short supply! I really hope some of you will volunteer and step forward: you might even enjoy yourselves, as I do.

     

    Summary. Renew is not standing still: it is pushing forward to rebuild British politics and win back respect and honour, which we have lost during the Brexit saga. This is not about fine words, but real practical steps, which have a potential to improve our rights and our way of life, not just for us, but for our families and friends.

    We have the probability of holding up our heads again, in the European Community, ‘renewing’ our self-respect. I commend it to you all and I await your contact.

    Terence

    • * Mme Alice Bouilliez – Co-Coordinator (Renew) France [email protected] 
    • * Mr Paul Fisher – Co-Coordinator (Renew) France [email protected] 
    • Mr John Moffett, Bremain in Spain Twitter: @BremaininSpain

    Terence KNOTT MC, 83440 Montauroux, Var, France  Coordinator RENEW (UK) in Europe

    [email protected]

    00-33-635-020057

    Twitter:  #terenceknott1

  • RENEW UK – Offering to British Europeans

    The foreword to the RENEW UK Policy Blueprint begins,

    “The world around us is changing. Virtually every aspect of life is subject to significant disruption. Our family life, our work life and our relationships with government and big business are all changing at an unprecedented pace, change largely driven by the use and misuse of powerful new technologies. Democracy itself has been affected by these new forces, not always in a positive way. As individuals and as a society, we are finding it difficult to keep up with this change and to chart a stable course through it. This has created widespread frustration and exposed a vacuum of political leadership.

    Fundamental aspects of life previously taken for granted are now being questioned. When can we look to government for support and when must we fend for ourselves? What rights do we have as citizens and to what extent must we compromise those rights to accommodate those of our neighbours? Who has a right to govern our lives and what is the limit of their authority? Often the fact that there are no clear and easy answers to these questions leads to further uncertainty and more challenging questions.”

    For the British diaspora in Europe or British Europeans, there are additional challenges at the heart of our uncertain citizenship status since the UK left the European Union.

    British Europeans are uniquely disadvantaged as they become disenfranchised after 15 years absence from the UK and now cannot vote in their country of residence in the EU. However, we are now in pole position to campaign for both reform in Europe and in Britain based upon the Declaration of Human Rights Article 21 which states that, “Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chose representatives.”  RENEW UK recognises that the 1.4 million British Europeans need to get their voices heard and can provide a political home which will campaign for their rights in the UK and the EU based upon the individual’s right to political representation where they live and by virtue of their nationality.

    RENEW UK is one of the proponents of the European Citizenship initiative which not only strives to embed the rights of British Europeans but may lead to a European passport; it is part of the initiative to reforge the UK’s links with the EU.  Furthermore, RENEW UK fully endorses the “Votes for Life” campaign with a view to the establishment of UK Constituencies Abroad.

    Recently a correspondent said, “I am keen to get involved but ultimately I want to get more involved in European politics not just UK focussed activities, not that these are not important especially with regard to Citizenship which would eventually lead to proper representation for British residents in Europe.”

    If you feel like this correspondent and want to engage with like minded British Europeans then seriously consider participating in RENEW UK to get our voices heard in the UK and the EU.  We are seeking to reform our position in the spirit of openness.

  • European Citizenship Update

    Dear all,


    Some of you will be feeling very bruised after the nominal signing of the Brexit final agreement (still to be formally ratified by both EU and U.K. parliaments). Some/a few will be cautiously delighted. So be it. We are where we are - move on and I am.

    As some will be aware, I have been working for some three months, on a new EU based initiative, to win Citizenship, for the 1.4 million Brits, living, working, studying, in the EU.


    This scheme in no way conflicts with Brexit, but it opens the door again, to Freedom of Movement, recognition of professional qualifications and a number of doors (e.g. Erasmus), which have been half-shut by the Brexit ‘agreement’ - namely recognition that Brits living, working and studying in the EU, have the right to be recognised as Citizens, or in our case (most of us) ‘citoyennes’.


    I emphasise again that this is not something that should worry the current British government, unless they should prove excessively spiteful, as the scheme does NOT impinge upon your British nationality, or passport.
    So here it is. We are working with French lawyers, via French and EU Courts, to grant “Citizenship” to those of you who have a residence and indeed better still a Carte de Sejour (or post-Brexit the renewed Carte, or equivalent). I am honour bound to point out that we still need to transfer this scheme to the other 26 EU countries, other than France that is)....a work in progress.


    Where we are now is that we have put two (British) test cases, to the French Courts and in the past month, they have agreed that these “hold merit” and they have passed them to the (European) Courts of Justice for the EU (ECUE). If then agreed, they will probably go to the EU Court for Human Rights, because the principle is that you LIVE in the EU and HAVE lived in the EU and you have had your right to vote, in the EU, taken away unilaterally by Brexit; and for those who have lived here more than 15 years, you’ve lost the right currently to vote in the U.K.- thus losing any democratic representation AT ALL! Bit like ISIS, in fact!


    The central argument therefore is that your rights have been removed, without your agreement, to any form of representation, up the chain. In short, your Human Rights have been infringed. I know for a fact, that you’re all intelligent people, so I don’t have to spell it out!


    In taking the cases to the CJUE and beyond (more of that below), it will help if we strengthen our hand, with additional “applicants” over and above the current two test cases....a sort of class action.
    To that end, I’m asking you to fill in the attached very brief details and email or post it back to me. These will then be collated by our two pro-bono lawyers, in STRICT CONFIDENCE, to be submitted to the ECUE, as collateral support.
    Should we be successful, then the matter will proceed up the chain, to the EU Court of Human Rights and possible the EU Parliament and Council of Ministers. The sky's the limit!
    All adults can respond. Each person should fill in the form, to return by post, or email, to me. You are strongly encouraged to pass on.

    And finally. This is a serious and high profile matter. You are at the cutting edge of 1.4 million Brits, in Europe, living, working, studying, researching; and this applies to ALL your own family, your friends and your colleagues. There is NO RESTRICTION on who can complete this proforma, as long as you have a house in the EU, you have a British passport, or you are married to a Brit.
    Go for it! Please fill in the Word document response attached here 😁👍 and send it back to me at [email protected] and please also cc in [email protected]

    Meanwhile,
    Happy New Year!
    Terry

     

    Author:

    Terence Phayre Knott MC

    83440 Montauroux, France

    Jan 2021

     

     

     

     

     

  • Citizenship for Brits in the EU

     

    CITIZENSHIP FOR BRITISH SUBJECTS LIVING IN THE EUROPEAN UNION v.6 

    “Brexit equals the worst case of self-harm.” (John Major, past UK Prime Minister)

    “The UK is quintessentially European” (B Johnson, UK Prime Minister, 2020)

     

    Introduction

    There are some 1.4 million British subjects living in the European Union (EU/UE). According to British government sources, 80% of these are working, studying, or researching, while the remaining 20% are living and retired in the EU.

    These citizens of the United Kingdom, referred to hereafter as Expatriates, or Expats, (Latin: Ex Patria) have lost their right to vote, in EU parliamentary & local elections, due to the enforcement of British exit (Brexit) from the EU, with effect         1 Jan 2020 (now finalised 1 Jan 2021). In addition, those Expats who have lived in the EU for more than 15 years have also lost the right to vote in all UK elections, despite three consecutive Manifesto promises, by the currently ruling UK Conservative Party. Indeed, a Private Member’s Bill, proposing the rescinding of this loss of rights, was recently and deliberately “talked out” of the British Parliament, by a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP).

    Thus, with no vote now in the EU and no vote in their home country, a substantial number of the EU based British Expats, are effectively “stateless”, or without the right to be democratically represented.

