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European Democracy Group forms at Westminster press conference  

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Alex Cardigan
(@alexcardigan)
MP for Montgomeryshire
Joined: 1 month ago
Posts: 44
07/03/2019 7:47 pm  

Alex Cardigan:

“Good morning, bore da. I’m Alex Cardigan, the Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire. Thank you all for your attendance here today, in what I hope will be somewhat of a turning point in at least a few corridors of British politics.

“We three here today are from different political parties, different parts of the country, and different ideological traditions. That does not stop us from having rather a lot in common. Today, in recognition of that fact, we have agreed to form the parliamentary European Democracy Group.

“This is not us tearing up our membership cards, or storming away from the parties that we each find ourselves rooted in. It is simply an alliance on a few broad principles upon which, in our eyes, a parliamentary consensus should be built.

“We know that our respective parties are taking a turn away from the centre - that does not change our convictions or views, which are fundamentally rooted in moderation, tolerance, and pro-Europeanism.

“We will, as a group, be opposing the idea of a divisive and insular EU referendum. We are internationalists, and do not think that the rights of all British and European citizens should be put on the line, simply to appease populists.

“I’ve fought off UKIP and BNP candidates before. Appeasement is not the answer, and we will fight for pro-European, pro-immigration, and internationalist principles.

“The European Democracy Group is open to all parliamentarians who are willing to help us build a moderate consensus in parliament, and to all those who will fight populism not with appeasement, but with opposition.

“Our politics is at risk of becoming, once again, fractured and divided. Britain is not an insular or inward-looking nation, and we will do all we can to make sure our politics befit that.

“I’ll now hand over to my colleague, Juliet Manning, the Labour Party MP for Luton South.”

Juliet Manning:

“Thanks very much, Alex.

“I am delighted to stand here alongside two fellow Members of Parliament, with whom I disagree mostly profoundly in a wide range of areas, but with whom it is a great pleasure to work on those areas where we share a mutual interest and common ideas.

“The parliamentary European Democracy Group is not a cabal, nor is it a cross-party conspiracy. Andrew and Graham have both served in a government whose record I firmly oppose, and indeed I know that there is a strong possibility I shall be alone in this trio when I vote to declare that I have no confidence in Her Majesty’s government. So let there be none of the usual stories of Westminster intrigue that always follow these sorts of announcement. We are not splitters or saboteurs - we are likeminded public servants embracing the principle of cooperation in an increasingly febrile political age.

“The European Democracy Group seeks to bring together as wide as possible a range of MPs in the service of four clear goals.

“One: to oppose unequivocally and unflinchingly the reckless and radical proposal of a public referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union at a time of continued economic uncertainty and political instability.

“Two: to dispel the many myths and legends about the European Union which discredit its successes and make monsters out of its flaws. All of us accept that the EU is not perfect. Nor is Westminster; nor is your local council. But our aim is to make the positive case for European Union, to emphasise the enormous benefits of membership to the British people, and to fact-check the inaccurate assertions about the Union which often emanate from those on the far-right and far-left of the political spectrum.

“Three: to campaign for positive and effective reform of the EU’s institutions, delivering a more democratic Union and holding the government’s feet to the fire on leading in Europe.

“Four: more broadly, to promote political modernity, moderation and cooperation. In particular, to stand against the rising tide of populism which we see not only in Britain, but across the world - and to advocate a more conciliatory, European style of politics in Britain: a politics in which MPs are not afraid to work together across party lines, and in which the interests of constituents, above all, come first.

“Concomitant with these aims, members of the European Democracy Group will commit to voting against a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU in this Parliament and the next. That is the policy of the Labour Party’s frontbench and of the Liberal Democrats; I believe it is also a pledge that perhaps up half of Conservative MPs would willingly commit to, if given the free hand that they have been promised.

“I believe that this new group will be a great success. And if anyone utters the words “croissant club,” there will be hell to pay.”

Graham Adiputera:

“Good morning everyone, and thank you to Alex and Juliet for those remarks.

“I got into politics because I am an internationalist - because I believe that the problems we face today require honest and cooperative global collaboration, because I believe that best seizing the opportunities ahead of us requires the same. I got into politics because I believe in fairness - in sharing burdens and the benefits of growth, in ensuring sustainability and opportunity. I got into politics because I believe in tolerance - a free, diverse society that celebrates rather than condemns difference.

“Now in part I joined the Liberal Democrats because the party shares and promotes those values - but it would be wrong to say that these values are at home in only one party, that those values should serve as an ambition for only some parliamentarians. The truth is, these values are too important to make into weapons of party point-scoring, into tools of division and divisiveness.

