On Monday 4th July, the Conservative European Forum held its first in-person AGM since the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Hosted at Mary Sumner House in London, members came together to reflect on CEF’s campaigning activities and other successes over the last year and to look forward as the Forum continues to advance the case for strategic cooperation between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Opening the meeting, CEF President, the Rt Hon Amber Rudd, made clear her belief in the vital work being done by CEF “in advancing the case for improved relations between the UK and the EU”.
Speaking of the progress made by CEF over the last year, CEF Chair, the Rt Hon Sir David Lidington said:
“I believe the Forum has made great strides in improving our relationship with the mainstream centre-right parties in Europe. That culminated in an invitation to attend the EPP Congress in Rotterdam earlier this year. CEF is seen by the EPP and its consistent sister parties as the best channel to communicate and engage with Conservatives in the UK.
"We have also established ourselves as an organisation that produces good quality research and campaigns. We campaigned actively for the Parliamentary Partnership Assembly provided for under the TCA to be established. The PPA has now been established and has had its first meeting nationality and borders bill. This is only the start but it is my firm belief that it is through the constant engagement of people at political and official levels that we begin to reestablish mutual trust and the base on which we can hope for better cooperation between the United Kingdom and our fellow democracies in Europe.”
CEF has also been successful in campaigning against Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill and actively supported MPs and Peers to draft and organise amendments. The original clause enabled the Home Secretary to strip people who are dual nationals or deemed capable of claiming an alternative nationality of their UK citizenship without notice, for a broad array of reasons. As a result of our active pressure the Government put forward amendments to alleviate a number of concerns that we have expressed.
Looking forward, Sir David said of the Forum’s future: “What the Ukraine crisis has demonstrated is the importance and the urgency of trying to reestablish a strategic framework for cooperation between the UK and the EU and its member states. We know that in 2025 the Trade and Cooperation Agreement comes up for review and that is an opportunity for us, and those who think like us, to put forward practical measures that will benefit our country and Europe as a whole in terms of our prosperity and our security and will seek to build a new type of relationship which serves our common interests across the European democratic world.”
Following the formal AGM, members attended a reception with the Rt Hon David Gauke, former Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions where he outlined the advantages to making the positive case for closer collaboration with the European Union and his view as to the future of UK-EU relations.
The event was also an opportunity for members to learn more about Lord Kirkhope’s upcoming paper, ‘Data Equivalence: an Opportunity for Cooperation,’ which seeks to promote the benefits of maintaining equivalence on data regulations between the UK and the EU. The report encourages the government to change its current trajectory of regulatory divergence with the European Union on data standards, which not only would risk the loss of protections for consumers but would mean the UK no longer being a recognised partner on data equivalence.
In his speech to CEF, Lord Kirkhope commented “Equivalence on data policy is not only a pragmatic solution to an issue that will continue to mount as the world becomes ever more digitally inter-connected but also a sizeable opportunity to take advantage of both parties’ shared interests and goals to advance the vital case for strategic cooperation between the United Kingdom and European Union.”
Finally, Sir David, on behalf of CEF, extended its thanks and appreciation to Mark Leverton, who is stepping down as Treasurer and to Ian Berridge who has taken on the role. Sir David also used the opportunity to extend his gratitude to CEF staff, members and supporters without whom the Forum’s work simply would not be possible.