    Yet the Citizenship of the EU/UE was determined, in 1992, by the Maastricht Treaty and gave “additional legal status, [to be] enjoyed by EVERY person, (an “Individual Right”) holding nationality of a Member State AT THAT MOMENT IN TIME”; and subsequently to other countries that joined.

    Therefore it may be argued that British Expats, living and working in the EU, should have the right to be recognised as EU Citizens, with all rights and privileges, that may entail, including Citizenship.

    In nearly all cases, British passport holders made a conscious and deliberate decision, for a variety of reasons, to move to and settle in one of the (now) 27 countries that make up the EU.

    Legal Case

    A recent legal test case has been submitted to the French Courts, by a Maitre Julien Fouchet, arguing that his client, Mme Alice Bouilliez, a British lady living in France for more than 15 years, had the right to and expectation of EU Citizenship.

    This application was recently considered by the French Courts. This case has been strengthened by addition of a second case (Mme Strawson). This approval has now been further submitted to the Courts of Justice for the European Union (CJUE), with the intention to gain approval across the EU/UE Countries, (less the UK - which has transited from the EU in 2021). 

    This test case (see above) refers to someone fully resident in the EU, (as it happens, for more than 15 years). It should not be possible or acceptable to remove that person’s rights to Citizenship, for political reasons; yet this is precisely and effectively what the UK has done.

    Discussion

    There are several issues, which pertain to this important matter:

    1. Duty of Care. Every civilised nation, or group of nations, has a duty of care, for the citizens living within its borders.
    2. Unintended consequences. Even in the most extreme political jousting, it cannot be considered that some 1.4 million people are effectively disenfranchised from any vote for an elected representative. Currently the British citizens in the EU have been cut off from voting in local EU elections and (after 15 years) from voting in the UK.
    3. Collateral Damage. It must be considered that those British citizens living in the EU are NOT part & parcel of the current move by the UK, to withdraw from the EU (Brexit). Those living and working in the EU have, under the Maastricht treaty, to be considered as citizens of the EU. As such, UK citizens based in the EU can be considered as “collateral damage”.
    4. This is also an issue. In implementing the ‘accidental removal’ of voting rights, it can be argued that the British government did not appreciate the extent of the damage done to the democratic rights of 1.4 million British passport-holders. The impact was out of proportion and unreasonable. Even worse, it might be argued that the UK government, in its pursuit of Brexit, did not care for the well-being of its own subjects.
    5. It is calculated some 97% of EU expats voted against Brexit and (as the President Elect of the USA recently said, in his Thanksgiving speech) “Voting is the noblest form of non-violent protest”; and of course the Right to Vote is the ‘bedrock of Democracy”. Currently, despite three separate Tory Party Manifestos, a British passport holder, (often paying some taxes in the UK), who has resided outside the UK, for more than 15 years, is not entitled to vote; even though members of the British Commonwealth (e.g. Australia, Canada etc) were permitted to vote in the 2016 UK Referendum.
    6. The implementation of Brexit, is a major subject in its own right, but there are several anomalies, which have occurred; some still under negotiation, at time of going to press:
    • British expats are now required to obtain & pay for visas, to travel within the EU. If they travel to friends and families in the UK, they then must prove a right to re-enter an EU country, of residence or business; especially if they are married to an EU citizen.
    • Expats must extend their rights to live and work in the EU, even if they have done so for years. Professional qualifications may no longer be recognised (architects, scientists, medical personnel, etc).This does in certain cases involve extra costs (e.g. translation & legal fees) (another example of unintended consequences)
    • Under UK law, British women gained various rights (1918), which have now been disrupted. Maitre Fouchet’s client now has less rights than her Suffragette ancestors in 1918 !
    • Following Brexit, it is now impossible to insure a British car, without a permanent address in the UK; the same financial issues apply to many UK banks, where the account holder is living fulltime in the EU
    • UK spouses cannot now take their partners to the UK, without adequate financial status, or a visa
    1. Health Care. UK citizens have paid taxes in both the UK and their EU country of domicile and should be entitled to health care, without being financially penalised. (This issue is ongoing)
    2. Human Rights. The Maastricht Treaty of 1992-3 granted citizenship to any person, from the countries that made up the EU, both then and since, as a basic human right. This is central to democracy and the Rights of Man.

     

    “A vow creates a direction and becomes Paramount”: ( Mahatma Gandhi )

     

     A non-inclusive list of rights would include the right to dignity, fairness, respect and equality, but also to eat, breathe, procreate and vote, without fear of prosecution, or threat to life and living. It should go without saying that these rights must apply to both the rich and poor. Conversely it is wrong that a small group of privileged people should be able to oppress a population, forcing them to obey laws and conditions, which cause stress and hardship, in peacetime. Specifically, in the case of Brexit, in which many British subjects were not allowed to vote, a balance of 52% : 48% on an “advisory vote” should not be a Mandate for such oppression and the removal of Human Rights, from British Subjects; or indeed anyone else.

    1. Legal Access. Those living in the European Union as citizens, have the inalienable right to refer to, or come before the CJUE. This right comes from the Maastricht Treaty, which refers amongst its Objectives to:

     

    “the introduction of a citizenship of the Union” common to the nationals of the Member States

     

    1. In fact, (see above), the two test cases, having been passed by the French Courts, are being brought forward to the CJUE. This is not in itself a political issue, but a matter of simple Law. Basic Human Rights should not be over-ridden by temporary populist whims and pressures, no matter how loudly they may be expressed.

    Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms, that belong to EVERY person, in the world, from birth until death. They can never be taken away, although sometimes restricted for example if someone breaks the law, or in the interests of national security. The UK passed the Human Rights Act in 1998.

    1. The European Union (EU/UE). The EU/UE has a proud record, on equality, standards and fairness. This marches side by side with the purpose of ensuring “democratic functioning”. Indeed the EU/UE currently has a major project, en route, regarding Citizenship, which is due to be considered by the CJUE, (vide ECIT Conference of 1-2 Dec 2020).

    In the field of Justice & Home Affairs, the Council of Ministers is exhorted by the Maastricht Treaty, “to inform and consult”.

    Given the wide ranging and potentially serious nature of this matter, affecting in total some 1.4 million British Expats, in the EU, it is felt that it should be brought, not only to the attention of the EU Courts, but also to senior representatives of the EU administration and thence, perhaps, to the EU Parliament and Council.

     

    Summary

    With the advent of the UK Brexit, some 1.4 million British Expats have lost their right to vote, in EU Parliamentary & local elections; and for many, who have lived in Europe for 15 years or over, they cannot vote in UK Elections either. This is utterly undemocratic and impinges heavily upon their Human Rights, to have access to justice, fairness, respect and equality. These cannot be said to exist, without access to democratic representation, not least in the country of domicile.

    The Maastricht Treaty of 1992-3 is quite clear on the subject of ALL people living in the countries comprising the EU; and this has effectively and until now included British expats, living and working AND paying taxes, in the EU. Without the ability to vote anywhere, for a substantial proportion of these residents & their families, they are disenfranchised and deprived of democratic representation. They can therefore be said to be deprived of a basic Human Right.

    Two recent test cases, brought by Maitre Julien Fouchet, have been placed successfully before the French Courts, which have considered and passed the cases, for further consideration, to the CJUE.

    It is felt that this is a serious case, with major ramifications for all British expats in the EU and, accordingly, this Paper is part of an effort to bring the matter to the attention of senior representatives of the EU; with a view to gaining citizenship recognition, for those British passport holders resident in and contributing to the 27 countries, that comprise the EU/UE.

    Given the size of this British Community and the intention shown, in moving to live, work (80%), study and research, in the EU/UE, it is evidently to the benefit of said EU/UE, to shelter, aid and cherish, such a community.

