Syed Kamall’s speech at Spring Conference

I really enjoyed speaking at Spring Conference on Friday 16th March. You can read my full speech below.

Spring Conference Speech

I’m really thrilled to be here today, since looking around the room I believe that we are at the start of something exciting here today.

I remember when I joined my first local Conservative association in my twenties, how important it was to be supported and encouraged by older members.  I vowed then that if I ever got elected I would do the same.

One of the reasons, we have been one of the most successful political parties in the world, is that we recognise that to remain relevant, we must constantly reinvigorate and renew our party.

We can never take electoral success for granted.

For success in the past is no guarantee of our future existence.

That means we all have a duty to encourage each new generation of political activists to join the Conservatives.

Over the years, I’ve been happy to advise, encourage and support younger members of the Party,

And while it may reveal how old I am!

I am  proud that many have gone on to become MPs or Councillors.

I was the future once, but you are the future now.

Last year’s general election was a wake-up call for our Party.

As a MEP for the whole of Greater London, covering 73 parliamentary constituencies, I could see that we are in danger of seeing seats slip away from us as the demographics continue to change.

I sat down with my team and decided to focus my efforts in London in three areas:

Engaging with London’s diverse communities

Tackling poverty through Community Conservatism

Encouraging younger members and branches


I used to think that one of the best ways I could promote racial diversity was just by “being there.”

I thought that by being elected as the the first non-white leader of a pan-European political group in the European Parliament and being a Conservative would be enough.

I now realise that I was wrong and we all need to do more.

So last year I held a conference with speakers from many of London’s diverse communities, looking at what we do badly and what we can do better. I have just released a report from that conference, but that is just the start.  We will be holding more events, but I know we have to do more than just talk.

We need to go into local communities and actively sell our Party and give individuals from different backgrounds – who may share many of our values – a reason to join us.

Community Conservatism is a passion of mine.

In January, I held a global summit where local projects fighting poverty all over the world came together to share how they were making a difference in their local communities. These were started by people who rather than complaining about a local problem decided to be part of the solution.

As Conservatives, we should be at the forefront of empowering local communities to help themselves.


Many Conservatives already volunteer to help in their local communities, but do it outside of their political activities. But it is precisely their political beliefs that drive them to make the difference locally.

So rather than complaining about migrants who can’t speak English, wouldn’t it be great if local Conservatives offered free English classes?

Let’s see more Conservative associations run classes, youth clubs or drop in centres tackling loneliness and isolation. It won’t be easy, but wouldn’t it change how people saw us if Conservative associations become hubs of their local communities?

And thirdly, engaging with young people. The reason we are here today.


Statistically, you are in the minority in this room in that you are under 40 and vote Conservative (I hope!).

We have to change this and the only way we can do this is to bring more young people into the party as ambassadors for our Conservative principles.

I am delighted to be here at the launch of our new youth movement. It’s reassuring to see that the party Chairman Brandon and his team at CCHQ are serious about devoting resources to help the party engage not just with young people, but with local communities up and down the country.

Last Saturday, I hosted a youth conference in London which attracted over 100 young Conservatives.

After the opening speeches and panels, I turned the microphones over to the audience and let them tell us what changes they wanted to see.

I heard about how it is not always easy to be a Conservative on campus or on social media.  How you wanted support from the party on the ground in supporting local branched and online.

We were told about how we have to engage better on social media but also to give you training and resources to be ambassadors for the Party, just in the same way we train members to canvass and use Votesource.

I was told that we need to focus on policies that make your lives easier and give you hope for the future, getting on the housing ladder, not burdening students with too much debt, explaining why we take the tough decisions we do.


A 17 year old told me of her experience of attending a local Conservative Future event and wondering what she had in common with the 25 year old young professional man speaking to her.

We must not patronise or lump all youth together. A 17 year old may be interested in different events to a university student or a young professional. We must not assume that all young people will go to university and have to appeal to young non-graduates too.

You wanted to see us show empathy with the everyday difficulties some people face, not harking back to the past but also being positive and offering something for the future.

I will continue to work with those 100 people to create a report for the Party and bring together their ideas on policies into a youth manifesto. If you would like to be part of this, then please get in contact with me.

One of the things I have heard from both my diversity and youth events is that we as a party need to make room. I am sure there are many people here today who have offered help, or suggested doing something in a different way, showed ambition in taking on a role within their association and have either been ignored or dismissed.

We have to be ready to embrace change, take risks and be relevant to the communities we hope to serve. By that I mean, we need to look like them, sound like them and care about the things that they care about. We need to stop talking at people and listen more.

Most of what I have said can be summed up in one word. Engagement.

Engagement in new ways and with different communities.

And you, all of you, all of us, are the answer to the problem of how?

You will be both the messenger and the message.

I hope this new start today allows you to bring new ideas to the party so that we can offer hope and aspiration to the British people.

