And while some of us try to put out the fuse, others fan it on, and still others are using it to pop their popcorn by, maybe it is time for us to get to know some of our MEPs, and not just the MEP for the South East of England, whose pay has recently been docked by the EU. We would do better to look at those who do actually turn up to do something constructive rather than those who posture and hurl abuse at their colleagues. Or beat each other up in the corridors of power in Brussels.
A pro-European with his home firmly in the Conservative party, Charles Tannock's outlook on Brexit is closer to that of Churchill’s than to May’s. He describes a politician’s job as being the “art of the possible” and at present he does not see that an “Exit from Brexit” falls within that spectrum, although he doesn’t hesitate to describe Brexit as “a destructive and selfish act based on untruths and false promises.” He echoes the outlook of many when he says that he feels “pretty gloomy overall about the hard Brexit direction of the negotiations.” Despite public protest, and a march that rivalled the anti-Iraq war march, he fears “it [will have to] get worse for the economy before hard Brexiteers in public life face pressure to soften and compromise.” If you hadn’t heard of him fighting for Remain during the Referendum campaign, he states that is because he was “never given airtime as a proEU MEP.” Post Referendum, Tannock has added his voice to the ranks of those fighting to protect the rights of non-UK EU nationals.
A doctor by trade, he became a councillor for the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in 1998 and a year later he was elected to the European Parliament to represent London where he sits in the block of European Conservatives and Reformers who are to ALDE what chalk is to cheese. This group was called into being by David Cameron, because there is no better way to increase the UK’s power within Europe than moving your MEPs out of the largest centre-right grouping in the European parliament and throwing your lot in with the likes of PiS, the party of Kaczinsky, currently in power in Poland. They are the ones undermining the rule of law in their own country by trying to remove Supreme Court Judges.)
Over the years he has been awarded many honours (eight to be precise) from countries as diverse as Colombia, Ukraine and Taiwan. This is mirrored in the international nature of his statements in the plenary debates in the European Parliament arguing for the defence of freedom of speech and human rights in China, debating the EU’s relationship with Turkey in the light of Erdogan’s unconstitutional power grabbing, and highlighting the political situation in the Congo. (Please do remember that according to certain members of the Leave camp, the EU was a block between us and the outside world, rather than giving us an extra forum through which to promote the principles of democracy and human rights on a global scale)
Since the Referendum he has been active on twitter trying to warn people of the consequences of Brexit. However, looking at the political class he sees no way out of Brexit. Looking at the Conservative side of the House, he states: “No Tory MP is arguing to stop Brexit - the furthest we go for now is soft. Something like EFTA& EEA plus [a Turkish-type of Customs Union] for 5 years at least” Looking at Labour he states that Corbyn is part of the “hard Brexit problem” and has dreams of “Venezuela on Thames”.
There are MEPs and MPs out there from both sides of the house who know that Brexit will not go well, and if they are not mindful of the country they are at least mindful of how history will judge them. MEPs like Charles Tannock, who make constructive, measured and thoughtful contributions to the EU, compensate for the tantrums of the failed MP wannabe for Thanet. However, it is not this kind of politician who makes good copy.
It is, maybe, time to celebrate the work that good MEPs do.
While we still have them.
You can follow Charles on Twitter