     

    Recommendations

    The authors of this Paper believe that severe damage has been done to the democratic rights of the 1.4 million British passport holders, living and working in the EU, that they have lost the right to vote, both in the EU and for many of them, in the UK; and consequently their basic Human Rights have also been lost, or at very least severely infringed.

    Further this Paper recommends that the above British residents be included in the EU Citizenship scheme and their Freedom of Movement and other rights be restored, alongside their other European compatriots.

     

    Author:

    Terence Phayre Knott MC

    83440 Montauroux, France

    2 Jan 2021

     

     

     

     

     

  • An Appeal To The Courts

    Renew’s Alice Bouilliez is appealing to the courts, fighting for the rights of Brits in Europe

    CIVIS ROMANUS SUM - CIVIS EUROPEUS SUM

    Here I am, a Citizen of the European Union whose rights and privileges have been stripped away from me without me being able to vote on the matter.

    Who is it that dares to say that I no longer naturally belong where I have made my home in total legality? That I should need a ‘Carte de Sejour’ to confirm my duty to the state in which I live and work; when only yesterday I enjoyed full and fair rights and privileges?

    My only privilege now is to pay my taxes; with what in return? Do I have freedom of movement to live and work in 27 countries? NO! Why not? Because people living in a country that saw my birth, 1000 miles away, and where I can no longer vote, who know nothing of my situation, have decided that ‘they’ are better off stripping ‘my’ rights away. What utter nonsense. How unfair is that?

    The treaties demand that decisions on the welfare of European Citizens be taken as close as possible to the people concerned. Those people who voted in the referendum in2016 live very far away from me. They have other preoccupations, such as fishing rights or sovereignty with gunboats to back up their arguments. Those arguments had nothing to do with my situation and yet I have been fully affected by them in a negative way. I have lost my only rights to vote anywhere as a consequence, as well as my Freedom of Movement.

    The mass media try to tell me that I am no longer a European Citizen but CIVIS EUROPEUS SUM! Once a European Citizen, always a European Citizen.

    Mr Murdoch was visibly furious about being summoned to come before the Parliamentary Select Committee and vowed his vengeance in his newspapers. He appears to have managed.

    I started to campaign for our rights when I realised that there was no one in power in the UK with the slightest regard for my situation or the situation of millions of others like me.

    To be disenfranchised is a horrible feeling; with one decree you are thrown back into a state similar to that of childhood. Your voice does not matter, your opinions do not change anything. There is a feeling of being bereft. The suffragettes were not fighting for something that they had lost nor for something that they had previously held. They were fighting for new rights. The arguments of the Suffragettes and the abolitionist movement in the USA are just as valid now as they ever were.

    I am fighting to regain my rights, to be counted as a grown-up adult.

    What happens when you lose the right to vote? You are disenfranchised, this means that you become a child in the eyes of society. A child with no parent or guardian to take up your problems or worries.

    Just as an orphan can ask for emancipation when his or her parents die and he or she has to take on the responsibility for a family, so do I ask to be emancipated, to be able to vote again as a fully-fledged European Citizen once more.

    Why was there no one there to speak up for me? Unlike other European countries the United Kingdom has no Member of Parliament for those who live outside its borders. France in comparison does have parliamentary representatives for its expatriates, wherever they live in the World.

    The only thing or structures that the UK has are the consular services or the British Council (that British citizens have no access to). Consular services have been reduced to mere trade envoys as Mrs Ratcliffe has found to her cost. A British person outside the UK has no support or voice and there is no help. Members of Parliament are unreachable by people who are not their constituents. An MP is not allowed to reply to a letter from someone outside their constituency (James Foley’s case). This system, or lack of it is fine if you have an MP. Not so good if you don’t have one. The only recourse is to write to the Upper House or Her Majesty. The Queen.

    I wrote to Lord Hestletine in 2016. To Lord Adonis, To Dominic Grieve who have since become part of the European Movement.  The Queen however was unable to concern herself with ‘political’ matters.

    Mrs Ratcliffe has an admirable husband who has publicised her case but how many Britons are there with no protection whatsoever? Until January 2020 Britons had access to European Union consular services and ultimately judicial help through the European Union Court system. A person accused of a crime could ask for help from any European Union Embassy or Consular service. This is no longer true.

    I was turned away by the guards, from the UK Embassy in Oslo with my British born, dual national Anglo/French son in 2017 when he had a serious personal problem.

    What are we to say to Mrs Page who had planned to live out her retirement in a lovely house in the French countryside surrounded by her horse, her dogs and her cats, when after the referendum her income from the UK was slashed by a third due to the Brexit vote, and who is now in a retirement home in Hungerford without her beloved animals?

    What do we say to my godfather, Mike Johnson, whose two girls, who have always lived in France and are having difficulty getting their Cartes de Sejour, or the twins who went for French nationality: One was given it , but the other was denied it.

    A great many of those worst affected are recently arrived British women, widows, divorcees, wives of EU nationals. Some with children at foot with dual nationality. Which jurisdiction will uphold the rights of divorced couples, in the future?

    Collateral damage, you might say, Collateral damage, as if that was a fair excuse.

    Life is unfair, you might say, Yes: that is the reason for the existence of the Courts and their Justice system. Remember, last month, that all of these people were European Citizens and totally and legally within their rights to be where they are now. They are now destitute of their rights.

    What should we all do in these examples?  I do not feel that it is right to wave a ‘flag of convenience, like some clandestine ship’ by taking the nationality of another European country and by virtue of that subterfuge, be recognised once again as a European Citizen (many people cannot for various reasons).

    I still am a European Citizen and wish to stay so. I was given Citizenship of Europe by virtue of my country joining the European Union in 1973. Reinforced in 1992 by the Maastricht treaty. From that moment forward I have been a European Citizen I own that Citizenship. It is a fundamental status. My inalienable right, part of my being.

    One thing is certain, and that is that on the 31st January 2020 I was a fully fledged European Citizen with all the rights and obligations mentioned in the European Charter of Human rights. Since that date no one has sent me a message personally to tell me that I am no longer a European Citizen. If they had I would have contested it.  Instead without warning, I was made aware that I could no longer vote in the municipal elections in March 2020. My name was absent from the register, with the humiliation of being singled out.

    During the Brexit negotiations we have all been told that nothing was final until everything was signed. The social side was sadly forgotten.

    Why have I been discriminated against? Although everyone understands that geopolitical states are often in flux, there is a growing group of families that are spread over the whole of Europe and these people are often highly educated and possess three or more languages, they need to be able to belong to a group that has distinct protections rights and duties.

    Who pays for my European Citizenship? I pay for it at the moment through taxation in my chosen country France. When on European soil the taxes of all European citizens are collected and a proportion is ring fenced for European projects. When outside European soil, the taxes of European citizens have always gone to the country of residence. This should not have to change. The finances of Europe will not suffer from giving me back my rights.

    Civil rights are often made to sound like some outlandish impertinence. Nothing could be further from the truth. Basic Human rights are the bedrock of society.

    Si vous le voulez en francais je peut le faire.

    Amities

    Mme Alice Bouilliez, France

  • The Internal Market Bill - A Letter

    Renew’s man in Europe, Terry Knott, has written to him MP, Gillian Keegan to raise the issue of the Internal Market Bill

     

       Dear Gillian,

        As you know, the House of Lords has decisively rejected the government’s Internal Market Bill and this should tell Mr Johnson and his government, of which you are part, that this is emphatically a bad Bill; and one which has caused massive unease and condemnation, across the global community.

        Needless to say, the new Biden team, plus the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi have also made their adverse feelings plain; and if the Tories are not careful, this will spill over, into any future trading arrangements, at a time when Brexit and our relations with the EU are wobbling badly.

