Foreign affairs chair launches EU probe

Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Crispin Blunt

An inquiry into the costs and benefits of Britain’s membership of European Union is a priority for the Foreign Affairs Committee, its newly-elected chair Crispin Blunt MP told Embassy magazine ahead of the launch of the investigation at the end of July.

The MP for Reigate said the detailed study would be aimed at informing public debate prior to the in-out referendum.

The inquiry will look into how EU collective action has helped or hindered UK foreign policy objectives and how influential the FCO has been at directing EU common action.

Also under scrutiny will be the impact of a Brexit on the UK’s standing in multilateral organisations such as the UN and NATO as well as key partners, such as the transatlantic relationship, the Commonwealth, and relations with the BRIC countries.

The extent to which the UK could continue to participate in EU collective action on an ad-hoc basis if it left the EU will also be analysed.

The Former Justice Minister and his committee will look into the legal implications of a UK exit from the EU, including the scope and cost of renegotiating the international treaties and whether the UK would be likely to get a good deal in any re-negotiations.

The future of the Union will also be examined, should a vote to exit the EU trigger a second Scottish independence referendum and the break up of the United Kingdom.

Part of the study will look at the impact on other EU states and EU institutions were the UK to withdraw from the EU, which will be welcomed by EU missions in the UK.

The deadline for submissions is 2 October. EU heads of mission have discussed whether it would be appropriate to participate and have concluded that Britain’s exit from the EU would have an impact on their countries and therefore they should make their views known.

FCO to be quizzed over Libya

The Committee also launched an inquiry into Libya and will question the Foreign Office on the analysis that underpinned the decision to intervene in Libya and whether the FCO had fully considered the consequences.

Ex-soldier, Blunt criticised the intervention saying Libya’s descent into a failed state had been “a catastrophe” for the people of Libya and is a growing threat to Britain due to IS establishing control in Europe’s backyard.

He added that the breakdown of law and order in post-Gaddafi Libya had contributed to the migrant crisis facing Europe.

The inquiry will look at whether the intervention in Libya went beyond the mandate of UN security council resolution 1973, which angered the Russian government and has since hampered diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation in Ukraine or to involve Russia in action against Syria.

Blunt told Embassy future inquiries include Britain’s relations with Russia; the UK’s approach to Political Islam; and investigating the UK’s policy towards IS.

Speaking to the Huffington Post Blunt was sceptical that British strikes in Syria, mooted by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, would be anything other than symbolic.

Instead, he said the UK should be putting “diplomatic heft” behind Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan to get more involved because IS defeat would require occupation and administration of areas it once controlled.

Rainbow warrior?

Blunt’s position as chairman of the foreign affairs committee makes him one of the most influential gay politicians in Britain.

As homosexuality is still illegal in 80 countries, LGBT diplomats face discrimination in some posts. So he was disappointed with the Foreign Secretary’s decision to reverse William Hague’s policy of flying the Rainbow Flag during London Pride. Whether this translates into an inquiry has yet to be seen.