Reporting back December 2016

Category: Uncategorised
Reporting Back
December 2016
To avoid war, we must renew our support in a rules-based international order
As we look at the state of things today, we may be forgiven for seeing a world in disorder, beset by global threats. Internationalism has given way to revanchist states, economic turmoil, rioting, distrustful electorates, and globalisation fallout that we have failed to fully comprehend or deal with. Terrorist threats are no longer confined to a single disputed region whilst the complexity of cyber security brings a whole new battlefield to the forefront, in which there are no commonly established international rules.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and the victory for the liberal democracies of the West were famously heralded as bringing about “the end of history”. It was thought that with the defeat of the only major revisionist threat (the USSR) to the concept of a Western-designed rules-based international community, the next century would see chaos give way to order; the anarchy of geopolitics brought to heel by a structured global system, embodied in a network of international organisations and regulations.
This structure was already in place and to some extent already functional. The United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the IMF, the WTO and NATO. A global rules-based society, made possible because of shared sacrifices of the past, built on the understanding that establishing a common set of rules and values benefits all. These structures had already helped to bring relative peace and prosperity to the West and would now – free from the constraints of the Cold War and under the watchful shield of pax Americana – expand this blanket of democratic peace across the rest of the world.
How is it that the seemingly secure international order has collapsed so rapidly into irrelevance and contempt? To a large extent, the wounds were self-inflicted. The damage was not done by a rival system or emerging power, but by a cumbersome inability to reform the structures when necessary and a failure to address widespread dissatisfaction among national populations. This has manifested in three forms; dissatisfaction with the effects of globalisation, lack of faith in the legitimacy of the structure and the major powers within it, and post-cold war hubris leading to complacency.
With these three crippling blows, combined with increasing American isolationism, the notion of a rules-based international order is at serious risk of becoming seen as not only improbable but impossible. Yet, given the interdependence of the world today, it is vital now more than ever to reform our international institutions into some form of viable system. If we do not cast-off this current isolationism and seize the initiative, something far more dangerous will fill the vacuum. Without some form of international arbiter, nation-states will default to their natural, primitive tendencies of contestation. Claims of sovereignty over territory or peoples will ignite into conflict; a state already beginning to unfold.
Our current institutions were set up in 1944 to handle the geopolitical issues of the day. But in today’s world they must contend with a myriad of bio-political crises which they were never designed to resolve. Territoriality is no longer the only source of contention. The security implications of the migrant crisis demonstrated that traditional notions of security are permeable to new challenges. Who then will revitalise the concept of a global rules-based system and reform our international institutions into viable arbiters for the modern world? And most importantly, who can convince the revisionist powers of today as well as their populations that such a system is in their best interests as well as everyone elses?

Update on the EU firearms directive


In recent months, a great number of you have contacted me expressing concern with this directive and how it will negatively impact legal sport shooters, re-enactors and collectors. Our spokesperson on this issue and the Parliament’s lead negotiator, Vicky Ford MEP, has made significant progress in revising the draft so far and while there is mostly general agreement on the key issues, we still need to scrutinise the consolidated text.
The latest positions are:
Semi-automatic Firearms and the exemption for sport shooters
* There is a shared position between the Council and Parliament that certain semi-automatic firearms when fitted with high capacity magazines are to be treated as Category A prohibited firearms but with special permissions for sport shooters.
* There is agreement between the Commission, Council and Parliament that the exemption for sport shooters must work not just on paper but also in practice. Any organisations with practical concerns about the exemption should raise these with the Commission to make sure they can be addressed.
* Further discussion is required on the issue of semi-automatics converted from automatics. The Parliament has restated their desire to try and find a solution that is workable for the responsible legal shooting community. The positions of the Parliament and Council remain close on the ability for Member States to continue to grant authorisations for existing owners.
Deactivated Firearms
* It is important that deactivation of firearms should be irreversible and ensure the firearm is inoperable. The European Deactivation Regulation introduced in April 2016 sets a single standard for deactivation but has raised many practical issues for legitimate holders of these items, including re-enactors. There is now a clearer understanding by the Council and the Commission of the issues faced by legitimate holders of these items and progress is being made on resolving implementing issues in the Deactivation Regulation.
* Regarding deactivations before April 2016, the Parliament position is that firearms deactivated to an equivalent previous standard should still be able to be bought and sold and we suggest that national deactivation standards which are equivalent to the aims of the new EU standard adopted should be recognised as such. We are making progress with this.
* It is clear that the Commission will not be prepared to just rubber stamp all old deactivation standards so it will be up to each Member State to make the case for deactivations undertaken according to their previous system.
* We are making good progress on agreeing language for special authorisations for reservists and other specialist needs, although this is not yet finalised.
* On so called medical tests, the Parliament is pressing the case for member states to have monitoring systems, which include the assessment of relevant medical and psychological information in accordance with national law, and which may be on a continuous or non-continuous basis.
European Firearms Pass
* The Council has agreed to include Category A weapons in the European Firearms Pass when holders have authorisations for them. This will improve the implementation of the pass.
By Africa, For Africa: Developing Africa’s infrastructure through Public-Private Partnerships
In the last two years, over 2 million people have crossed the Mediterranean, into Europe, in pursuit of a better life; the journey tragically claiming more than 8,000 lives so far.
They have arrived not only from the war-torn Middle East; from Syria and Iraq but also from North Africa, seeking the basic right to a living wage; a job; security.
Addressing the root causes of poverty must be our first task in ensuring that those in developing countries, especially our neighbours, have the stability to make a life at home.
This can only be achieved through the partnership of both public and private actors. Aid alone is not enough to bridge the gap between the rich and poor in developing countries. To that end, I hosted an in-depth roundtable on the future of African industry, consulting prominent African business and civic leaders, seeking to spearhead Africa’s infrastructure development.
Contrary to the beliefs espoused in recent upset electoral votes, globalisation has made the world more equal. As communication gets cheaper and transport gets faster, developing countries have closed the gap with their more developed counterparts. Inequality between countries falls when developing countries enter global markets. Yet, without the proper infrastructure developing countries struggle to reach beyond their own borders.
Keynote speaker and CEO of the Algerian based CEVITAL Industrial Group, Issad Rebrab’s proposal to build a high speed, transnational railway down the length of Africa, highlights not only the critical importance of connectivity to trade and by extension regional stability, but also starkly demonstrates the advantages of working in partnership with the local private sector; their expertise, in country knowledge and capital proving essential to any form of modern development project.
Working with the private sector to scale-up investments, not only in infrastructure , but also in energy, agriculture, education, healthcare and technology projects, while applying the same principles of due diligence and market disciplines, marks the beginning of a new era in development assistance and a shift away from aid dependency and handouts.

