Only a lack of political will and imagination will stop Britain forging a new, mutually beneficial relationship with the European Union, Conservative MEPs' leader Ashley Fox said today.

Speaking as the European Parliament debated the future EU/UK deal, Mr Fox said it was overwhelmingly in the interests of both sides to have the freest trade and the closest possible security relationship.

Although significant differences remain, he believes progress can be made by listening to each other, building on what has already been agreed and thinking creatively. But he stressed it was not enough to simply look to replicate existing trade deals.

Mr Fox said: "Every deal the EU has ever struck has been different and unique. Arrangements with Switzerland, Norway and South Korea are all bespoke.  There was no Canada before Canada, no Singapore before Singapore."

The European Parliament must approve the final EU/UK agreement and Mr Fox said voters would judge MEPs not on whether they followed every rule and protocol but on whether they "had the common sense to maintain a workable relationship with the world's sixth largest economy."

He concluded: "I have confidence that an innovative solution can be found. To paraphrase the Prime Minister; we both know what we want, we have a shared interest in getting this right, so let's get on with it."

 

Responding to the European Council's draft negotiating guidelines, published today, Conservative MEPs' leader Ashley Fox said:

"Donald Tusk's draft guidelines leave scope for negotiation and I am pleased to hear him echo the UK's desire to strike 'an ambitious and advanced' free trade agreement.  

"Significant differences remain and much tough talking lies ahead, but we share a common goal and I believe a mutually beneficial deal is achievable.

"Equally, I welcome the mention of continued co-operation in areas such as security and research contained in the European Parliament's Brexit Steering Group resolution. However, Parliament should not be attempting to dictate the course of talks."

 

 

Responding to the Prime Minister's Mansion House speech today, Conservative MEPs' leader Ashley Fox said:

“The Prime Minister has today clearly laid out the UK’s position, adding significant detail to her previous speeches in Lancaster House and Florence.

 “The EU can be in no doubt. We intend to honour the referendum result by regaining the ability to control our borders, laws and money while negotiating the world’s most ambitious free trade deal under which the UK and our European partners can prosper.

“To maximise the opportunities both sides must work together constructively. There are no off the peg answers to many of the issues we face but there can be imaginative, bespoke solutions. We are committed to finding them. I hope the EU is too. 

“We have the opportunity to go beyond any precedent. It is time for the EU to put jobs, security and people first and join us in positive talks.”

 

Cutting off funding to extremist groups is a key tool in the fight against terrorism, Conservative Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Tannock told MEPs today.

He was speaking as the European Parliament approved a raft of proposals, which Conservative MEPs helped shape, aimed at starving jihadist radicals of crucial finances.

He said: "This report focuses on how money moves around the world and with the imminent demise of ISIS in Syria there can be no doubt fighters are trying to get money out so they can regroup elsewhere.

"We also see established and developing terrorist groups involved in many illegal activities, ranging from human trafficking, the drugs trade, and child exploitation.  Tackling the finances of terrorist groups is key to curtailing their activities and goes hand in hand with de-radicalisation programmes and intelligence led counter-terrorism operations.

"It's clear that terrorism and its financing knows no borders and needs to be tackled at the multilateral level. As the UK leaves the EU security is one the key areas of cooperation that must continue."

Conservative Security Spokesman Geoffrey Van Orden, Vice-Chairman of the European Parliament's Terrorism Committee, added:  “These proposals are very timely and complement the work of the Special Committee on Terrorism which is currently working very hard to find ways of improving the response to the terrorist threat.

“We welcome proposals for stricter control over foreign funding of those places of worship and religious education which inhibit integration into our society and in some cases are the seed bed for Islamist terrorists.

“The UK has great expertise and experience in dealing with terrorism. The need for the EU to respond positively to the British Prime Minister’s call for a security treaty should not be delayed.”

The report's recommendations  include improving the way member states monitor and share intelligence on suspicious financial transactions, virtual currencies and traditional informal money transfer systems such as hawala.  Banks would be obliged to monitor pre-paid debit cards  

It also calls for the establishment of a common information platform where intelligence could be pooled, while places of worship and education, institutions, centres and charities in EU countries suspected of having links with terrorist group be forced to provide full details of all their sources of funding.

The proposals will now be passed to the European Council, Commission and the European External Action Service with a call for action.

 

 

Responding to the appointment today of Martin Selmayr to the role of European Commission Secretary General,  Syed Kamall MEP, Co-chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, said:

"How does the Commission expect people to believe that the EU is capable of change and listening to the voters when the process for appointing to top positions is so opaque.

"The Commission should be looking at ways to make Brussels more transparent and democratic, yet this appointment resembles nothing more than jobs for the boys.

"Perhaps the most worrying thing is that the Commission doesn't seem to even realise why this is a problem."