        Apart from my loathing of Brexit, of which you are fully aware, I fully accept that the government must make the best of a bad job, which will involve spinning the end negotiations, to put a brave face on it; “tant pis” as the French would say. But we are now dangerously close to the wire, in our negotiations with Brussels and we cannot afford to keep playing chicken, with 27 other countries.

        Whatever the failings of the EU and there are of course some, the good parts vastly outweigh the bad; and Mr Johnson and his colleagues must realise that there is a built in momentum for the EU, that firstly prevents them ‘turning on a sixpence’ and secondly prevents individual countries from keeping up with the last minutes vacillation and manoeuvres of the U.K. Cabinet. In short, you are all treading a dangerous path and I urge you to stop it and consolidate what you have got.

        No Deal and all that implies is simply not worth it; and the sad thing is that many of your colleagues are not sufficiently well-informed to realise that; nor for that matter is 90% of the U.K. population.

        Finally, we have spent cash, more than equalling our total national GDP, on battling the Corona virus. Now is not the time to add the chaos that will ensue from a NoDeal Brexit.

        Let us settle for what we have, with the EU and agree gracefully, a common approach to the future. Whether we like it or not, we have been geographic and economic neighbours for thousands of years and Brexit is but a side show, in the grand scheme of things, whatever Mr Johnson’s ego may be telling him.

        Please add your common sense to the plea for reason, versus further aggression.

        Yours sincerely,

        Terence

     

     

     

     

     

  • Heart and land - Brexpats are and remain European citizens

    Renew’s man in Europe, Terry Knott, has been working closely with two eminent French lawyers who are trying to win the right for British people living in Europe to retain their EU citizenship. This is an English translation of their case.

     

    Michel Barnier said, last week,that among the thorny issues to be resolved by the negotiators in charge of the future relations after Brexit, between the European Union and the United Kingdom, is that of the status of British citizens residing in the territory of the European Union, the "Brexpats" [Latin: Ex Patria, Out of Country].

    Until now, we had hardly heard anything about this subject. The topics invited to the media table were rather [about] fishing, or fair competition between the two economies, confirming [giving] the impression that Europe is definitely more interested in people's wallets than in their hearts.

    Anyone who rubs shoulders with the Brexpats knows their dismay. The withdrawal of the United Kingdom is creating all kinds of uncertainties, particularly regarding the right to reside in their [present] country of residence, where they have sometimes been living for several decades, but also regarding their social rights, their tax duties, the visa system, their electoral or property rights which, as Mr Barnier [EU] points out, have not yet been clarified, despite the many rounds of discussions between the Union [EU] and the United Kingdom. The legal proceedings they have initiated have either failed to resolve their great bitterness, or are ongoing.

    We can thus be pleased with this return of the human element, to the concerns of negotiators, but on reflection, Michel Barnier's [recent] remark seems curious. Shouldn't the status of Brexpats in the European Union interest the Union [EU] alone? Why on earth should it be a subject for negotiation with the United Kingdom? Because the status of the 1.7 million Brexpats [approx. estimate] is inseparable from that of the 3 million "Brimpats", the citizens of the EU residing in the United Kingdom, in this area, solutions must be reciprocal.

    Everyone understands this, but there is one major difference that must be noted: Brimpats have never been British citizens, whereas, like you and me, when the British voted for the Brexit, Brexpats were, often from birth, citizens of the European Union. This raises the question of whether the Brexit has really made [is making] them lose their European citizenship.

    In terms of legal appearances, the answer is positive, since the founding treaties of the European Union make citizenship of the Union dependent on the nationality of a Member State. If a State leaves the Union, then its nationals should no longer be citizens of the Union.

    However, this appearance [condition] comes up against certain difficulties.

    European citizenship connects every European citizen first and foremost to the European Union. Thanks to it, every European citizen voting in the European Parliament, has a right to address petitions to the European Parliament, a right to have recourse to the European Ombudsman, a right to address the European institutions in one of the languages of the Treaties and to receive a reply in the same language.

    These rights may seem remote for each, but the right to vote in the European Parliament is essential: half of the rights and obligations of every European citizen emanate from the European Parliament. Who can claim that it is indifferent to him or her to vote, democratically, for who will decide half of what concerns him or her?

    To limit ourselves to one example, who can believe that, without the power of the European Union and the vigilance of the Court of Justice, his personal data could have been effectively protected, unlike that of the American, or Chinese citizen, … if he at least made the effort to really want it?

    The European Union also has an obligation not only to treat each citizen without discriminating against him or her, on the basis of nationality, gender, origin, convictions, religion, disability or sexual orientation, but also to combat discrimination.
    Who can believe [maintain] that this drive for equality is a distant preoccupation?

    European citizenship also connects each European citizen to each of the other Member States. Thanks to it, it is possible to move as freely between Paris and Brussels, as between London and Liverpool, between Strasbourg and Copenhagen, as between Liverpool and Scapa Flow, between Luxembourg and Rome, as between Scapa Flow and Portsmouth. We know better now how precious geographical carelessness is, since it has left us all the way to the interior of the borders.

    But, if it was only a question of moving around… European citizenship is also the right to settle freely in another Member State. This is how 350,000 French people are Brimpats, just as some 400,000 Brexpats have chosen France. Isn’t it just as wonderful for a young Auvergne man to seek his fortune in London, as it is for a native of Liverpool to live peacefully in the Dordogne, during his retirement?

    European citizenship even means the right to vote in municipal elections in the country where you live. French citizens living in Manchester vote to designate local authorities, just as the Brexpats living in Barcelona vote for municipal elections.
    Everyone knows the burden of local taxes. Who can deny [refuse] the weight of the corresponding vote?

    These few examples, which are by no means exhaustive, illustrate how European citizenship affects almost every aspect of our personal and collective life: the right to vote, freedom [of movement], opportunity, equality, employment and social rights, communication, computing...[etc.]

    European citizenship thus belongs intimately to the individual. It is a part of his being and it should not be possible to deny it to him. It is a good for him and it should not be possible to deprive him of it.

    Unless he renounces it. And, what makes it possible to consider that the Brexpats, who remained on the territory of the European Union and thus demonstrated their attachment to Europe, in spite of Brexit, would have renounced their European citizenship? Certainly not the sovereign, albeit unthinking, choice of their fellow [British] citizens.

    The United Kingdom has just recognised Brimpats' right to vote in local elections. It has thus made a gesture of good will in terms of British citizenship. Let us plead for Brexpats to retain their European citizenship on this side of the Pas-de-Calais. By making this effort, the European Union would be renewing the gesture of its democratic values.

    As Cicero said, a people is not just any gathering of men, assembled in a certain way, but the gathering of a multitude, whose association is based on a legal organisation and a community of interests. For the French, there is also the desire to live together. Whether they live in France, Germany, Greece or Estonia, Brexpats are part of a legal organisation, belong to a community of interests, and prove that they want to continue to live with us. By this choice, they have integrated [with] the European people. There is no reason why the European people should not keep them in their midst.

    Again and again, let us borrow the conclusion from Winston Churchill: "Having lived in those days, I propose to show to what extent the structures and practices of democratic states, which are not united in larger organisations, are deprived of those elements of persistence and conviction, which alone can guarantee security for the mass of the humble... how necessary it is that many states advance together on a broad path of international action, from year to year, whatever the ebb and flow of national policies."

    By voting for Brexit, British people have served us one of those ebbs and flows of national policy, that should encourage us Europeans to resist a very natural reactive temptation and to keep the Brexpats in our [European] union. Between China, which is advancing resolutely in this modern despotism of which it has succeeded, thanks to a viral crisis, in offering us the model, and the United States, which is reacting tensely to this competition that it considers imperfect, they will help us, with their fighting spirit, to guarantee our security and prosperity to all of us. And they will help to protect Brimpats.