We must address Somaliland’s independence claim


In November, I chaired a conference with the H.E. Saad Ali Shire, foreign minister of Somaliland, to examine the case for recognition of Somaliland’s independence from Somalia. While Somalia has found itself embroiled in a civil war that has raged on for more than two decades, the narrow stretch of Somali-inhabited territory on the southern shore of the Gulf of Aden has, since declaring independence in 1991, adhered to every standard of good governance and successful democratic process.
For too long we have been blind to the trials, tribulations and concerns of this small country; one that has at every turn strived and struggled to achieve all the hallmarks of a free and democratic society. We should be ashamed that as a body of like-minded states, supposedly dedicated to the ideals of free society, we have proven content to make this someone else’s issue; someone else’s fight. In the more than two decades since declaring independence, Somaliland’s sovereignty has yet to be fully recognised by a single international partner, despite the growing global acclaim for what has become a model of stability and good governance.

How can we commend in one moment the worthiness of Somaliland, a nation that has, as a functioning reality, been independent for more than 25 years; an island of stability in one of the most troubled regions of the globe, and yet, when the time comes for sentiment to give way to action, the European Union is nowhere to be found? We must find ourselves committed to passing a resolution through the European Parliament, demanding the international community’s attention and recommending that this case be sent to the International Court of Justice.We cannot wait for the Commission to act. It must be our responsibility to end the perverse limbo state of independence without recognition. This must be solved, not through politics, but with the law.

Labour threat to the EU-Canada free trade deal defeated


The EU-Canada free trade deal (CETA) is the most comprehensive agreement the EU has negotiated to date. While CETA does not quite go far enough in removing all agricultural and service tariffs, the 100% removal of tariffs on industrial and fisheries products is most welcome. It has taken four long years but negotiators on all sides can be mostly pleased with a deal worth up to €12 billion for the EU.
Once CETA is implemented, Canada would immediately eliminate €500 million of duties on goods. Yet in spite of this, at the Strasbourg plenary, we witnessed a group of Labour MEPs engage in a desperate last-ditch effort to delay CETA yet again, by kicking CETA up to the European Court of Justice for their opinion. This would potentially delay CETA for up to two years and thus risk the Canadians pulling out altogether.
This desperate bid was thankfully defeated, with 60% of the parliament, including myself and my Conservative colleagues backing CETA. A similar, equally frivolous, Labour attempt to block free trade was seen just a fortnight later; in their opposition to the EU’s economic partnership agreement with Ghana. We on this side will continue to support ever wider free trade among nations.

New proposals to improve horse welfare

Recently, I’ve received messages from constituents regarding the new proposals for equine welfare. Though some progress has been made in recent times to address the suffering of horses – whether it be via transportation, on farms or the conditions of slaughterhouses – much remains to be accomplished. My Conservative colleague, Julie Girling MEP, has pushed forward with new proposals presented to the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee to improve conditions for horses. The key recommendations include: a shorter maximum journey time, increased inspections of farms and slaughterhouses in addition to a review of the impact of VAT on equestrian enterprises.
Here in the South East, horses play a significant role in our rural areas, not just in labour intensive work such as farming and forestry but also in our tourism sector, sport and in even in Equine Assisted Therapy; such as the HEART centre in Ockham, Surrey. Speaking on behalf the Conservatives and ECR group, Julie stated: “Taken together I believe the initiatives I have outlined would increase awareness, information and incentives and could help unlock the full economic potential of the equine sector while at the same time protecting the welfare of these unique animals.”
I look forward to giving my full backing to these proposals if and when they progress from the committee to the full parliament in the New Year.

I will be back in touch with you again very soon. In the meantime you can check my for regular updates and if I can be of any assistance to you on anything raised here or anything else for that matter, please do not hesitate to contact me at