And if there is anything I can do to help, please get in contact

And let’s all be the change we want to see.

Brexit, security, migration, asylum, Turkey – European Parliament 14 June 2017

There is a lot to talk about right now in the European Parliament: Security, migration and asylum, Turkey and Brexit. Yesterday I spoke in Strasbourg to the assembled MEP’s. I emphasised once again the need for the EU to get the basics right.

You can see my full speech below.

Speaking in the European Parliament


Full Speech

This agenda for this summit highlights the big challenges ahead.


migration & asylum,


As well as Brexit negotiations.

These are topics we have discussed before

Yet we all have to ask ourselves if we are any nearer to solutions.

But first, allow me start with Brexit in the aftermath of the British General Election

An election in which the Conservative Party lost seats,

but not enough to lose power,

And where the opposition gained seats

but not enough to gain power.

Ending up 56 seats behind.

And just as in say the Netherlands or in other countries, the largest party will seek to form a government with support from a smaller party.

Just as in this parliament, the largest party will need to build wider coalitions to pass legislation.

And if this means addressing concerns over civil liberties while debating new laws to tackle terrorism, in the aftermath of the recent attacks,

To my mind that is not necessarily a bad thing.

– – – – – – – – – –

Can I take this opportunity to thank colleagues from across the political spectrum for their messages of condolences and solidarity in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Manchester and my home city of London.

– – – – – – – – – –

I hope the Council will understand the importance of tackling terrorism at different levels:

At the international level, military cooperation without undermining NATO, better data sharing between national law enforcement agencies, and making sure shared intelligence is acted upon.

At the national level, upholding the rule of law, our shared values and security of our citizens; and at a local community level, encouraging local projects to tackle radicalisation at its roots.

But security is just one of the issues facing us:

The migration crisis continues, as does the EU-Turkey deal,


The ECR believes that the EU should focus on a new relationship,

based not on the false promise of future membership

but an honest relationship based on cooperation

While the deal with Turkey appears to be holding for now,

the Council must seek consensus from ALL member states to effectively tackle the migrant crisis, in case the agreement breaks down,

By getting the basics right,

Processing asylum applications quickly and efficiently,

Returning those that do not qualify to their country of origin,

Agreeing clear and simple criteria for qualification based on the Geneva convention,

And by NOT continuing to pursue a struggling relocation scheme without the FULL support of ALL Member States.

– – —

Our discussions on the challenges will continue way beyond this summit and future ones,

But, how many times do we have to discuss them, before our voters see real progress


While others will call for new rules

The ECR Group calls for countries to respect existing rules

While others will call for more agencies

The ECR Group calls for effective action

While others will call for further political integration

The ECR Group calls for political cooperation

For a reformed EU which does less but does it better.


Speech to the European Parliament Plenary – honesty with Turkey

I made a speech yesterday to the European Parliament about our relationship with Turkey. The European Conservatives & Reformists Group believe we have to acknowledge that there are now big differences between the EU and Turkey, and that EU membership is very unlikely. However, the EU and Turkey need a more honest relationship, based on cooperation, not the distant goal of EU membership to work together on issues of common interest such as trade, security and migration.

You can read the full speech below.

Statement by the VPC/HR – State of play in Turkey, in particular with regard to the constitutional referendum

Let us be honest today

Across this house, most – if not all of us – share concerns over the current direction of the Turkish government and of President Erdogan

Maybe some speakers will try to out compete each other in their condemnations or even their insults.

Yes, we all share concerns over the press freedom in Turkey

Yes, we all share concerns over the treatment of  the opposition and the conduct of the referendum

And we all share concerns over President Erdogan seeking to grab more executive power for what has up to now been a largely a ceremonial presidency.

However, many in this house also realise that at times

We need to work with Turkey

When it comes to controlling the flows of refugees and migrants

We need to work with Turkey

On regional security as an important member of  NATO

We need to work with Turkey as we share concerns over issues such as Russian aggression


In reality, we are talking about a difficult balancing act

And this balancing act needs two things.

Firstly, we need to honest with Turkey that it may never be a member of the EU.

There are too many concerns

Prejudice against a largely Muslim population

A landmass which lies mostly in Asia

The prospect of freedom of movement to millions of Turks

The prospect of voting weights in the Council and here in this parliament

And an EU external border with countries such as Iran, Iraq and Syria

Secondly, we need to have a more robust and critical relationship between Turkey and the EU.

But in seeking both, the EU has to ask itself this question.

Is the EU ready for the possible consequences of Turkey opening its borders with Greece and allowing people to transit to the EU?

President Erdogan seeing himself pushed into the arms of countries such as Russia or Iran?

So while Turkey is not ready for EU Membership and not even ready for visa liberalisation

Completely turning our back on Turkey is not an option.