     

    Paper and legal text by: Maitre Julien Fouchet, lawyer at the bar of Bordeaux (France)

     

    Translator’s Note:
    Where the original text has been written from a legal, French perspective, certain words have been inserted or clarified, by the translator in square brackets [thus] to ensure the bi-lingual meaning is clear.

     

     

     

     

     

  • We Need a New Future for the UK and All its People

    Alex Haida is Co-Chairman of Volt UK. Renew and Volt UK have been working together in recent months as we discuss ideas and opinions on the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Alex has laid out his thoughts for moving forward in this article.

     

    I would like to take you back to May 2019. I remember it was a rainy month, I was struggling to put my wet leaflets through doors in Ordsall during the local council elections campaign. I stood as an independent but told the people I met that I was a member of Volt UK. My programme focused on cleaning the many waterways in Ordsall and as well as initiatives to strengthen the local community (I was thinking about a new community pub). As I campaigned throughout my neighbourhood, I had many special moments when I knocked on doors and met the people in my community.

     

    In between all the stories that I told and listened to, my encounter with one woman particularly struck me. She lived in one of these houses of typical crimson Salford bricks with a small garden out front. I gave her my usual Volt pitch of working together in Europe and using best practices to improve our local community. After that, she only said one thing to me: She had voted Leave, yet she would vote for me because I was not one of them even though I was firmly pro-EU. This struck me profoundly and I was left speechless, I couldn’t say anything else other than that Volt didn’t align for what you voted for back then, but I thanked her and let her go.

    red brick terraced urban streets of moss side, manchester

     

    A Leave voter chose me over the other candidates from the established parties.  Even though I was campaigning in the name of the pro-European Party, Volt, she voted for me. She voted for a neighbour, who was born in Germany and had only lived in the UK for a couple of years, but was campaigning for our Ordsall. She needed to know that I cared about local issues and that I was doing something about it. She did not really seem to care about Europe, and she did not really seem to care about Brexit either. It highlighted to me what we must focus on when we try to find balance between prosperity and desire.

     

    Why was she planning to vote for me despite our differenc of opinion when it came to Europe? It was not important to her as a voter ‘how’ I do politics. All that mattered was ‘why’. Unknown to her the way I was doing it brought me to her doorstep. I needed not only her vote, but also her voice as a citizen of the UK to make change happen. People-powered change, regardless of political affiliations, but based on trust and human values.

    The 2016 referendum was a disaster. Instead of asking a stupid Yes/No question, the question should have considered the political diversity and opportunities of the UK. The questions never needed to be Yes/No to Europe, the conversation needed to be ‘How do we interact with Europe’. 

     

    Brexit is still unsolved. Nevertheless, I think we can find a solution by asking the right questions: How do the British people see themselves in Europe? What do people really care about? What is a British dream for Europe about?

     

    Quo vadis, Britannia?

    Firstly, there is a frustration with politics and politicians. This was demonstrated during the last general election. Many could not side with Corbyn’s hard left agenda, while others were dismayed at the failure to create a real remain alliance. Many, as usual, felt that voting was a waste of time. The Brexit referendum offered a change. This change has not happened; all we are left with is division.

    The UK is our house, we live in it, we work in it and we want it to thrive in a neighbourhood where, thanks to teamwork and compassion, we can build certainty and a future.

    Politics needs a new product. Politicians need to understand democracy as a marketplace. Let us take an example: Imagine a market selling different types of transportation. You can buy horses, bicycles or cars. All the products come with pros and cons, but all the products will help you to move forward. You know a fair and open market should allow you to choose your product and make deals that work best for you. Generally, the best salesmen are the ones that listen and advise you to purchase the product that best suits your needs. Bad salesmen, on the other hand, promise you the option that suits them best, not the option that is best for your needs. Sounds familiar? Ask yourself: Do I really need a Ferrari when I only drive it to Aldi?

    If we continue to follow Johnson, we might get ‘true independence’. Britain will sit on a throne made from the legacy of the once proud Empire; Britain will wear a crown again. It will have control back again, as they say. That is true. However, the throne is a cracked and unstable chair, rather a piece for the museum, standing remarkably close to the gates of a much grander castle called Europe. Previously, the UK had helped build this castle, but no more. In Brexit Britain and under a No Deal, we will wear a paper crown as we wave hello to our old friends from the US, India, or Africa, that will flood to our castle gates. But the UK will not be their destination. They will be en-route to Europe.

    Johnson dictates for a new era where the British people live poorer and with less freedom and less choice as they go about their lives. They talk about winning the sovereignty of the UK, but what happened to the sovereignty of the people? We don’t have it. We have no proportional representation, we are lacking effective devolution, and we have tribal party politics, personality cults and a lot of old men shouting at each other in an old building on the island that is London, far away from where politics needs to implement the change. This doesn’t sound like sovereignty to me.

    The political establishment lost the people; they are assets on balance sheets, without dignity, without care, without hope.

    The people of the UK, their families, their businesses, must not lose out to Brexit: open doors and open opportunities in our continental neighbourhood are vital. Was 52% a strong enough mandate to pull 100% of the people 100% away from this neighbourhood? Mathematically this is a majority, but it is a majority of the people who voted not a majority of the people and Britain is more than numbers and figures. It’s not just Yes or No. Britain is diverse and is proud of that, too. We are champions of debate and compromise. No Deal is no compromise.

    In the end, we need to draw a new future for the UK and all of its people. Of course, you cry, everybody talks about it. The Government is talking about it, but it still can’t open or even find the next door to replace EU membership. You can argue that we have seen some political change; the Government under the rule of the Conservative Party did a remarkable job breaking their ancient values by introducing the most Socialist manifesto the UK has ever seen. But this only proves that political pragmatism, not political idealism, is leading the way. However, we need a new political product that suits the citizens, not the establishment.

    But why is Europe really important for the UK, you may ask yourself? I think the British people are not wrong with their concerns about uncontrolled immigration, security threats, the uncontrollable Commission and missing links between fiscal and monetary policies; the EU gives you a headache rather than a solution. The EU has plans for reform but will it be able to adapt to global challenges? The UK is experienced in tactfulness and finesse and knows how to play a significant role on the global stage. To a level with the USA, China, and India, too.

    Nevertheless, the strengths of the UK will be amplified with the help of close relationships with other countries. With Europe, the UK can set improved standards for defence, foreign affairs, green energy, and trade, all of which must be reformed in the EU. Economic freedom can be developed when the UK works with Europe and especially under the Single Market, Thatcher’s legacy to the EU. Does the UK want to leave it to a Franco-German playgroup, which fails to realise the potential of a liberal single market that benefits all market players? A competitive market that really benefits everyone from the grain farmers of Bulgaria to the pub landlord of Anglesea. Over-regulation and complicated bureaucracy can be shown the door, but only with a pragmatic Britain at the helm.

    Of course, a future deal with the EU must ensure that the UK can be a global political trend setter. If Europeans want Britain to enter the European castle again and play a part in it, then there have to be special arrangements in regard to currency, social security and taxation that will guarantee the social and moral principles of the British people.

    The Brexit debate has brought back the dead: we are reminded with Churchill’s rhetoric when fighting Nazi Germany, leading the UK to glory and unforgettable victory. The EU is a by-product of this victory. The UK helped to build the EU, but Churchill himself was hesitant to further integrate with the Europe that he helped to keep alive. Does that make him a great, modern European? Many would say not. But with all respect, he was certainly a great warrior, and the one Europe needed in its darkest hours. After ‘45, there was no war anymore. Reason took over, however nobody other than Margaret Thatcher moved ahead with the proposal for the Single Market to further shape the European Project. The seeds for two main aspects of the EU, peace and economic power, were planted by Brits.