“And the key test of these values is the European Union. I strongly believe that - while the case for reform and ever greater democratisation is compelling - the European Union is a test case for a new era of global politics. It is the world’s largest peace project. It is the world’s largest multinational attempt at creating solutions to cross-border problems and then subjecting those solutions to democratic votes and scrutiny. The scapegoating and demonisation of the European Union by politicians both left and right must be called out for what it is: often it is not sincere and good faith critique but an attempt to distract from the failings and foibles of domestic politics.

“Alex summed up our shared vision and values well. Juliet laid out the goals and objectives of the group. If I may add one further point on the subject of an EU referendum. To leave the EU would expose our nation to fundamental legal, constitutional, and economic upheaval. Within that upheaval, zealots and hardliners can socially engineer the country to their own image. Gains in environmental cooperation, international development, free trade, enduring settlements on science and education could all be threatened. Peace in Northern Ireland could be jeopardised.

“The advocates of an EU referendum have a duty. They must explain to the nation how they will manage those risks. How they will steer our country through a moment of considerable transformation. How they will keep the books balanced, the ports open, our international reputation intact. How they will deliver on the benefits of leaving that they speak of. What they need to do is put forward a plan. Allow the British people the chance to know what they are voting for.

“And if they refuse to do that, they will be exposed as conmen.

“Over the coming weeks and months, we will be making the positive case for the EU and its values throughout the nation. Explaining how it makes us stronger, wealthier, gives us more control over our national destiny and individual opportunities. This is a task that most politicians have been too scared to do. We will embrace it. Thank you.”

This topic was modified 2 weeks ago by Steve

Alex Cardigan
MP for Montgomeryshire
Parliamentary - 5
Media - 11
Policy - 3


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Nathan
(@nathan)
Member A-team
Joined: 2 months ago
Posts: 174
08/03/2019 11:58 am  

The Express: "If the EU is so perfect why not get the debate out of the way and commit to a referendum? If you're convinced Brussels is so perfect, why not make that case to the British people in a fair fight, win and get this debate out of the way so we can move onto other issues of national importance?"

The Economist: "Is this just a knee jerk reaction to the formation of the GBC?"

The Guardian: "Labour's leadership is radical in its views, and left wing, but none of you can doubt its pro-European credentials - and yet this group appears to be a reaction against Labour, despite having a senior Shadow Cabinet member fronting it. By inserting the left-right axis into the debate, you could divide pro-European voices as much as you unite them. So what's more important to this group: its pro-Europeanism, or its centrism?"


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Alex Cardigan
(@alexcardigan)
MP for Montgomeryshire
Joined: 1 month ago
Posts: 44
08/03/2019 2:26 pm  

To answer the Economist’s question - in a word, no. We’ve all been feeling uneasy about the nature of cross-party co-operation for some time. With European Union membership put into question by the right, and a whole host of disagreeable policies being chucked out by some on the left, we felt that there needed to be a clear voice for moderates, and a defence of Europe.

The rise of populism greatly concerns me personally. If a coherent centre or centre-right can’t exist without encouraging the growth of hateful hard right forces, then it isn’t putting its case enough properly. We want to make that case - for Europe, for moderation, and for a more civilised form of politics. So no, this isn’t knee-jerk. It’s deeply considered and I think we can contribute rather a lot to the debate.

Alex Cardigan
MP for Montgomeryshire
Parliamentary - 5
Media - 11
Policy - 3


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Juliet Manning
(@juliet-manning)
Member
Joined: 1 month ago
Posts: 27
08/03/2019 7:08 pm  

I don’t want to turn this into a Labour party political, but I reject this assertion that has gained great currency in the media that the leadership of the Labour Party is somehow “far left.” I understand why journalists use that phrase - because it sounds dramatic and it sells papers. But I don’t see the evidence of it. Which of Ari Suchet’s policies can be described as hard left? I don’t see that it’s an accurate descriptor.

 

Alex probably disagrees with me on that. Well, this isn’t a party political - look, I’m not here to debate the position of the Labour Party. But I just make that point, as I have, that... it isn’t something that I buy into.

 

*Juliet takes a sip of water*

 

I don’t think we have pushed a left-right axis on to this issue. I’ve used the word socialist to describe myself; I doubt these two have. I’ve used the word liberal; I suspect we all have. It’s precisely because we come from different parties with different political traditions that we are able to make a comprehensive case which I believe will appeal to a very broad demographic.

 

What we all stand in very clear opposition to is the reckless policy of an EU referendum based on public fears about the institution, which have been stoked up by the likes of Nigel Farage and which haven’t been adequately repudiated by politicians for decades. Well, we are here to make that repudiation.

 

You asked whether pro-Europeanism or centrism were more important here. Our principal operating objective is to promote the benefits of the EU, to push for constructive reform and to debunk the myths about it. We also want to be a voice for moderate and rational politics. That, for me, is something that goes hand in hand with my role in the Labour Party, not something which undermines it.