This is why the ECR group welcomes calls for a different kind of relationship with Turkey.

It will be a difficult balancing act, requiring much diplomacy

It may be a more difficult relationship but

It will be a more honest relationship

More cautious

More critical

Focused more on cooperation and no longer on the distant goal of EU membership.

Conservative Progress Conference

I spoke at the Conservative Progress conference this weekend where I outlined the current state of play with Brexit and what will go into the negotiations. You can read my full speech below.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our country stands on the brink of an exciting and hugely promising chapter in our centuries-old story.

Landmark is an overused word – but the decision made in the referendum last year that we should leave the European Union can be described that way.

At a very significant fork in the road we chose our path. We may not have chosen the way that is simplest to navigate or easiest to walk, but we chose the one that leads in the right direction.

As we all come together to deliver on the democratic will expressed in last year’s referendum, by leaving the EU we will we will shake off the blinkers that have kept us focused on the concerns and demands of one small corner of the Earth – and lift our sights beyond Europe to the rest of the globe.  Quite literally, a whole world of opportunity is waiting for us.

Now let me acknowledge something straight away.  Although we have passed that landmark, although we have taken that fork in the road, we still cannot know for sure just where the journey will take us.

That will partly be decided in a series of negotiations which may take several years. If we were negotiating with ourselves I could tell you now what the outcome would be. Sadly, that’s not allowed. So I can’t. Neither can the prime minister – so perhaps people should stop asking her so often.

What she has done is to set out her priorities for our new positive relationship with the EU.

In January 2017 she listed 2 broad aims. Briefly –

  1. Certainty over the deal and a vote in both Houses of Parliament before it happens.
  1. Control of our own laws. With European courts no longer having power over ours.
  1. A stronger United Kingdom, with powers returned to devolved administrations.
  1. Maintain the common travel area with Ireland.
  1. Controlled immigration, while attracting the brightest and best from across the world.
  1. Rights for EU nationals already in our country, and the same for Britons in the EU.
  1. Protection of workers’ rights.
  1. Free trade through an ambitious agreement with the EU, but without us contributing huge sums to the EU budget.
  1. New trade agreements with other countries around the world, outside the EU customs union.
  1. Co-operation on science ad innovation.
  1. The same in the fight against crime and terror.
  1. An orderly Brexit, with an agreement within two years followed by phased implementation.

Of course after her speech our opponents still tried to say she had no plan or was refusing to reveal it. Well it looked and sounded like a plan to me and Theresa May looked and sounded like the person to deliver it.

LEG 1 (Negotiating principles).

So what should be our guiding principles, the points on our negotiating compass so to speak, as we start to navigate these talks once article 50 is invoked. Well, let me lay out eight principles based on my own experience of negotiations in Brussels.

Firstly we should be clear about our priorities – the EU 27 who will be negotiating with us deserve that, and so does the public here at home. But we must do so without revealing our entire hand of cards. I believe the Prime did that masterfully with those Lancaster House principles just outlined.

Secondly – let’s make sure we set the right tone.

In Brussels, the mood music matters.  We should seek to enter these negotiations in a spirit of cooperation, making it clear that we do not see leaving the EU as a zero sum game, nor do we hope that this will lead to the break up of the EU.

Instead, we hope that both sides will see it in both our interests to have a prosperous UK enjoying a good trading and political relationship with a prosperous EU.

At the same time, we should be prepared for the fact that not everyone will act in a rational way and there will still be some voices calling for the UK to be punished for daring to leave or as a disincentive to political parties in other EU countries questioning their membership of the EU. That has already happened, but in Brussels and particularly in the other member-state capitals, we sense that such hot-headedness is cooling, calming and giving way to a more sensible and pragmatic approach.

Next we must understand how the EU negotiates.

In trade negotiations, the EU usually divides its goals into offensive interests (the markets or sectors it wishes to gain access to) and defensive interests (those it wishes to keep closed).  While what we face is not purely a trade negotiation, it would be wise to look at negotiations in this light.

Of course, we will be facing an EU seeking to close some markets or sectors that are currently open to British companies. There will also be many parts of the existing relationship that the UK will be seeking to leave. However, there will be also be areas of mutual interest where in an ideal world we would continue to cooperate, such as on sharing intelligence or even on some security operations.

Fourthly we should look to identify potential trade offs.

For example – even if we agree areas of mutual interests  – they may need to be reviewed in the light of other demands. For example, while German car makers or French farmers may want open markets to continue to sell their products to the UK. Some German and French finance firms may want to erect barriers to UK financial and other professional services. We will be aware of these potential pinch points and will be watching for them coming as the negotiations progress.

Importantly -we must remember the EU is more than the sum of its parts.

It is not a monolithic organisation.  For a start there are three EU institutions involved: The European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament. They will not always agree.

The council in turn represents the 27 members. They will not always agree.