    So, what happened to the reason and courage that characterised Churchill’s and Thatcher’s politics in the fight for a strong and stable European continent when it was needed the most? When we want to play our role at the helm again and help others with good old British pragmatism, we need to implement reforms that solve the people’s frustration. We must address the lack of participation and fight against populism. However, these reforms must happen here first. Firstly, we need to fix the UK, then we can talk about Europe. Do you remember the lady in Ordsall that voted for me? She was interested in why I campaigned, not Europe. 

    It doesn’t matter how you do it

    Thatcher said: “to be free is better than to be unfree – always. Any politician who suggests the opposite should be treated as suspect”. In a way she is addressing the untransparent, unaccountable EU. But what she forgot was the will of the people of Britain. Brexit is pushing Scotland and Wales into a position where political change threatens the United Kingdom as we know it. Don’t forget too that England does not even have its own parliamentary representation. It does not have a voice like the other British nations have. If the British people are so proud of their political pragmatism when it comes to foreign affairs, then the pragmatism in its internal affairs must feel like loss of freedom. So much about sovereignty.

    We need to enable citizen power, working locally as neighbours for neighbours, just like I did in Ordsall. As I mentioned before, democracy is a marketplace, a living process, not a single event. A new political product, which includes electoral reform and empowered communities, and will put tolerance and pragmatism over tribal loyalty and faith. It works, the woman in Ordsall is proof of that.

    How do we move on with Europe then? Firstly, do not take anything for granted. Britain has been and will probably always be special in Europe. When politicians in the coming months look to preserve Europe’s most valuable aspects, they must remember the British art of making deals again. We need a deal that gives everybody the chance to reach their full potential and ensure the people’s sovereignty is not blocked by politicians more interested in satisfying their own interests.

    This brings me back to the British Dream of Europe: Do you remember the song by Madness, “Our House”? The lyrics include the following: “I remember way back then when everything was true and when | We would have such a very good time, such a fine time | Such a happy time | And I remember how we’d play, simply waste the day away | Then we’d say nothing would come between us | Two dreamers”.

    Where have those dreamers gone? Johnson can’t open the door that provides hope and a prosperous future. He closed all the doors. No more dreams. But the UK dreams to play a global role. Britain is full of nostalgia for the good old days, “when everything was true”. we must reflect, be honest to ourselves and admit that the EU is also our legacy and whatever it will be able to achieve, it will be thanks to a lot of input from Britain. We must understand that Europe is not only a German or French house; it is also a British house. From a British point of view, our European House is broken and needs to be fixed. But first, we need to take care of ourselves. So let’s not let anything “come in between us, two dreamers”, leavers and remainers let’s make things happen. Let’s fix the UK.

    Create an electoral platform for change.

    While the opposition works in the parliament, keeping Boris in check, we must seed a new political community to campaign for change. If you want to self-realise your political goals, want to join a movement that stands for change and are not happy with the other parties, then let’s join together and create a new political platform. I am sharing my story to give you a vision for Britain’s role in Europe. For your role in “Our House”. However, two dreamers are not enough. I invite you to be the change you wish to see in the UK. Together, we can create something new and special. You can do it, because you are “not one of them”.

    Britain saved the European continent in two World Wars. But there is a new war, a new crisis. It’s a crisis of identification and vision. We forgot what it means to be British: We used to be the guardians for peace and economic prosperity in Europe. The populists pull us back into the past but we have been there before, when we were blind to foresee the future and what is best for us. But we are lucky. We can learn from the past, we can advance. So, I ask you: Do we want to take the same path again?

     

    Who do you want to be in this new, global world: A leader?

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • The Russian Influence on Brexit: Decoding the Russia Report

    Renew member and candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in the 2019 general election, Haseeb Ur-Rehman, argues that the Russia Report damningly reveals just how influential a part Russia has played within UK politics.

     

    The Russia Report is a peculiar document, which obfuscates, skirts, insinuates and in some places almost sarcastically detracts from the Brexit issue; the latter of which nevertheless is central to the Report’s very existence.

     

    It seems that this version of the Report is not the same as that from nine months ago, as it is not explicitly or directly as damaging to the Johnson’s Government, as his initial reluctance to release it, would suggest. Many things are left unsaid or implied and have to be garnered or pieced to together by the reader, suggesting that the Report was intended to be read in conjunction with other information in the public domain dealing with Russian influence over and interference with, the 2016 Brexit Referendum, yet still not providing a full and clear picture. For instance, the two threads more specifically dealing with the 2016 Brexit Referendum; “Case study: the EU referendum” and the political influence of “Russian Expatriates”, are not explicitly linked together, although when considered together, do more clearly indicate the nature of the relationship between Russia and Brexit. The Russia Report, unto itself, almost confirms the very issue that it is trying to address; the weakness and inability of the UK security and intelligence agencies to protect the UK from Brexit and is almost a testament to the extent of party-political control over the security agencies, particularly where they are almost tasked with protecting the UK from the very political party, forming the government they report to. 

     

    The Russia Report deals with Brexit indirectly in its various parts and has to be read in its entirety to draw conclusions. The portion “Disinformation and Influence” begins to touch upon Brexit and states in Paragraph 28 that “Russia’s promotion of disinformation and its attempts at broader political influence overseas have been widely reported” with the example of “Kremlin-linked entities hav(ing) made ‘soft loans’ to the (then) Front National in France, seemingly at least in part as a reward for the party having supported Russia’s annexation of Crimea”. The source for this statement is redacted. Without admitting to anything untoward on the part of any UK political party, pressure-group or “think-tank”, the suggestion here is that Russian funding for Far-Right movements across the EU is a documented fact, indicating that the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament is fully aware of such funding being received by such groups. 

     

    In the following Paragraph 29, the Report states, “Russia may spread disinformation or seek to influence political events for a wide range of purposes, but all in support of its underlying foreign policy objectives” with the example of “direct support of Russia’s preferred outcome in relation to an overseas election or political issue; and (the) general poisoning of the political narrative in the West by fomenting political extremism and ‘wedge issues’”. The Report states that ‘wedge issues’ refers to “highly divisive subjects which bifurcate a country’s population, often (but not always) into socially liberal and socially conservative camps, and which often to at least some degree transcend traditional political party boundaries. Examples of wedge issues include abortion and gun control in the US and Brexit in the UK.” ]

     

    Paragraph 29, is therefore very laterally confirming that Brexit is a Russian foreign policy objective and is subject to Russian disinformation campaigns and “astroturfing”: “a propaganda technique whereby a viewpoint is falsely presented as belonging to a certain group”.

     

    Confirming both Paragraphs 28 and 29, Paragraph 31 states that “(t)he UK is clearly a target for Russia’s disinformation campaigns and political influence operations and must therefore equip itself to counter such efforts.” noting that “that the formal HMG assessment categorises the UK as a “REDACTED” target for political influence operations.”  Paragraph 31 goes on to further state that “(t)he Agencies have emphasised that they see their role in this as providing secret intelligence as context for other organisations… and do not see themselves holding primary responsibility for the active defence of the UK’s democratic processes from hostile foreign interference, and indeed… appeared determined to distance themselves from any suggestion that they might have a prominent role in relation to the democratic process itself, noting the caution which had to be applied in relation to intrusive powers in the context of a democratic process.” 

     

    This is followed in Paragraph 32, with “Overall, the issue of defending the UK’s democratic processes and discourse has appeared to be something of a ‘hot potato’, with no one organisation recognising itself as having an overall lead.” Paragraph 33 and 34, then proceed to discuss issues of scale, capability and access of the various organisations who would ordinarily be tasked with protecting electoral and democratic integrity, with various recommendations from the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. 

