Julie Girling defends Brexit vote despite Tory suspension

Written by Martin Banks on 9 October 2017 in News

British MEP Julie Girling says she stands by her decision to back a parliamentary resolution which states insufficient progress has so far been made in the Brexit negotiations.

Julie Girling | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

This comes after Girling and another UK Tory deputy, Richard Ashworth, were suspended after supporting last week’s vote which said that “sufficient progress” had not been made for phase two of negotiations to begin as planned.

The vote was advisory but it is seen as giving a boost to those in Brussels hoping to delay progress on Brexit negotiations.

Conservative delegation leader Ashley Fox said, “It is extremely regrettable that two Conservative MEPs chose to vote in this way. They left the party no choice but to act.”


The whip was removed following consultation between European Parliament chief whip Dan Dalton and Downing Street. 

The resolution, calls for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to “remain the sole and competent authority for enforcing and interpreting European Union law and the withdrawal agreement” for millions of European citizens living in the UK.  

It also calls for Northern Ireland to remain within the Customs Union and single market and insists “substantial progress” be made on the financial settlement “before entering into discussions on other issues”

In his letter to the two MEPs, Dan Dalton states, “The Brexit negotiations are the most important negotiations our country faces and reaching a new partnership with the European Union is in the interests of both the UK and the EU.

“The resolution by the European Parliament sought to delay progress in the negotiations between the UK and the EU by holding back talks on the future relationship. It also proposed that one part of the UK, Northern Ireland, could remain in the single market and customs union, while the rest of the UK departs - which is not acceptable.

“Given the seriousness of this issue, and your failure to discuss your intention to vote against the agreed position of the Conservative delegation in advance, I am therefore writing to inform you that I am suspending the Conservative whip from you until further notice.”

Ashworth and his colleague, a former chief whip, broke ranks with the 21-strong group of Conservative MEPs to back the resolution, tabled by Parliament’s Brexit representative, Guy Verhofstadt.

A UK government source said the suspension had been backed by Downing Street because the MEPs had defied the whip and had behaved “totally irresponsibly”.

He said, “Regardless of how you voted in the referendum, it is surely in everyone's interests - both in Britain and in Europe - that talks can progress on trade and our future relationship.”

On Monday, Ashworth, a former leader of UK Conservative MEPs, was not available for comment but Girling said, “It is patently obvious that the negotiations have not made sufficient progress and I sought to make that clear in my vote.

“I did not vote to prevent trade talks, in fact in my speech to the Parliament I clearly called on the Council to open up parallel negotiations on trade. I did, however, vote to acknowledge that not enough progress has been made between the two parties, an opinion which is shared by many on both sides of the Brexit debate.

“The caricature of two embittered enemies - the UK and the EU - is as facile as it is unsustainable. For the future prosperity and peace of the continent good relations must be preserved, and I feel the European Parliament is uniquely placed to help facilitate this.”

Girling added, “Many Conservatives, myself included, wish to follow the Prime Minister’s Florence call for action and assist in moving the negotiations forward. It is patently obvious that the negotiations have not made sufficient progress and I sought to make that clear in my vote.

“The European Parliament is particularly experienced in negotiation, consensus and compromise. What is more, the overwhelming majority of MEPs have a very calm and rational view of Brexit, recognising the need for cooperation and not hostility. I sincerely hope that the vote focuses the minds of negotiators, and that the Parliament will be in a position to help drive more effective negotiations.”


About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine


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