The Parliament comprises 751 members from 28 countries in eight political groups from Communists to the National Front. Or as I like to say from Soviet Socialists to National Socialists.

Is a pattern starting to emerge?

They will not always agree.

While many in Brussels were impatient for article 50 to be invoked, the EU was itself not ready for negotiations.  At the end of 2016, the three EU institutions finally agreed their respective roles amongst themselves.

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty stipulates that negotiations with the UK will be “concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament”. However, the European Council agreed to ask the Commission to do the bulk of the heavy lifting in negotiations.

While the European Council has been trying to sideline the European Parliament, the Prime Minister and British ministers have met with senior MEPs, and this is clearly appreciated.

In December, after the formal EU council of 28 national leaders, the 27 other heads of government had a separate meeting to prepare for Brexit negotiations.  This was reassuring, since it demonstrated that the EU has finally got the message that the UK will be leaving.

The role of the EU 27 also opportunities some opportunities as well as threats for the UK government.  While some some governments such as the French have been hostie in public, I have met Prime Ministers, other Ministers, ambassadors and MEPs from other EU countries, while expressing regret that the UK will be leaving, emphasising the need for strong bilateral relations between their individual countries and the UK.  Many have offered to help us at the Council if and when the negotiations get tough. We should be nurturing these important bilateral relationships.

All this highlights the fact that these negotiations will be carried out at many different levels, UK to EU, talking to different institutions, UK to individual countries, sector by sector, exiting the EU and a new agreement.

Point 6 – We should make sure to ask for more than we want.

In an article “learn lessons from the failed negotiation”, David Cameron’s former advisor Mats Persson, wrote about a European diplomat who told him this:  “In Europe, we ask for 10 things in order to get six. You ask for four things to get four… Why?”

It’s a good question. In any negotiations, we should always ask for things that would be nice to have but would not be deal breakers. The EU will do the same to the UK: note Michel Barnier’s supposed demand for €60 billion to leave the EU. We should be construct similar demands of the EU.

Importantly – I believe we must be prepared to walk away.

We should enter these negotiations with an intention to succeed but not being afraid to walk away if we don’t get a deal we are happy with.  At some stage, the UK government may have to make it clear that we will not simply accept any deal and would be prepared to walk away and settle for a WTO relationship with the EU, even though we would prefer a tailored EU-UK deal.


Finally – Let’s keep a cool head and steady hand

Fortunately, Theresa May has both. She has a reputation in Brussels as a tough and shrewd negotiator. Her time as Home Secretary is recalled when she took the UK out of the Justice and Home Affairs chapter of the Lisbon Treaty, then opted back into individual measures where she felt in was in our interest to cooperate.

While Labour, Lib Dems and some Conservatives who wish to block Brexit will criticise every move by the Prime Minister, my hope is that those who voted for Brexit put aside their impatience and not cramp her style. Be patient. Give her room to manoeuvre, space to breathe and time to tune our demands. For every detail given in public of our position is a hostage to fortune, an advantage handed to other side, a stick to beat our negotiators and our PM with.

The old proverb warns that fool rush in. Greater wisdom there than a whole bank of opposition benches could muster.  Look at the egg on the face on many of those who treated the resignation of Ivan Rogers as  a disaster only to see a clearly composed Prime Minister, very much in control, appoint a successor within a day.

The PM may be doing things the hard way, but she is doing them the best way. She knows her principled “no running commentary” response means a long, rocky road, but she is battling her way along it.

She realises she is frustrating EU officials, the opposition, Brexiteers and the media for good measure. Too bad, because she is determined to ignore the siren voices and do what is best for Britain.

She will not be phased by criticism, nor distracted by flattery, but will do what is right.

Leg 2 (Look to America)

As I said at the outset, Brexit is a wonderful opportunity to engage with the rest of the world and revive our relationships with our oldest friends and allies once more in a way that membership of theEU has prevented.

Nowhere is that more true than when we consider the United States – THE biggest economy in the world, THE greatest power, THE most prosperous. OUR closest allies and greatest friends.

Now admittedly, like all friends they may sometimes do or say things we don’t like. They may even elect people we probably wouldn’t – but our partnership is with the American people, not their politicians. And trade happens between people and between businesses, not between politicians.

If you happen not to like Donald Trump very much, I would encourage you – as an American might say – Don’t get too hung up on that. Or as we say in London “Don’t let him get up yer nose.”

Whether a success or a failure, a president is only there for a few years. By contrast – The opportunities Brexit can bring will be for our lifetimes and for generations to come.

That is why Theresa May was right to reach out to the new administration in its early days.  That is why she was right to sell the mutual benefits a UK-US trade partnership will bring. That is why she was right to step out from the back of the queue and calmly take her place at the front.

And she didn’t just stake out her ground on the issue of trade. In the field of security and defence she won reassurance over the importance of the role of NATO in protecting the freedom of all of us in the West.

