Timothy Kirkhope – 2010 Speech on Europe

Below is the text of the speech made by Timothy Kirkhope on 18th March 2010.

The General Election is going to be about trust.

Who can be trusted to drive forward Britain’s economic recovery – the party responsible for the crisis, or the party which, when last in office, left Britain with its strongest economy for over two generations?

Who can be trusted to reform our public services – the party which has simply thrown money, so-called “targets”, and ever increasing bureaucracy at our hospitals, our schools, and our police forces, or the party which believes in reforming the public sector by encouraging public choice and empowering local professionals?

Who can be trusted to defend our national security – the party which has let our armed forces down in not providing the means they needed to defend our interests in action overseas, or the party which will always respect their needs and value their commitment to the safety of our nation.

And so it is with Europe. The public needs a government which can be trusted to promote Britain’s national interests in the European Union by advancing its ideas clearly and firmly, and engaging constructively with our fellow members to develop the kind of Europe the public wants: a European Union which can earn their respect and merit their confidence.

The fact is that during the 13 years of this government, public support for our membership of the European Union has fallen, it is lower now then when they took office. That is a sad indictment of their record in Europe. For all the sound-bites and soft words, the Government hasn’t delivered in Europe and the public knows it.

The Government simply hasn’t offered clear or consistent leadership:

– To the British public they pledged to defend the British rebate and to get reform in Europe, whilst in Brussels they sacrificed part of the rebate in return for the offer of a ‘review’ of the CAP – a very expensive review.

– In Brussels time and again they have bent over backwards to accommodate the demands of other members to prove they are ‘good Europeans’, whilst indulging in macho posturing in the British media, puffing up the strength of their negotiating positions and the importance of their so-called ‘red lines’.

– They agreed enthusiastically to sign up to the Lisbon Treaty but, rather than have the courage of his supposed convictions, the British Prime Minister invented excuses so he could arrive late in order to miss the official signing ceremony, and then he told us it didn’t really matter as the Treaty was just a tidying up exercise and that most of the substantial changes didn’t really apply to us anyway.

– And, in the ultimate betrayal, the Government told the British people they would have a chance to vote in a referendum on the Constitution and then, when such referendums proved difficult to win, they agreed with the other member states to re-package the Constitution as the Lisbon Treaty to avoid the need for a vote. They had the power and opportunity to call a referendum and by failing to honour their promise on the pretext of a shabby re-branding exercise, a precious opportunity was lost forever when the treaty was finally ratified.

No wonder the public no longer trusts Labour on Europe. And nor do our European allies. They can see through a government which tries to be euro-sceptic in the Sun newspaper but is predominantly euro-federalist in Brussels.

What Britain now needs is to earn the respect of our European partners by engaging constructively in the debate with a consistent approach. Under a Conservative Government, our partners may not always like what we have to say but at least they will always be able to trust what we say.

We do not propose to re-launch yet another tedious institutional debate. Europe has wasted enough time on institutional wrangling over recent years. Instead we want Europe to focus on the real issues that matter to people. We will nonetheless put in place certain safeguards for the future and pursue measures to mitigate the worst aspects of the Lisbon Treaty.

At home,

– we will make all future treaty changes which include any transfer of powers to the European Union subject to a referendum.

– We will ensure that none of the so-called ‘ratchet’ clauses in the Treaty which could result in the abolition of vetoes and the transfer of powers could be invoked without parliamentary approval.

– And we share the view of the German Federal Constitutional Court that any delegation of powers to the European Union must be in accordance with constitutions of the sovereign member states from which it derives its authority to act and that, as a consequence, the rights of domestic democratic institutions must be respected. So we will enact a Sovereignty Bill so that this principle can be upheld in the context of our own constitutional arrangements.

In Europe,

– we will seek a full opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights – which strayed far beyond a simple statement of core rights and became a wish-list for many different special interests.

– We will defend the integrity and independence of our Criminal Justice System through an additional protocol.

– And we will assert the principle of subsidiarity in key areas of social and employment legislation we believe are damaging to the British economy.

During the course of the life-time of the next government, there will be sufficient opportunities to realize these objectives: minor treaties are enacted for enlargements, changes to the size of the European Parliament, and so forth which could all be used as vehicles for the some of the amendments we seek.

But beyond this package, an incoming Conservative government will have an ambitious programme for European reform.

The European Union has an important part to play in supporting economic recovery. The European Commission has just published its Agenda 2020 initiative for driving forward the European economy. There is much in this we would support. We want to develop the internal market further, remove remaining barriers to trade.

Europe is a vital player in reaching a sensible and balanced package of measures in managing the challenge of climate change.

Within the Union itself over the next few years key policies will be subject to scrutiny and must be reformed: a new budget in the medium-term framework from 2014 has to be agreed, as will policies on agriculture, regional policy, research, and fisheries. There is a lot at stake.

It is because we want to reinforce this drive for reform that  last year we launched our European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament. We seek to build:

– a Europe which respects the rights of its member states and the diversity of its peoples;

– a Europe which is committed to government with a light touch where the burdens of taxation and regulation are minimised;

– a Europe which is firm in its support for the transatlantic alliance.

