Richard Ashworth, the former leader of the UK Conservative delegation in the European Parliament, was expelled from the Conservative party this week in a shock move by the party Chairman, Brandon Lewis.
Speaking from Strasbourg, Ashworth said: “In October 2017, I, along with Julie Girling, voted in support of a European Parliament resolution that said, “Not enough progress has been made, by the EU and the UK, in resolving the question of the Irish border after Brexit”. Only five Conservative MEPs took part in the vote, which was not a political statement but a factual one.”
In light of that vote, Prime Minister Theresa May announced at the following PMQs “I have suspended the party whip from two Conservative MEPs”.
Subsequently, Both MEPs in defiance of the British Conservative delegation, voted to censure the far right Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban. Consequently, Party Chairman, Brandon Lewis, announced this week that Ashworth and Girling had been expelled from the Conservative party.
Ashworth added: “Having been a party worker for over 30 years and, having been former group leader and party board member, I find this extremely disappointing. I always have been, and always will be, a Conservative. However, I am surprised that the party does not apply the same standards in Westminster and I am extremely concerned that this once broad-church pragmatic Conservative party has deserted the centre ground in favour of far right ideology and intolerance”.
It has come to my attention that I voted against an amendment to encourage national parliaments to ban “gay conversion therapies” on 1st March.
As an MEP I vote on hundreds of amendments during a Strasbourg plenary session and occasionally I vote the wrong way. Normally this voting error would have been flagged up and corrected but it was missed.
Regardless, this was a mistake which I deeply regret so I want to clarify I am opposed to so called “gay conversion therapies.” I also want to apologise for any offence caused.
There were 48 other amendments to the report and, amongst other things, I voted in favour of:
· the rights of same-sex couples to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States
· welcoming the fact that more Member States have adapted their laws on same-sex marriage
· calling on other Member States to adapt their laws
· calling on the Commission to bring forward a proposal for the full recognition gender recognition and marriages across the EU and
· on the final resolution (which was adopted)
The chairman of the European Peoples Party Manfred Webber welcomed British MEPs Richard Ashworth and Julie Girling into its ranks at a meeting held in Brussels on Tuesday 27 February 2018.
Manfred Webber Chairman of the EPP said:
“We are very happy to welcome two new members of the EPP Group today! Good to have British colleagues back to our group”.
Richard Ashworth MEP for South East England said:
“I am delighted to be back in the largest political grouping in the European Parliament which will allow me to better represent the interests of constituents during these very uncertain times for the United Kingdom.”
Wednesday 28 February 2018
Richard Ashworth MEP and Julie Girling MEP confirm today that they will be leaving the ECR Group in the European Parliament and joining the EPP Group.
“We wish to inform you that we will be leaving the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) and joining the European Peoples Party Group (EPP) in the European Parliament with immediate effect.”
“It is our intention to remain members of the Conservative Party in the UK as we believe the activities and approach of the EPP will more effectively further the prospects of achieving the best possible future for our constituents. We will continue to work for our constituents from inside the largest and most influential Group in the European Parliament.”
“We very much look forward to working with our new colleagues from all 28 member states.”
MY VOTE IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT WAS “NOT A VOTE AGAINST BREXIT”
The following news release was sent to media today Sunday 8 October 2017
Richard Ashworth Conservative MEP for South East England responding to press coverage in the Sunday media, has made it clear that the vote in the European Parliament was not associated to infighting in Westminster, and is not in any way an act of disloyalty to the Prime Minister Theresa May; and has expressed his continued support to the Prime Minister.
He went onto say that his vote was not a vote against Brexit, nor was he seeking to delay or hinder trade negotiations.
Richard Ashworth MEP said:
“From the outset I must insist this was NOT a vote against Brexit. The British people voted to leave the European Union, and their wish must be respected. Secondly, it was NOT a vote to derail or obstruct trade negotiations.”
“Article 50 determines there be two stages to the negotiations. Next week the 27 European Prime ministers (the Council) will decide if enough progress has been made in phase one in order for them to authorise negotiations to move onto phase two. The European parliament resolution was to instruct the council whether or not sufficient progress had been made between the two parties.”
“Time is limited and we urgently need to move on to the trade negotiations. However, it is my view that we have not yet made sufficient progress on phase one; and it is my judgement that moving to phase two before adequately completing phase one would ultimately lengthen the negotiation, not shorten it, and would diminish our chances of a successful outcome to our trade negotiations.”
“A sound agreement needs to be made on sound foundations, we have made progress but we are not there yet.”
The following letter has been published to address the concerns of constituents in the South East of England following recent press coverage.
On 29th March 2017 the Prime minister served Article 50. Prior to that the House of Commons had voted in favour of article 50 (without any amendment).
This letter explains where the negotiations are, and the significance of last week’s vote in the European Parliament.
At the outset I must insist this was NOT a vote against Brexit. The British people voted to leave the European Union, and their wish must be respected. Secondly, it was NOT a vote to derail or obstruct trade negotiations. I, in common with all other parties, want to see a successful and fair Brexit. However, two important points to bear in mind….. first, now that we are into the negotiation stage, “the devil is in the detail”; and second, any negotiation is much more likely to have a successful outcome if it builds on mutual benefits, rather than being adversarial.