On security and intelligence too, the scope for enhanced co-operasion with the United States will be considerable once we are free from the EU.

The United States remains the land of opportunity, and outside the EU we can share that opportunity too.

Leg 3 (My vision)

America is not the only part of the world where new horizons will open to us. The whole world is  out there to engage with us, to co-operate with us, to trade with us. Liam Fox has spoken of the number of countries lining up to sign trade agreements. I have spoken to Prime Ministers and governments that want to sign trade agreements with us.

That is why it is so wrong to equate Brexit with insularism or intolerance.

My vision of our future Britain is of an open, tolerant, global trading nation.

A country with genuine and fair control over its immigration rules, but one which more than ever is open to the best talent in the world.

A Britain renowned across the world as a hub for innovation and entrpreneurship. A country where science is valued, international co-operation is the bedrock of research, and technology drives our prosperity.

My vision is of a country that is fair and free and open for business with the world.

My hope is that – when in years to come – we look back to the decision of the British people in June 2016.

We will see it as a truly historic point when the UK re-emerged as not

Just another European country

But as a truly

Outward looking


Global nation

And a beacon of

free trade

and liberty

For the rest of the world.

Legatum Institute Speech – “a British deal, might just end up being the deal that saves the European Union as well.”

On Thursday 17th November 2016 I was asked to give a speech to the Legatum Institute in London about the current state of Brexit. In my position as leader of the ECR group I hoped to give my audience an insight into some of the debates going on behind the scenes and also some of the issues which are not being widely reported which could play a large factor in the negotiation process.

You can listen to the speech here –

….or read the transcript of the speech below.


Thank you for inviting me to address you here today. 

LegatumInfo_1_17thNov2016It has been nearly five months since the British people voted to leave the EU – in the referendum of June 23rd

While we should acknowledge that people voted REMAIN or voted LEAVE for different reasons

And that both campaigns were coalitions

For me, Brexit was never about being anti-EU

It was about believing that on balance a fairer, more prosperous, more ambitious future would serve the British people better on a global, rather than a purely regional or “little European” scale. 

I see Brexit as an opportunity for an open, tolerant and GLOBAL BRITAIN.

I feel strongly that Brexit must not be about us in the UK retreating into ourselves.

Brexit should encourage us to cast our eyes across the horizon and find talent and opportunity in every corner of the World. 

During the referendum campaign, a former British Prime Minister claimed that if we left the EU, the UK would end up like North Korea.

However, that was soon followed by a soon-to-be-former US President warning us that if we left the EU, the UK would be at the back of the queue for trade deals. So by implication behind North Korea.


By leaving the EU, no one seriously believes we will end up like North Korea or behind North Korea,

But given we will no longer be held up by being part of a Union of 28 member states, I believe we will be able to work better with other nations.

It is a truism in the EU’s common trade policy, that you can only go as far or as fast as the most protectionist country will allow you to go.  And no prizes for guessing the name of that country … it rhymes with chance. But they are not the only ones.

We saw it recently with the Canada EU Trade Agreement or CETA.

Having taken a decade to negotiate, until a few months ago Romania and Bulgaria threatened to veto the deal over visa issues

And at the last minute the Walloon region of Belgium tried to derail it.

Instead of constantly waiting for 27 other countries to make decision, I want the UK to be the master of its own destiny.

1479396676649I no longer want to see an immigration system where we give preference to migration from the EU- the vast majority of whom happen to be white, while discriminating against non-EU passports.

Let’s have an immigration system that picks from the widest possible pool of talent, regardless of their passport.

I no longer want to see trade agreements held hostage by the special interests of the french film industry or the Pirate Parties in Sweden or Germany.

Let’s have a Britain focused on global collaboration for scientific research, security cooperation,  and competitiveness.

Too often these key issues are sidelined in favour of an EU which is ideological rather than pragmatic.Legatum 4

This has never been more true than in the months post Brexit. 

The referendum was a warning shot. 

One which should have prompted a re-think.

For the UK is not alone in its thinking or its reservations concerning the European project.

I lead a political group of 74 MEPs from 18 member states.

That in just 5 years became the third largest of the 8 political groups in the European Parliament.

A rise unprecedented in the history of the European Parliament.

All this after the Financial Times predicted that we would not last.

We have members from Italy, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Cyprus, Ireland and all over Europe. 

Discontent with the European Union is not a purely British phenomenon. 

And if the EU does not start to realise this, then it runs a real risk of having President Le Pen or Prime Minister Wilders sat at the EU Council table. 

The sorts of reforms the UK sought before the referendum, are the reform ambitions of the peoples in other EU Member States. 

Whilst the political group I head seeks sensible centre right solutions; if the rest of the political arena fails to address the concerns of the ordinary voter, then they will be driven into the arms of populists.