We want a more open and transparent European Union which acts only where it can add value in a proportionate and effective way.

We may not be one of the two biggest groups in the European Parliament. But even the biggest of the seven groups in the Parliament only has about one third of its members. Everything has to be negotiated – every vote, every report, every appointment. We are playing our full part in these negotiations. Indeed now that we are free to articulate our vision for Europe and offer our proposals for reform with clarity and vigour, we are able maximise our impact on the Parliament’s work.

It is simply not the case that ‘influence’ is dependent on being part of a big group.

Let me give an example from just last week. The Socialist Group called for all US nuclear missiles to be removed from Europe – regardless of any political, military or strategic arguments. And its Labour members? Well, they split three ways!  The majority were opposed to the Socialist Group amendment but they were powerless to stop it. Powerless – so much for all their talk about ‘influence’. On a question of such importance they were left on the sidelines, most of them quietly abstaining in the hope no-one would notice.

Being part of a big group is not a free ticket to influence. As everyone who really understands the European Parliament appreciates, you influence decisions by the strength and consistency of your message, by having a seat at the table, and by building networks of influence. So let me ask three key questions:

– Where are Labour in the Parliament’s governing body, the Conference of Presidents? They are never there. As Deputy Leader of our Group I frequently represent it at the Conference.

– Where are Labour in the crucial meetings of rapporteurs and shadow rapporteurs, the people responsible for drafting reports? Labour are only there if they are lucky. Conservative members, as the biggest delegation in our new group, are present more often than not.

– How strong is the influence of Labour members with the Commission? After being dragged along by their Socialist allies in a doomed attempt to unseat the President of Commission, Mr Barroso – an initiative which failed largely thanks to the decisive votes of our Group – they are not regarded as natural partners of the new Commission either. We, on the other hand, are well connected to the Commission at the most senior levels.

Our opponents, in the face of this reality, have tried with increasing desperation to smear our members and you heard more of that tonight – despite the all the evidence – by distorting and twisting comments, often comments they themselves know cannot be substantiated.

For example, in a recent Labour leaflet attacking the ECR, the text consists largely of accusations covered by the phrase ‘it is said that’, or ‘allegedly’, or ‘reportedly’ – a word used no less than 14 times!

But endlessly re-cycling a Labour Party press release does not make for a coherent or credible response.

And, more worryingly, it is damaging our relationships with some of our partners particularly in the newer Member States

By all means attack us for our beliefs, for our policies, or for our objectives. But such smears should have no part to play in our politics.

It seems that Labour, in their increasing desperation, have resorted to such tactics.

Frankly, it is pathetic – even tragic.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the priorities for an incoming Conservative Government are to minimise any possible damage arising from the Lisbon Treaty and to work with our partners in driving forward a credible reform agenda:

– We need a European Union which delivers where the British people and indeed all the peoples of Europe expect it to act: in building a dynamic economy, in dealing with climate change, and in promoting global trade;

– a European Union which embraces reform of key policy areas such as agriculture and fisheries.

– a European Union which delivers value for money, respecting the rights of its member states.

It is an ambitious agenda but success is vitally important in the interests of the British people and indeed of the whole of Europe.

Timothy Kirkhope – 2010 Speech to the 1922 Committee

Below is the text of the speech made by Timothy Kirkhope, the then Leader of the Conservative MEPs in the European Parliament, to the 1922 Committee on 13th January 2010.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak to the 1922 committee again in my capacity as leader of our MEPs.

I want to pay tribute to their hard work and express to you my happiness that we again won the European elections in June when we had the largest number of MEPs elected.

I also want to thank both William Hague and Mark Francois for all their help and advice they have given me personally and for their support for our activities in pressing the Conservative cause in Brussels.

New group

Sir Michael, let me say a few words about our new group: the European Conservatives and Reformists which was successfully formed in July last year and which now holds a pivotal position in the Parliament and the negotiations and discussions with the European Commission & Council.

We were told that to leave the EPP-ED alliance would lead to a loss of influence in the European Parliament and that we would become a marginal and irrelevant small group on the fringes of the Parliament.

The Labour Party is still pushing this line but the evidence shows that this is completely the reverse of the truth.

Combining the votes of the ECR, EPP and Liberal groups (many of whose members are liberal as in the classical sense – not like our UK liberals here) we have a clear majority to outvote the left. The EPP knows this and on key issues it has turned to us and asked for support: the re-election of José-Manuel Barroso as President of the Commission was an example of how we used our votes to good effect. Mr Barroso did not get our votes too easily though. He came to our Group first, before any other group, to explain his policies and took very searching questions. Then we supported him. Similarly we have worked with others on the centre right to prevent the efforts of the left to get the parliament involved in domestic Italian politics, we defeated measures to add additional burdens of further employment legislation, and on a number of occasions in votes we have made the difference between progress and reform, and backward steps towards socialism and federalism.

