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From Martin Howe KC, Chairman of Lawyers for Britain

Lawyers for Britain always has been and remains a cross-party/non-party organisation. We have always welcomed and involved people who support our objectives who belong to any political party, or who do not belong to a party at all.

Many followers of Lawyers for Britain will know that I am a Conservative Party member. As a long standing Eurosceptic and then a Leave campaigner, I have always felt that the most effective way I could contribute personally to restoring the United Kingdom’s freedom and independence from our entanglement in the European Union was via the Conservative Party.

Regrettably, I now no longer believe that to be the case and I have resigned from the Conservative Party.

I explained the main and immediate triggers for my decision to leave the Party in my article in the Daily Telegraph.

The Conservative government’s failure to take back control over immigration

As a life-long active Conservative – having been a Parliamentary candidate, a constituency chairman and a councillor – I am appalled by the weakness of this Government, by its outright betrayal of the promises made to the British people in the 2019 General Election, and by the fact that it has largely ceased to be Conservative in anything but name. That is why I have now resigned from the Conservative Party and will campaign against it at the next election.

Its wilful refusal to do what is necessary to stop the arrival of illegal migrants is overshadowed by its reckless policies on legal migration. Hundreds of thousands of low-paid low-skill migrants flood in year after year, in larger numbers even than when we were in the EU. Brexit gave us back the legal power to control our borders, but this Government has deliberately chosen not to do so despite its Brexit freedom.

The direct victims of this reckless open door immigration policy are younger working people. There is just not enough housing stock for the existing and new population so the cost of accommodation is driven up at the same time as pay levels are squeezed by the presence of low-paid immigrants. On top of that, British people face competition in getting access to public services such as the NHS which they pay for out of their crippling taxes.

And that is legal migration, before we come to the subject of illegal migration and the Channel boat people.

The government’s policy of deterring illegal arrivals by deporting them to Rwanda could have been made to work, if it had been backed up by appropriate legislation to curtail the endless delays and legal challenges which arise from human rights and other claims. It has always been within the legal powers of our Parliament to pass legislation which would have ended these challenges and allowed deportations to go ahead, almost certainly leading to a rapid fall off in illegal migrants as Australia demonstrated when they put their boat arrivals policy into force.

But this weak government has three times watered down its legislation, rendering it ineffective in the face of the human rights lobby and the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg. The weaknesses of the earlier legislation led to the legal fiasco fo the last two years in which not a single person has been sent to Rwanda and the Supreme Court decision declaring the policy to be unlawful.

The government’s latest attempt is its Safety of Rwanda Bill which will supposedly reverse the Supreme Court decision and allow the policy to go ahead. It will fail to do so. It is just not effective enough to stop the removal of illegal migrants being bogged down in a morass of human rights based claims in our courts and in Strasbourg. The government foolishly disregarded the warnings of ex ministers and others, and obdurately resisted backbench amendments to the Bill which might have made it effective.

Failure to take back control over EU laws

The Government’s record on reforming the vast raft of rules and regulations which we inherited from our time in the EU has been woeful. We have (at least in Great Britain although not in Northern Ireland) had the benefit of escaping the imposition on us of 200,000 pages of new laws introduced in the EU since Brexit. But shockingly there has been no systematic programme of taking advantage of our Brexit freedom by going through our inherited EU laws and revising and improving them to make our economy more competitive.

So we have the absurdity of still having unreformed EU environment rules as part of our law, and still following the interpretation of them by the EU’s court at Luxembourg despite having left its jurisdiction over four years ago. The so-called ‘nutrient neutrality’ rules are preventing the building of an estimated 50,000 new homes at a time of desperate shortage.

But one of the few areas where we have managed to diverge from EU rules is to abolish VAT refunds for foreign shoppers who come here to buy goods and take them home with them. This tax-free shopping concession is still there under EU rules in Paris and Milan, so luxury shoppers from the Far East or America are increasingly going there instead of coming to London. So a “well done” to this ‘Conservative’ government for using your Brexit freedom to actively damage our international competitiveness, and probably also causing a net loss of tax revenue when one takes into account what the missing visitors would have spent on hotels and meals while shopping in London.

What to do now?

It’s not surprising that very few people under 40 will now admit to supporting the Conservative Party. It’s not surprising that the first-time Conservative voters in the Red Wall who were promised that Brexit would open up opportunities for them are totally disillusioned.

Since the Conservative Party will not deliver on its promises, it is time that it is superseded by one which will. It’s not easy for a new party like Reform UK to replace one of the two main parties under our first past the post electoral system, but the Conservative brand is now so badly tarnished that this is now a more achievable task than getting millions of disillusioned electors to vote Conservative again. I will be supporting Reform.


About the author

Martin Howe