Rt Hon. Juliet Manning, MSc (UCL)
Shadow Home Secretary
PPC for Luton South


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General Goose
(@general-goose)
Member
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Posts: 43
08/03/2019 9:27 pm  

And to respond to the question posed by the journalist from The Express...we don't think the EU is perfect. We made that very clear. There needs to be more democratisation, some of the institutions need to be changed, some policies need reform. Much like our own democratic institutions, the EU is not perfect. Now, we may sometimes disagree on the merits of specific EU proposals - I personally favour a multi-speed Europe and a refocusing of priorities in line with The Orange Book, I can't speak for Alex and Juliet - but we all agree that this debate needs to be had, in a constructive and reasoned manner, without reducing the debate to a simple binary choice. 

So, I'm going to have to correct you there. We don't think the EU is perfect. What we do think is that we are far stronger as part of the European Union, that it is invaluable that we remain part of this massive trading bloc, that we are far more influential on the world stage and get to benefit from far more opportunities to decide our future being inside the institutions rather than outside of it. And if you, like me, believe in the importance of the European Union - a project of peace and international cooperation that we would be gravely mistaken to walk away from - then you want to reform those institutions. You want to fix these problems, to deliver on the promises, restore trust, and achieve the best future.

And the fact is, a referendum reduces a complex question to a divisive yes-or-no proposition. I have put forward a simple challenge to those calling for a referendum. Given the complexity and risks involved in the prospect of separating from the European Union, given the myriad of ways in which such a prospect could manifest, I have asked them to lay out what specific form of leaving they would pursue. They have not. It is reckless to risk handing zealous Eurosceptics a blank cheque, to pursue a departure that they may not have promised or articulated prior to such a referendum. 

Graham Adiputera (Lib Dem - Sutton and Cheam)
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Parliamentary - 17
Media - 30
Policy - 24


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Nathan
(@nathan)
Member A-team
Joined: 2 months ago
Posts: 174
12/03/2019 12:55 am  

The Express: So you think the people are too stupid to decide for themselves? At the end of the day, if you think the European Union is so great you should be able to easily be able to make that case to the British people.

The Times: Are you laying the groundworks for a centrist party? 

ITV News: Your aims seem very vague - do you have a concrete legislative agenda going forwards? Any solid targets you've set yourselves?


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Alex Cardigan
(@alexcardigan)
MP for Montgomeryshire
Joined: 1 month ago
Posts: 44
12/03/2019 12:13 pm  

Firstly, to the Express, answering that rather leading question, no, I don't think the people are too stupid. I think that normal everyday members of the public, though, lack the time and interest to gain any real understanding of decades of complicated European trade & constitutional law. The European Union is great, I do believe that. It's also flawed and in need of reform. Only within Europe can we push for that reform, and only within Europe can we benefit from that reform. I don't think that it's fair to ask the public to have a detailed understanding of some of the most complicated legal and economic matters around in order to be able to make a genuinely informed choice. The job of MPs is to put the work into understanding issues like that, not the public.

Alex Cardigan
MP for Montgomeryshire
Parliamentary - 5
Media - 11
Policy - 3


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Alex Cardigan
(@alexcardigan)
MP for Montgomeryshire
Joined: 1 month ago
Posts: 44
12/03/2019 12:23 pm  

Secondly, to the Times, simply put, no. We're all increasingly part of the furniture across our respective parties, and I think all content to stay. And the idea of a new centrist party seems, to me, to be a rather silly one. Britain has an unashamedly centrist party in the Liberal Democrats, a party who run in just about every seat, have thousands of Councillors, and a working infrastructure up and down the country. There would be no point in a new centrist party from a practical perspective, and I don't think that any of us intend on leaving our respective parties as a result of this grouping.

Alex Cardigan
MP for Montgomeryshire
Parliamentary - 5
Media - 11
Policy - 3


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Alex Cardigan
(@alexcardigan)
MP for Montgomeryshire
Joined: 1 month ago
Posts: 44
12/03/2019 12:46 pm  

Finally, answering ITV News, we do not yet have a concrete legislative agenda. We expect there to be a vote of some sort on an EU referendum in the not too distant future, and our primary aim right now is to stop MPs from putting British European membership at risk, and to vote it down. We'll be publishing more of a clear agenda going forward in the coming weeks and months.

Alex Cardigan
MP for Montgomeryshire
Parliamentary - 5
Media - 11
Policy - 3


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Nathan
(@nathan)
Member A-team
Joined: 2 months ago
Posts: 174
15/03/2019 1:05 pm  

You laid out your motives well and defended yourself effectively from scrutiny. It'll be interesting to see where this goes. I'm still very unsure if your reasons for being against a referendum will resonate with anyone outside of your own ideological comfort zone though. Manning did very well particularly in skating on this thin ice without hurting her party in the process.

All have +1 media xp.


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