Sat alongside French journalist Jean Quatremer who moderated the debate, Mr Fox outlined a two-pronged strategy to achieve the treaty changes which would be necessary: First, within the Parliament's own processes he would work through the Constitutional Affairs Committee to put forward amendments to the Treaty to the European Council. Second, he urged campaigners to work within their member states to persuade their own governments to propose treaty change at the Council. To this end, Mr Fox launched an e-petition to call on the British Government to intervene.
Mr Fox said: "I am going to take issue with Mr Quatremer when he said this is not a question of France against the others, because I think it is […] The French government has used every tool at its disposal to prevent this subject even being debated. When I first came to this parliament in 2009 I wanted a debate on the two seats and it was explained to me that this could not happen without the Conference of Presidents giving its say-so and of course Mr Daul [French EPP group leader] and Herr Schultz [German Socialist group leader, now President of the Parliament] ensured there was never a debate. It was impossible.”
“So that’s when I turned my mind as to how we could have a debate by proxy and that is when I struck on the idea of using the calendar as a way of expressing our discontent,” he added. He originally tabled a proposal for two sessions in one week but was defeated due to the pressure of the party whips, but he tried again twelve months later in 2011 and found a way to orchestrate a secret vote and thus obtained a majority.
“Strasbourg was a symbol of peace when the Parliament came here in 1958. Now it is a symbol of all that is wrong with the EU,” he said. "Since that secret ballot the terms of the debate have changed; we now see a huge majority of MEPs across the Parliament and even across the EPP in favour”.
Indeed, during a vote this week a HUGE majority of MEPs (518) voted in favour of paragraph 90 of the budget resolution which calls on the Council to “start elaborating a road-map with the Parliament towards a single seat and a more efficient use of Parliament's working places [...] by 30 June 2013”.
A full breakdown of the vote can be found here.
The Single Seat campaign have recorded and uploaded a large proportion of the debate which can be watched in the player below. Mr Fox’s intervention begins at 07:15.
A hearty round of applause to Ashley Fox – the British Tory MEP who addressed the European Parliament entirely in French
Thursday, 25 October 2012
Today in Strasbourg, South West Conservative MEP Ashley Fox delivered a speech in the chamber of the European Parliament. While that fact in itself may be unexceptional, the fact he decided to deliver it entirely in French is.
In the presence of the French-speaking Belgian Commissioner and presenting his group’s view on a report by a French MEP rapporteur, Mr Fox read his lines in a glorious Franglais and afterwards was lauded and applauded by the Vice-President of the European Parliament chairing the debate on the “European Semester for economic policy coordination: implementation of 2012 priorities”. (See video below)
Without commenting on the content of the speech, as a linguist fluent in French it is extremely refreshing to see a British MEP speaking in a tongue other than English; all the more so as the number of students and university graduates of modern languages continues to fall in the UK to levels far beyond saddening.
Indeed, his biography on his official website says he worked for a year as an English assistant in France after his studies, but at a time when it is seemingly grossly unpopular to be remotely pro-European in the Conservative party I would like to take this opportunity to applaud Mr Fox for his act.
I hope he will display a video of this contribution proudly on his website. Félicitations.
(Question: is this the first time a British MEP has delivered a speech to the house entirely in another language? Please let me know if you recall such a occasion previously!)
Hailing from the truly beautiful South West region of the UK, Andrew now works in Brussels and is a UK passport holder, European citizen, and a twice employee at the European Parliament.
While the EU in its current form is far from perfect, he is nonetheless firmly of the belief that the UK's prosperity and place in the world is best served as a member state and not as an isolated bystander.
Since October 2009, this blog seeks to document the work that our region's MEPs do for us in Brussels. As such, predictably, it rarely features UKIP.