Article 50 determines there be two stages to the negotiations. Next week the 27 European Prime ministers (the Council) will decide if enough progress has been made in phase one in order for them to authorise negotiations to move onto phase two. The European parliament resolution was to instruct the council whether or not sufficient progress had been made between the two parties.
Article 50 runs until March 29th 2019, which means time is limited and we urgently need to move on to the trade negotiations. However, it is my view that we have not yet made sufficient progress on phase one; and it is my judgement that moving to phase two before adequately completing phase one would ultimately lengthen the negotiation, not shorten it, and would severely diminish our chances of a successful outcome from phase two.
There are three issues to resolve in phase one:
The first is citizens rights (both for EU citizens living in the UK and for UK citizens living in the EU). I have received a large volume of mail from among those four and a half million people, all anxious for certainty and security. While I acknowledge progress has been made, to date, no agreement has been reached. I think it my duty, particularly to those constituents, to ensure that the rights and freedoms of these people are protected and to that end we need a formula that ensures equivalence and reciprocity.
Secondly, Northern Ireland.
The United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland)has announced that it will leave the European Single Market and the Customs Union. It also determined that there will be no ‘hard’ border in Ireland and that the Good Friday Agreement will be respected.
The people of the United Kingdom have expressed a clear wish to restrict and control the free movement of people from the European Union. At the moment, given that our land border with an adjoining EU state will have no border controls, there is no proposal how this might work. This issue cannot be deferred 1) because the people of the UK expect their government to take control of the borders 2) because both sides of the Irish border need certainty and 3) because of the impact it will have on any subsequent trading agreement with the EU.
Thirdly, Financial settlement.
This year, as in previous years, the 28 EU member states will devote over 40% of the budget to developing the single market. This is not charity, it is a seed corn investment which has grown into the world’s largest single market. Likewise this year, as in previous years, the UK is fully participating in many joint European ventures. For example, Erasmus (student exchange programmes), Galileo (satellite navigation), Euratom (nuclear exchange), Horizon 20:20 (private and university research programmes) and the European space agency. In her Florence speech the prime minister intimated that the UK would honour all its financial commitments. That was welcomed by the EU 27. But before trade talks can progress the 27 Prime ministers will want to know that, if they continue to invest in the single market, how or what will the United Kingdom contribute. Second, if we intend to continue to participate in joint European ventures, are we prepared to pay?
In my opinion, regardless which side of the Brexit debate you are on, getting a good deal for Britain is critically important. It is the detail of the agreement that will determine the success or failure of Brexit and it would be a mistake to ignore or gloss over the issues. A sound agreement needs to be build on sound foundations. We have made progress, but were not there yet.
The European Investment Fund (EIF) and the British Business Bank, have signed an InnovFin agreement for Small and Medium sized enterprises, which will enable the British Business Bank to lend £30 million.
Loans of up to £2 million will support the development of new products and processes, stimulate research and innovation and help businesses target new export markets.
Commenting on this agreement, Richard Ashworth Spokesman for the Conservative Party in the European Parliament said: “This £30m will help small, innovative firms across the UK to invest and achieve their full potential.”
The MEP for the South East went on to say: “This further proves the value of remaining inside the EU – outside the EU we would not have access to such valuable instruments.”
Conservatives in the European Parliament have backed proposals which will help tackle corporate tax avoidance by multi-national firms.
These legislative plans, put forward by the British EU Commissioner Lord Hill, would force multi-national companies to publicly report their tax dealings on a country-by-country basis. It also ensures a level playing field within the Single Market by removing the unfair tax advantages which are available to large corporations, but not on offer to smaller European businesses.
Conservative MEPs also opposed a politically motivated amendment backed by Labour which sought to add public tax reporting to separate piece of legislation considered by the European Parliament.
Following the vote Richard Ashworth, Conservative MEP for South East England, said: “Large multi-national corporations operating in Europe should pay the same tax and face the same rules which small businesses in the South East have to comply with. Ensuring a level playing field within the EU Single Market in terms of taxation is beneficial for British businesses.”
“By remaining within the EU the UK can be part of broader cooperation with our neighbours to clampdown on aggressive corporate tax avoidance by multi-national companies.”
“I opposed the Labour-backed amendment as placing this politically motivated text within a piece of technical legislation is inappropriate and cheap opportunism. Conservatives in the European Parliament are committed to creating good legislation that will tackle tax avoidance, not empty political gestures.”
Click to read a leaflet with facts about the EU
The following has been sent to local media on Friday 13 May 2016
Police and security cooperation across the EU will be strengthened after MEPs voted in favour of an expanded role for Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency.
Countries across the EU will be able to respond more quickly to developing threats through new platforms for enhanced operational cooperation and information exchange between national police forces. Europol will be better equipped to deal with transnational terrorist threats thanks to enhanced capabilities for the new ‘Internet Referral Unit’; this has proven particularly effective in working with EU states to help take down terrorist propaganda and recruitment material.
These new rules also increase the oversight powers for national parliaments over Europol, whilst also enhancing data protection supervision.
Following the vote Richard Ashworth, Conservative MEP for South East England, said: “Terrorism and organised crime doesn’t stop at borders so why should the way we tackle it? Our continued membership of the EU ensures that British police and intelligence agencies are best equipped to protect us. Cooperation and intelligence sharing with our neighbours through Europol, an EU agency, safeguards Britain and is firmly in our national interest.”