Written by Keith Best, who is Secretary of the European Movement UK.
As some of you may know I am stepping down as Secretary of the Movement after my maximum permitted six years under our Constitution but I shall remain an active and committed member for the cause of us regaining our proper place in Europe when the time is right and it is in Britain’s national interest.
I have been and remain a member of the Conservative Party for over fifty years and, although being described as a “wet” and liberal Tory during my time as an MP, I stay true to Conservative principles of individual liberty, the rule of law and a global perspective. From time to time these principles have put me at odds with my Party when in Government or when certain policies have been pursued but we all have differences from some of the views of our own party politics (as, indeed, do many current MPs). One of the pleasures of being involved in the European Movement has been to find common cause with many who belong to other political parties and none and to know that this makes the European Movement truly a home for those with strong party-political views and those whose loyalties may change from time to time.
I recognise that our Movement is now the only organised political campaign that can represent those 6 million Conservatives who voted Remain in the Referendum as well as now over half the country that wishes we had stayed a member of the EU now that we see the chaos and disruption that Brexit has caused. That is a heavy responsibility. The current Government was elected on a simple slogan of Get Brexit Done tapping into the frustration of the apparent sclerosis after the Referendum because few had anticipated the result (on both sides!). The trouble with a simple slogan is that it can mean all things to all people and there will be many who never felt that it represented what actually we have been given.
It is unfortunate that a recent article in the media indicated that the European Movement might be targeting particular Conservative MPs. That needs clarification: we reserve the right to lobby and seek to influence all MPs and others who think that Brexit was a good idea, without regard to their Party, but not to seek to undermine their legitimacy as democratically elected representatives. Our Constitution and values make it clear that we are non-party political but when we are being taken down a hard-line Brexit route that is endangering our relationships with our trading and security partners and therefore our national interest it is unsurprising that we shall have differences with any Government that does this and those that support it.
Our President (Michael Heseltine), Vice-President (Ken Clarke QC) and immediate past Chair (Stephen Dorrell) are former Conservative Cabinet members – strong party politicians but exemplifying the Churchillian principle of the national interest being paramount. We have many supporters who are or have been members of the Conservative Party and/or have voted Conservative in the past and will do so again in a general election for what they see as overall the best option for our country when faced with stark alternatives or because particular issues are more important to them. I believe that the European Movement is a true home for them as continuing the tradition of full engagement with Europe that has been the hallmark of Conservative administrations since the days of Ted Heath and our accession to the EU.
I should like to wish you and your loved ones every happiness for a peaceful and relaxing festive season.