     

    Paragraph 31 and 32, in essence, state that Russia targets the UK with its disinformation campaigns and political influence operations, yet for largely unstated reasons including “nervousness around… intelligence and security Agencies (being) involved in democratic processes” (as stated in Paragraph 33), the various organisations, who would ordinarily be tasked with protecting electoral and democratic integrity, are not prepared to do so, as doing so evidently in their view, is a task for Government. 

     

    Paragraphs 39 and 40 specifically begin to deal with the “Case study: the EU referendum”, in the context of that above, stating that the impact of attempts by Russia to influence the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU “would be difficult – if not impossible – to assess, and we have not sought to do so” and that yet “it is important to establish whether a hostile state took deliberate action with the aim of influencing a UK democratic process…”. Paragraph 40 states that the brevity (“six lines of text”) of secret intelligence provided by MI5 at the outset of the Inquiry, is also indicative of the “nervousness” described in Paragraph 33. This “nervousness” is described in relation to an issue “as contentious as the EU referendum” as “illogical; this (being) about the protection of the process and mechanism from hostile state interference, which should fall to our intelligence and security Agencies.” 

     

    Paragraphs 39 and 40, in effect, admit that Russian influence in the 2016 Brexit Referendum occurred, although no attempts have been made by Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament to ascertain the impact of such influence, for perceived difficulties in doing so. Paragraphs 39 and 40 further state that the failure of organisations tasked with protecting electoral and democratic integrity, vis-à-vis such Russian influence in the 2016 Brexit Referendum, occurred as a result of an illogical reluctance of these agencies to be involved in, or be seen to be involved in, democratic processes and a lack of ownership of such responsibilities by any one agency. 

     

    Continuing to deal with the 2016 Brexit Referendum, as part of Section (i) of “Case study: the EU referendum”: “Failure to prepare”, Paragraph 41, refers to “credible open source commentary suggesting that Russia undertook influence campaigns in relation to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014” particularly referencing “Ben Nimmo – #ElectionWatch: Scottish Vote, Pro-Kremlin Trolls, 12 December 2017”. This Paragraph concludes with “We note that – almost five years on – REDACTED””; presumably referring to the United Kingdom General Election held on 12 December 2019. 

     

    Paragraph 42, states that it was only following the conclusion of the 2016 Brexit Referendum did “the Government belatedly realised the level of threat which Russia could pose in this area” and admitting that such levels of threat were a “game changer” and that “prior to what we saw in the States, [Russian interference] wasn’t generally understood as a big threat to [electoral] processes”.

     

    Paragraph 42, referring to two redacted conclusions of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) as of May 2017, states that “(h)ad the relevant parts of the Intelligence Community conducted a similar threat assessment prior to the (Brexit) referendum, it is inconceivable that they would not have reached the same conclusion as to Russian intent, which might then have led them to take action to protect the process.”

     

    In Paragraph 41, the reference to Russian influence, specifically concerning the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, seems to be a party-political throw-away and the “credibility” of the “open source commentary” by which this particular instance of electoral interference is substantiated, seems primarily to be the pro-Atlanticist and ideological credentials, of the originator of the said commentary, more than anything else. Notably, the same commentator has previously, at least partially, acknowledged Russian influence in the 2016 Brexit Referendum and has variously and conspicuously tended to focus on the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014, as subject to such influence. By merits of acknowledged Russian influence in the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, and presumably in the United Kingdom General Election in 2019, as well as the acknowledgement of the severity of such interference only becoming apparent to the intelligence services, subsequent to the 2016 Brexit Referendum, Paragraphs 41 and 42 again confirm the high likelihood of Russian influence on the 2016 Brexit Referendum, particularly as the Report admits that this conclusion would have been reached had the Intelligence Community, assessed such risks prior to the 2016 Brexit Referendum. 

     

    Still dealing with the 2016 Brexit Referendum, as part of Section (ii) “Narrow coverage”, Paragraph 44, states that “HMG had not seen or sought evidence of successful interference in UK democratic processes or any activity that has had a material impact on an election…” and proceeds to reiterate the innocence of Arron Banks. Paragraphs 45 and 46 deal with the failures of the government, intelligence and security agencies; to even have been able to detect Russian influence on the 2016 Brexit Referendum, from “open source materials”, which given that the Intelligence and Security Committee’s belief “that open source material is now fully represented in the Government’s understanding of the threat picture” was “surprising”.

     

    Paragraphs 47 and 48 conclude the Report’s analysis of Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit Referendum in Section (iii) ”Lack of retrospective assessment”, stating that, given the issues at stake for Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit Referendum are not as “clear-cut”, as for Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential election, “where an intelligence community assessment was produced within two months of the vote with an unclassified summary being made public”, the Committee’s view is that a similar assessment of Russian interference in 2016 Brexit Referendum should be conducted and published. Paragraph 48 states that the discovery of minimal Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit Referendum would “represent a helpful reassurance to the public that the UK’s democratic processes had remained relatively safe.”. 

     

    The next portion of the Report deals with Russian Expatriates, resident in the UK, stating in Paragraph 50 that “Russian influence in the UK is ‘the new normal’, with “a lot of Russians with very close links to Putin…well integrated into the UK business and social scene”. Paragraph 50 further states that “that any measures now being taken by the Government are not preventative but rather constitute damage limitation.”

     

    Paragraph 51, addresses the “(g)rowth industry of enablers” “who manage and lobby for the Russian elite in the UK” including “(l)awyers, accountants, estate agents and PR professionals” who “played a role, wittingly or unwittingly, in the extension of Russian influence…” “…linked to promoting the nefarious interests of the Russian state.” In Paragraph 53, the Report states that “it is widely recognised that Russian intelligence and business are completely intertwined”. Paragraph 54 states that “several members of the Russian elite who are closely linked to Putin are identified as being involved with…political organisations… having donated to political parties, with a public profile which positions them to assist Russian influence operations”. This Paragraph follows on, stating that “it is notable that a number of Members of the House of Lords have business interests linked to Russia, or work directly for major Russian companies linked to the Russian state…” which should be scrutinised, “…given the potential for the Russian state to exploit them”. References are made to “the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament requires that MPs register individual payments of more than £100 which they receive for any employment outside the House”, which is recommended to be introduced at the Lords. 

     

    The portion of the Report dealing with Russian Expatriates admits the extent of political influence Russia has over politics in the UK, including discussing the direct involvement of persons close to Vladimir Putin in making donations to political parties. For the purposes of Brexit, aside from undisclosed funding to other pro-Brexit organisations and parties, such donations would specifically be relevant to donation receipts by the Conservative Party. In the discussion involving “enablers”, the Report does not specifically focus on but presumably includes, such enablers who demonstrably had and have, a specific interest in promulgating the pro-Brexit narrative, particularly the various “55 Tufton Street” pro-Brexit think-tanks and especially the “Conservative Friends of Russia” (now re-labelled as the “Westminster Russia Forum”). For the purposes of Brexit, the participation in these organisations, by various Conservative Party MPs, almost certainly constitutes “Russian Influence” on politicians and is therefore within the scope of the consideration of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Although the business interests of the Lords are explicitly referred to, such relationships amongst others, of various Conservative Party MPs with compromising Russian interests, are not. This is also particular in the case of persons close to Number 10 and simultaneously close to the promulgating the pro-Brexit narrative, who have questionable relationships with the Russian State and Russian actors and enablers in the UK and Russia. 

