Ed: This report of a meeting of the Bruges Group held on Wednesday January 23 was written by Robin Willow, London:
We see that Bruges Group meetings are very popular and are attended by more people than can fit in the halls booked. The speakers invited are increasingly important. This meeting, called ‘A Real Brexit – opening up a world of opportunity’, held in a lecture theatre close to Parliament in a lunchtime, was no exception. The people wanting to attend, paying £20 each for the privilege, were too many for the place, as usual.
This time there was a massive media presence taking up the first three rows, and having lots of news recording equipment and cameras. The BBC and ITN were present, as were reporters from The Telegraph and other newspapers.
The speakers invited this time were Roger Bootle, an economist and chairman of Capital Economics; Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, chairman of the European Research Group and very high profile; and Crispin Blunt MP, a chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee between 2015 and 2917. When Jacob Rees-Mogg arrived he was given significant loud applause by the audience.
The economist was first to be introduced by Barry Legg. Mr Blunt spoke at great length about the benefits of leaving the EU without restrictions, the WTO deal departure. We would then be free to negotiate many beneficial deals with countries all over the world. We could, he suggested, also offer the EU mutual free trade with zero tariffs on most goods.
We applauded loudly several times during his presentation, and especially at the end in gratitude. Next Barry introduced Jacob Rees-Mogg, and the media took many photos at the start and during his presentation. We welcomed him warmly with loud applause and cheers. Mr Rees-Mogg warned us about a possible Division call from Parliament, which he and Mr Blunt would have to rush off to attend. He spoke of the manoeuvrings of the Remainers, and the work being done to prevent them from overturning the Brexit decision by the British people.
After his presentation Barry invited the Press to ask questions. There were various questions about his responses to Remainer-based options. He explained that the Irish ‘backstop’ is in its entirety a major problem and it had to go. I noticed that Mark Francois MP was in the wings giving his support. The Division bell had not been given, so Barry was able to introduce Crispin Blunt MP, for whom this is a first visit to speak at Bruges Group. He explained that if we achieve full freedom from the EU he personally will not object to paying some money to the EU (but not from his own pocket – RW)
The MPs soon had to leave for Parliament and Mr Rees-Mogg hurried away, but Roger Bootle and Crispin Blunt stayed awhile to answer questions, managed by Barry. The questions were all relevant and needed to be asked. Of course, I had a question, but was not able to ask it because we ran out of time:
Do I understand correctly that the Prime Minister, Treason May, has already signed us up to the UN migration pact, which obligates Britain to provide free and unrestricted entry to all migrants from Africa, with full access to state benefits and a free house each? And has she also already signed Britain up to PESCO, handing over control of all British military to the EU?
I might send my question to Mr Rees-Mogg, but I doubt if he will answer.