Before the EU referendum, EU leaders were far too quick to label brexiteers as racists, anti globalisation, and xenophobic. 

When you do that – you are insulting the legitimate concerns of your electorate, and eroding their confidence in your ability to listen to them and lead them.  

Too often the European Parliament gets bogged down in the concepts of the European project of political integration. 

But, what people actually care about, are jobs, the cost of living, and sustainable immigration. 

Whilst there is nothing wrong with an ideological debate. After all, I am not afraid to be labelled as a Classical Liberal.  

Sadly, the European Union has however, pursued these objectives at the cost of delivering on the practicalities of everyday lives.

And as we have seen in the last couple of weeks in America…

…If you do not address the fundamental concerns of the people, and show that political insiders are incapable of change, then you will not be electorally successful. 

So what next: 

The UK and the government must stay focused on what it wishes to achieve from Brexit. 

Having been ambiguous members for the last 40 years 

We are now laying the foundations for our global position for the next 30 or 40 years. 

This cannot be a missed opportunity.

We must be aspirational and we must be ambitious in building our future. 

Brexit is what people voted for. 

They voted for change. 

And we must deliver that change. 

We cannot, at the end of the negotiations, present the British people with a deal which reflects no real change of direction on key issues such as sovereignty and immigration. 

EU leaders need to realise this. 

The British Government also needs to realise that Brussels, its lobby and its powers, are not a monolithic institution, and to deliver a final result will require influencing the mood music of lobbyists, advisors, officials, think tanks, and the moods of the majority of the 751 MEPs in the European Parliament in order to back the deal. 

Too often the European Parliament is neglected as a factor in the final outcome of sensitive negations, we have seen failure snatched from the jaws of victory too many times. Hard fought for deals such as  the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP), Passenger Name Record (PNR), and the Anti-Counterfeit Trading Agreement (ACTA) have been shot down or delayed at the final moment. 

 Following the triggering of article 50, and the negotiations which will follow, any final agreement reached would have to be approved by both the European Parliament and the European Council – representing the 27 other EU member states. 

Sadly, it seems the instinctive reaction of a number of EU leaders has been to defend the European project at all costs. 

Jean Claude Juncker said those that voted for Brexit were “retro-nationalists, not patriots”, 

He said “a patriot would not leave the boat when the situation becomes difficult”, 

At some point the likes of Jean Claude Juncker are going to have to ask themselves, what is more important, foolishly steering the boat on its chosen path straight into the iceberg, or change direction for the good of your economy, your citizens, and your long term survival?

For the EU the next two years some in the Commission may wish to behave like the valiant orchestra going down with the ship, but for the UK and others, it should be about ensuring the following questions can be answered:

Will this create more jobs not fewer?

Will it widen our trading capabilities, not narrow them?

Will it make us more or less secure?

And the public will only be reassured by the answer to these questions, if we ensure that behind the headlines we explain what the decisions we are making mean, and how they benefit the individual.

So many seem shocked, saddened and angry even now by the referendum result, but hoping that it will be a failure to prove yourself right, is like hoping your ship is going to sink with you on board. So you can say, “I told you so”.

We all, regardless of political affiliation, need to work together, to make sure Brexit is a success.

We need to move away from the language seen from some in the remain camp of anger and defiance,

They are only stalling and harming the end result, and to what end?

Once the Prime Minister feels she is clear on her negotiating demands and strategy and ready to trigger article 50, then we should all work constructively towards a settlement on both sides of the channel to build a positive future relationship. 

The defiant attitudes of some political corners, is only fanning the flames of anger in Brussels. 

So, we should all aim to enter into negotiations with cool heads and a steady hand. 

Of course Brussels negotiators will want to drive a hard bargain, but to act out of spite will only reinforce the view of an overbearing and out of touch EU both around Europe and the world.

Denmark has already voted to opt out of Europol police cooperation, 

the Swiss wanted to reevaluate their relationship on immigration and freedom of movement, and 

Central and Eastern European Member States don’t want to participate in a compulsory  refugee relocation system. 

The UK may be the test case, but a European Union that can be more flexible, may just be what saves it. 

I can only hope that over the next couple of years the tentacles of the EU don’t keep trying to reach out further into the sovereign areas of the Member States, but instead pull them in, in order to focus on doing less but doing it better.

Brexit shouldn’t be a missed opportunity to rebuild trust with the citizens of European Union countries. 

In this regard, Brexit is as important to the EU as it is to the UK.

Dutch minister Hennis Plasschaert said, “It will be in the interest of us all to ensure that a future relationship will be constructive and mutually beneficial.”

And that will be job of people like myself, to ensure within Brussels, and within the walls of the European Parliament, that away from the headlines, and the soundbites, we are building the relationships we need now for good negotiations. 