Paradoxically, being the largest delegation in the ECR our influence with the EPP is actually greater now than if we had stayed inside.

And we hold a vital committee chairmanship: Malcolm Harbour presides over the Internal Market Committee. Under the old alliance we chaired the Agriculture Committee with Neil Parish who hopefully will be joining you shortly.

We have a blend of experience and new blood that gives us a powerful voice in key committees – from past Committee Chairmen such as Struan Stevenson who leads on fisheries, and Giles Chichester with Industry and Energy, to new members now dramatically making their mark such as Kay Swinburne and Vicky Ford on economic affairs where they have particular expertise. The quality and hard work of our delegation has an important impact on the Parliament. This matters as Parliament is no longer the talking shop it was in 1979; you will know that it is now a full co-legislator alongside the Council. So it is vital we have a strong voice promoting Conservative ideas and defending British interests.

With the realistic prospect of a Conservative government in a few weeks time, this is more important than ever and a new government working with our new group will get even better results for Britain and Europe. Over the next few years key policies come up for review: a new budget in the medium-term framework from 2014 has to be agreed, and also new reform packages for agriculture, regional policy, research, and the discredited common fisheries policy. There is a lot at stake.

One party

Sir Michael, we strongly support the ‘one party’ vision of David Cameron – whether we are Conservative representatives in Westminster, Edinburgh, Leeds or Brussels, we are one party. We have a shared responsibility for the Conservative ‘brand’ – to enhance its reputation and credibility at all levels of government.

To this end we maintain regular contact with the party to share information and develop policy. Our delegation was involved in the preparation of the party’s response to the deeply disappointing result of the Irish referendum and the subsequent ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

Given that the government had shamelessly betrayed its public pledge to hold a referendum on the treaty, we agree that our energies must be devoted to initiatives in areas where we can still make a difference and move on. Although, as you know, two of our members felt the need to withdraw from the frontbench, the delegation as a whole is steadfastly behind David Cameron’s European policy.

We are working closely with the shadow front bench teams – over the next few weeks, for example, we will receive in Brussels visits from the Home Office, business, and international development teams. It is vital that the party speaks with one voice here in Westminster, in – we hope – the European Council and Council of Ministers shortly, and in the European Parliament.

Expenses & lobbying

One area where we are working hard to reinforce the Party’s message is in pursuing the highest standards in public life. Both our institutions have had, to say the least, difficulties over recent years. We are trying to fix them. Our delegation has now introduced rigorous but practical new policies for recording online our expenses and as of 1st January contacts with lobbyists.

We know that in truth the vast majority of our elected members in both places have always demonstrated integrity and probity but the public now needs the reassurance that only full transparency can deliver. We have taken decisive steps to ensure that this expectation is met.

At the start of a critical year for our country, we look forward to working closely with you as we campaign for the election of a Conservative Government. We will do our best to help you and our PPCs to obtain a resounding victory. And beyond that, we look forward to playing our full part in working with the new Government in delivering for Britain in Europe.

Timothy Kirkhope – 2005 Speech on the Treaty of Lisbon

Below is the text of the speech made by Timothy Kirkhope to the Spring European Council in Strasbourg on 13th April 2005.

Mr President,

The March Summit was supposed to be about relaunching the Lisbon agenda. Sadly, it will go down in history as a ‘fudged’ summit. An apparent assault on liberal economics by the French President and others was not an edifying sight. He was quoted as calling the liberalisation of Europe’s economies as “the new communism of our age”. If true, this was an extraordinary remark. Any attempt to undermine our Services Directive is sadly a clear sign that the anti-reform forces in Europe remain active and disruptive.

Mr Barroso said recently: “Some people think the European Commission is there to protect the 15 against the new 10 – it is not”. He is absolutely right. The Services Directive is a fundamental building block of a successful, dynamic economy. Those who seek to undermine the progress of the Internal Market in this way do no service to the millions of unemployed in their countries. On the contrary, as the new Member States have demonstrated so clearly in recent years, liberalising economies are the successful job-creating economies. The so-called “European Social Model” has assumed such a significance among some nations in Europe that it seems almost impossible to undertake reform.

I am afraid that this model, whatever merits it may have had in former times, is now the “Achilles heel” of Europe’s economy. It has perpetuated high unemployment – 19 million unemployed at the last count – fostered an anti-enterprise culture and every day that it remains unreformed, the competitiveness of China, the USA and India increases to our disadvantage.

As I have told him, I believe that Mr Barroso is sincere in his drive to get the reforms required, but he has been badly let down by the Heads of Government, including the British Prime Minister, whose “short-termism” has made it more difficult for the President of the Commission to make progress.

There were some items in the conclusions we can welcome, in particular, the commitment to sustainable development and the Kyoto Protocol. However, the heavy-handed tactics of some leaders trying to put a brake on economic reform and playing games with an increasingly discredited stability and growth pact serves as a timely reminder to the peoples of Europe that their interests are being sacrificed to the short-term political interests of a few recalcitrant governments.