EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW —“The ERG will argue against any attempt ever to persuade the people of the United Kingdom to rejoin the European Union”. Mark Francois on his forthcoming autobiography “Spartan Victory,” Brexit and the future of ERG.
The road to Brexit was not an easy one for the UK, constantly met with opposition by the Remainers, as they call them, in Britain. The sequence of cliffhangers within the Conservative Party from a vote of “No confidence“ in Theresa May to the leadership contest that Boris Johnson won was one of the most historic moments in European history.
The ERG, to those unfamiliar with UK daily politics, is an influential alliance of pro-Brexit Conservative members of parliament who were absolutely crucial in taking down the then-Prime Minister Theresa May and implementing the will of the people as expressed in the 2016 Referendum to leave the European Union.
Right now, the UK has officially left the European Union and with it, many wonder about the future direction of the European Research Group (ERG) now chaired by Mark Francois.
I sat down with him to talk about all things Brexit and the scoop that he’s writing his autobiography.
“What is the future and direction of the ERG now that you are chairman?” I asked Mr. Francois.
“The ERG still has a very important role to play in British public life. In the short term, the UK is involved in crucial negotiations on a new comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union. The ERG will have an obvious role in scrutinizing and commenting on the conduct of those negotiations, up to and including exiting the so-called “transition period” at the end of this calendar year,” he told me.
Going forward, there are still likely to be ongoing issues regarding the UK's future relationship with the EU, on everything from security to climate change, but as Mr.Francois told me, the ERG will want to conduct detailed research and then comment on such matters.
“The ERG will argue against any attempt ever to persuade the people of the United Kingdom to rejoin the European Union”, he revealed.
The UK is supposed to leave the European Union under a transition period on 31 December 2020, but would that be with or without a deal, is something everyone wants to know. On that, Mark Francois is clear that “If the UK wishes to extend the transition period it has to give the EU formal notice to this effect by 1 July i.e. in less than a month. At present, there are no indications the UK is going to request this, in which case we will legally depart the transition period at the end of 2020, either one way or another. Personally, I believe that once we are through the 1 July interim deadline, the EU will become more realistic and will eventually agree a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the UK, as envisaged in the revised Political Declaration which PM Boris Johnson successfully re-negotiated with them last autumn,” he said.
“Why is that?” I asked Mr. Francois.
“This is, firstly, because they [the EU] are terrified that, without some kind of deal, the UK will eventually become ‘the Singapore of Europe’ and, with an Anglo-Saxon economic model, eventually, out-compete them on world markets,” Mark Francois explained adding that this was exactly one of the reasons “they [the EU] were so very keen to prevent us from leaving in the first place.” He added: “secondly, they previously insisted they would never reopen the original 2018 ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ and would certainly never abandon the ‘backstop’ (Customs Union) but, when the pressure was on, they subsequently did both, all in the space of three months.”
What got Mark Francois into politics was a combination of an interest in history, especially the career of Winston Churchill, and defense. For the first time with any media outlet in the world, he gave me the scoop that he is writing “Spartan Victory”, an autobiography no one knew about. In it, he will explain more about his journey into politics and will be writing, among other things, how he thinks history will remember the ERG’s part in the UK leaving the EU.
“The ERG played a fundamentally important role in Brexit, as without it we might never have left the European Union at all. I have been using my spare time during the Lockdown to draft my autobiography, ‘Spartan Victory,’ which will chronicle the struggle for Brexit, both inside and outside of Parliament and which I am now hoping to publish in the autumn. This will go into considerable detail about how this battle against the pro-Remain British Establishment was won, often against considerable odds,” he said.
Finally, “has BoJo lost his mojo post-COVID 19?” I asked.
“Nojo,” Mark Francois was fast to object.
“The Prime Minister has thankfully made a good recovery and is now firing on all cylinders again. He is personally driving the UK’s response to the pandemic, including beginning to gradually ease Lockdown restrictions, as the infection abates. For instance, schools began readmitting more pupils from 1 June and most High Street shops will reopen on 15 June. The UK is slowly but surely returning to a ‘new normal," the Chairman of the ERG concluded with an optimistic outlook.
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