Both I and my colleagues will do all we can, to get a deal which is as fair as possible to both sides, and do all we can to make sure that the will of the British people is not blocked by the EU institutions. 

As an MEP from Flanders told my party conference.  He said “you live on an island, not a boat. You can’t simply sail away. You will always be next to us and we will both need to work together”

If some factions of our political classes keep talking down our hopes for the future, and our chances of a better future, what message is this sending to the rest of the world, to EU leaders, and to those we need to negotiate with?

One reason I stand here before you today as the most senior elected Brit in Brussels is because I was taught from a young age that hard work, aspiration, and self belief are the key ingredients for achieving something. 

We are entering a new chapter for the United Kingdom where we will rebuild historical links, develop new trading relationships and enhance our international presence.

As the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world, the third largest trading partner of Germany, the second biggest investor in the USA, with the fourth largest defence capability, we once again will be able to shape our own destiny.

But we must also address genuine worries for those who are free marketeers and not corporatists.

Tempting as it might be, we must engage with and not simply ignore the concerns of those some see as rent-seeking lobbyists from financial institutions bailed out during the financial crisis.

They have some legitimate concerns but they must come to us with facts and potential scenarios not simply throw around words such as “passporting” and “equivalence” when they don’t need it. 

Especially those firms who only operate domestically, or firms that have passports they don’t use or those firms already have offices and licences in other EU countries.

We will need a settlement on those British nationals living in EU countries; and vice versa. 

We will still need to trade and export to the EU, and cooperate in vital fields such as counter terrorism and cross border criminal investigations. 

And yes, some EU leaders will say the four freedoms can never be divided.  While at the same time maintaining or erecting barriers to the other three freedoms in their member states. Just ask any British notary or ski instructor who has tried to work in France, or my constituents who were constantly harassed by local authorities when they invested in Spanish petrol stations, while domestically owned petrol stations were left alone.

Some in the EU will say UK cannot sign a deal to trade in goods and services without accepting freedom of movement or unlimited EU migration, while other countries signing trade deals with the EU do not have to accept freedom of movement or unlimited immigration, while other countries signing trade deals with the EU do not have to accept freedom of movement.

There are blueprints out there for potential deals.  And I lay some of these out in the Syed Kamall Pocket Guide to Brexit

The EEA blueprint

The Swiss blueprint

The customs union blue print!

The PTA blueprint

The WTO option

I believe that we we will probably get a unique UK-EU trade deal with political cooperation.

I believe that if Brussels shows it can be fair, that it can change its thinking, that it can be pragmatic in the face of crisis, then who knows . . . . . . . .a British deal, might just end up being the deal that saves the European Union as well. 

And if both the UK and the EU approach these negotiations with a positive and pragmatic approach, we will end up with an agreement where the UK becomes good neighbours with the EU as we cease to be reluctant tenants.

Can we crowdfund the public sector?

04-11-16 Crowdfunding conference city hall (37)02-11-16 Visit to Purley Youth Project (9)Last Friday, 4th November, I organised and spoke at an event at City Hall, on a subject close to my heart. Crowdfunding could be an amazing opportunity for communities to work together to create the local area they want through raising funds in conjunction with local funding bodies. The event, ‘Crowdfunding in Public Finance – Direct Democracy in Action’, was founded on the notion if enough people got together, worked together, we could make a difference and change the way public finance is used.
02-11-16 Visit to Purley Youth Project (19)

I was introduced by Keith Prince, Assembly Member for Havering and Redbridge. I talked about crowdfunding which actually could be claimed to have started back in the 1850’s with the Great Exhibition; funds dried up due a lack of funds and they turned to external backers – the public – and it was this funding which enabled the project to be finished. The internet has transformed everything and although we are still in the early days of this new internet based crowdfunding era, we can see the concept works and has worked for a long time.

Funding for public projects in the present day are getting harder. The reality is, all councils are having to deal with small budgets and that limits what can be done. I firmly believe crowdfunding could not only see projects which may be abandoned happen afterall but also help to make public finance more democratic again.

There are many models out there like Kickstarter and Kiva who have raised billions of dolla04-11-16 Crowdfunding conference city hall (84)rs between them, financing projects and small loans to help entrepreneurs get their business04-11-16 Crowdfunding conference city hall (70)es off the ground. What if we could take that model and place it in the public sector? Citizens and local government working together to fund and prioritise projects in their local area.

To understand the workings of crowdfunding I helped Purley Youth Project raise funds for their projects in 2017. We created promotional videos and a page on the CrowdPatch website allowing anyone to view and donate if the project appeals to them. It taught me a lot and much of it cemented in my mind that this is something that could work.

So far, there are no platforms which exist to help improve local infrastructure which needs to be the starting point. Local projects need an area where ideas can be suggested, 04-11-16 Crowdfunding conference city hall (81)discussed and ultimately funded.