     

    The Russia Report very apprehensively and indirectly confirms that Brexit is a Russian foreign policy objective and was, and is, subject to Russian disinformation campaigns, with a view to destructively divide the British public into diametrically and ideologically opposed camps. The Report also indirectly suggests that Russian funding likely reached Far-Right pro-Brexit groups before the 2016 Brexit Referendum. Russian influence over British politicians and the political establishment is almost ubiquitous and the ability of Russia to facilitate Brexit as a foreign policy objective vis-à-vis the UK is an issue the British government were unable, or more likely unwilling, to take steps and measures to contain or prevent. The Report confirms that the intelligence and security apparatus of the UK were not able to contain, anticipate and did not even seek to anticipate Brexit as a Russian foreign policy objective and are almost entirely subservient to the Government on a party-political basis. The Intelligence and Security Committee finds some solace in celebrating the unlikelihood of Russian inference in the physical “paper-based” electoral processes of the UK, but are very unfortunately unable to even adequately discuss how Russian influence can actively and successfully manipulate the very national narrative of the UK that lead up to the 2016 Brexit Referendum.

  • Has democracy died in the United Kingdom?

    Renew's Terrance Knot investigates the demise of democracy in the UK.

     

    The term "democracy" first appeared in ancient Greek political and philosophical thought in the city-state of Athens during classical antiquity. The word comes from demos, "common people" and kratos, "strength". Led by Cleisthenes, Athenians established what is generally considered the first democracy in 508–507 BC.

     

    Since then, many countries have claimed to be democracies, but none more so than the United Kingdom. Indeed those who still profess to be British, and who identify, more or less, as English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh, have often taken pride in a supra-national United Kingdom: renowned worldwide for its sense of honesty, fairness and democratic decision making and rule, although in some cases harshly, but with “tough love” over countries comprising a quarter of the globe.

     

    Nowhere was the sense of a thriving democracy more portrayed than in the coming together to support the “mother country” in the two World Wars, with thousands laying down their lives, for a concept founded on a common ideal, principle, or faith. Meanwhile one of the modern bodies of democracy was - at the same time as women got the vote - a health system, created for all. We also battled with the consequences of the national sale of assets to fund the defence of democracy – still living, believe it or not, with the abolition of the Slave Trade. Many will find it hard to come to terms with the fact that, although the UK connection with this trade officially happened in 1833-1840, throughout the British Empire, we were still paying off the money borrowed for the Slave Abolition Act in 2015!

     

    On a lesser scale, the UK took steps to abolish child labour, to improve schooling (although the battle between so-called private and state-run schooling continues to this day) and workers were striking and marching against poverty and unemployment (Yarrow march 1936 et al.). On the back of this poverty and the feeling of frustration about the condition of the country, trade unions gained in power, especially in the fields of mining, textiles and transportation. An even-minded person would perhaps admit that the people of the country were fighting back in the only way they knew how: by denying their labour. Indeed they were “voting with their feet”, a democratic exercise of their human rights.

     

    Before readers assume that this is a rant about human rights, let me assure you that it is not: it is simply a portrayal of some of the major steps along the way, as the British people, led by the English in 1215, gradually threw off the yoke imposed by royalty, later the “robber barons” and finally the affluent upper classes. This development of the “rights of man” (Thomas Paine in 1791, published a book, in which he linked the French Revolution with the idea that popular political revolution is permissible “when a government does not safeguard the natural rights of its people”) was a gradual process, over several centuries, but sped up as modern communications allowed ideas to be spread over the internet and similar systems.

     

    Meanwhile the other major component countries, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, in no particular order, also showed a strong and understandable tendency to rebel and "do their own thing".

     

    It is of note that, impoverished though she was after the Second World War, Britain (readers will forgive if I shorten Great Britain and Northern Ireland to “Britain, or the UK), played a major role, in international deliberations, post WW2. This applied, amongst other activities, to help to rebuild Europe, much of which was in ruins, both financially and in terms of assets and infrastructure. Of course, anyone with a grasp of basic history knows that this included the initial building blocks of a Free Trade Area, or Market, which grew in time, into the European Union.

     

    This one short paragraph above disguises an enormous development, which in time has proved enormously popular, no matter how some may try to gainsay it, encompassing an amazing mixture of long-term civilisations, including a rather unsteady Greece, the so-called cradle of democracy, and many younger and smaller countries, some of which did not exist, at the end of WW2.

     

    Again, despite sniping and protestations to the contrary, this union, as opposed to the British one, developed a democratic system of elected members from each country, a council and a mechanism for enabling each countries’ own elected senior ministers to exercise the right to contribute to - and vote for – its further development. It would be a surprise only to the most naïve, that this development, enabling seventy-five years of relative peace in Europe, has not been without its problems along the way, but try to point to a similar union which has not? Indeed compare the UK’s chequered history of sometimes vicious infighting between Irish, Scots, Welsh and English. Compare also, the “Land of the Free”, in which the American Confederacy fought against its Southern counterpart; and some in Virginia still quarrel to this day!

     

    So, while the Continent of Europe was rebuilding itself, with initial whole-hearted input from the British, what of our own “Home of Democracy”? 

     

    We have only to say the word “Brexit”, to recall immediately the appalling schism that has developed in our union, and the negative effect this is having on our immediate international neighbours. One has only to take advantage of the Freedom of Movement that we have enjoyed for the last seventy-five years, to realise the shock and horror, the incredulity and derision, the snigger behind the hand that confronts the British, as they travel, holiday, or read the international press.

     

    To say that we have become an international laughing stock, as the present Tory government wrangles about percentage points of approval or disapproval, is an understatement.

     

    Yet, this wrangle, voiced in every newspaper, TV show and published article, both pre and during the pandemic, seem to make little difference to the small yet vocal group of alt-right politicians, bent on wresting political and financial advantage and lining their own pockets and those of their friends and cronies. Never mind that current polling indicates some 55-65% of the population of the UK would prefer to cancel Brexit. (Professor John Curtice, political guru, asserts that many of the young, who were unable to vote in 2016, are now “twice as likely to vote Remain and puts the Leavers on only 44-47%).

     

    But here is the crux of the matter. Under the current “first past the post” (FPTP) electoral system, the public vote of 2016 overturned the referendum of 1975 and since then, the 2019 election, by what some regard as devious means, persuaded the great British public to return the Tories with a majority of 80 members in Parliament. This completely ignored the fact that a “proportional representation” (PR) electoral system would return a very, very different result. Yet neither the Tories, nor indeed the Labour Party, would vote for such a change, as their power base depends upon the status quo.

     

    It does not help that the major party, in favour of PR, the Liberal Democrats, were completely out-manoeuvred and beaten, in the 2019 election: hardly a cause for confidence in the future. Other smaller parties also exist, such as the relatively new and centre of the road Renew Party, and the Green party, but again, under FPTP, the “big beasts” of politics are reluctant to switch loyalty, to more centrist policies, which lack a high profile. Except by honest and reasonable people, of which there seem to be fewer and fewer these days, most support tends to go to the headline catching extremists, rather than the outmoded concept that “the government of the people should be by the people, for the people”!

     

    In that respect, the writer and many others, both friends and acquaintances, are amazed at the supine attitude of the average “Brit in the Streets”, compared with, for example, the French and many other significant countries in Europe, who are not slow to voice their views on poor government. Apart from two major marches, which saw not a single person arrested, the British public seems to have rolled on its back to have its tummy tickled! People outside the UK regard this as quite extraordinary and quite at odds with the battles and indeed a Civil War, fought for democratic freedom.

     

    Meanwhile, the UK’s current government takes full example of the impact of the pandemic, to cement its grip on power and to railroad through policies and stratagems, that cannot be queried or fought on the floor of the House of Commons. It might be said that the Tories have a stranglehold on the throat of Democracy. 

     

    One other point before I close. From one who lives most of the time now, in Mainland Europe, amongst a thriving, educated, motivated group of 1.3 million British citizens, I must note that two aspects of life are paramount. We view with mounting horror, the downward slide of democratic freedoms in our mother countries of the union; and we feel embarrassed at the pity we encounter, amongst our fellow Europeans.

     

    Is Democracy dead in the United Kingdom? Not yet, maybe, but on its last gasp.