Imagine the potential. It has worked already for the Friends of Grange Park in Old Coulsdon. They needed to update an out of date playground, making it more inclusive in the process. They raised £100,000 through funding and local support. This is achievable.

There are a lot of questions and issues which we need to address but04-11-16 Crowdfunding conference city hall (66) I believe the movement has started and we need to explore this option further.

If you would like to find out more about Purley Youth Project and their Crowdfunding, click here to take a look at their CrowdPatch page.

crowdfunding SK with guests wimbledon council






You can watch my opening speech and the experts views about the evening here.

Inspiring local people at TEDx Kingston

On Saturday 5th November, I was fortunate to be asked to speak at Kingston University for the first ever TEDx talk in Kingston on innovation, empowerment and inspiration. I wanted my speech to include all of those areas. 15 speakers, all with a connection to the Kingston area, took the stage during the day in the hope of inspiring other local people with their amazing stories, either on a personal or professional level. The message was we can all do more if we really want to.

I spoke about my background, living in North London as a child but the fact that my parents were always supportive and wanted more for me in my life. I have always had goals throughout my career and wanted to get the message across to the audience of the importance of goals. I believe you can achieve so much if you just set some clear short, medium and long-term goals, all building to the final end game. Failure is part of this process and something you should see as a positive and a way of learning as you build towards your dream.

To sum up my message it was this. When people say you can`t achieve something, they are lot talking about your limitations, they are talking about theirs, so knock the T off can’t and remember that actually you ‘can’!

TEDx filmed the speech on the day and I will be adding it to this page as soon as I get a link.

In the meantime, I want to thank TEDx for inviting me to an enjoyable event with an engaging audience, who I hope, I have inspired in some small way to keep building towards their dreams.

Party Conference – Europe – what’s next?

Speaking at Conference today, I chaired a meeting called “Europe – what’s next?”

Alongside me was, Timo Soini, Foreign Minister of Finland and Sander Loones MEP, from the Flemish NVA, which is the largest party in Belgium and holds the finance, interior and defence ministries in the government. Sander is Vice-Chairman of the Party, and he sits with our ECR Group in the parliament where he is also vice-President of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee.

Many EU leaders appear not to have understood why there are growing questions about the way the EU operates right across the continent. The Hungarian referendum and Denmark all marking significant shifts.

The migration crisis, the Euro crisis and the Commissioners revolving doors have all reinforced a sense that EU leaders not being interested in the people being left behind by globalisation.

The EU is at a crossroads; will it move towards a federation of states with policies such as a common army, treasury and fiscal transfers to name a few or will it lead to reform.

My group,the ECR group was created to push for a third way – Eurorealism. A decentralisation of powers, focusing on cooperation, not centralisation where we do less but do it better. Despite the fact Britain is leaving the EU, we still believe that the ECR is the right future for the EU and we will be supporting the ECR group long into the future.


My address to the Party Conference 2016

My address to conference today on the main stage was a chance to talk to the party about the future of the UK and the EU.

I made the point that as a united party, behind a strong leader, we can move forward post Brexit to deliver a bright future for Britain. We need to listen to the British people who spoke clearly in the referendum in June.

Our new Conservative Prime Minister is now working hard on preparations to take on the challenges of Brexit.

There was shock in Brussels but also we must not forget that there was also the discontentment within the EU too. Concern about the future direction of tye EU goes far beyond our shores.

In my speech I also explained how proud I am too lead the ECR Group with its 74 MEPs from 18 different countries. We work every day to ensure voters get a better deal by creating a Europe that does less, but does it better. When the group was set up, the EU federalists predicted we would fail but only 5 years later, we’ve become one of the 3 main groups in the European Parliament with governing parties in 5 EU countries.

I talked about how outside the walls of the European Parliament and the European Commission, the calls for change and reform have grown louder and they need to be heard.

I know that even without British Conservatives, the ECR Group will continue that fight and go from strength to strength. We want a good deal for Britain, the EU and one that works for everyone. It is in everyones interest that we go from reluctant tenants to good neighbours with the EU, working together to create jobs and sell products.

I think we will look back on Brexit and see that moment as a turning point. The moment Britain called time on an ambiguous relationship with the EU and we both became willing partners where Britain not only survives but a Great Britain that thrived.

You can see my whole speech below.

ECR Reception address

We had a reception for the ECR group this evening where I gave a short introduction. I wanted to thank everyone from Party officials to volunteers for all their work. I pointed out that although it is clear we voted to leave the EU and we are leaving the EU, it is time for us to come together to make this work not only for Britain but for the EU.

Conservative MEPs are not out the door just yet and we will continue to fight for British interests and we will do all we can to help smooth over the Brexit talks. The European Parliament have a vote on the final deal under Article 50 and so we need to stay there to make sure we deliver whatever our PM negotiates with her 27 colleagues.