I am back in the UK and in Westminster ready for the start of the second half of this first term of 2016. It is set to be a hectic start. Without doubt there will be a statement from the Prime Minister on his so called ‘deal’ on our membership of the EU. Business will start with questions to the Home Secretary and unless there are any urgent questions granted by the Speaker we should move on to the PM’s statement.
It is obviously got d news for the leave campaign that Boris Johnson the Mayor of London is going to campaign to leave. I have already heard his Daily Telegraph column criticised for referring to a new relationship with EU suggesting that if we leave we simply use the referendum result to re-negotiate our terms of membership. I do not think he means that. By definition, if the UK votes to leave then we will have a new relationship with our friends in the rest of Europe. We will still want to buy their goods. I think we can be sure they will still want the sell their goods to us. Any problems would only come from the EU wanting to penalise the UK somehow for having the audacity to want to control our own affairs.
The main business in the Commons is actually the Second Reading of the Bill which implements the latest agreement in Northern Ireland, I think it is a safe bet this will be overshadowed by the EU statement!
Another interesting day yesterday. The PM finally confirming the World’s worse kept secret – that the referendum on our membership of the EU will be in the middle of the year on 23rd June. So much for those of us who thought this year might be a little quieter after all the campaigning activity of last year with the general election. The sooner the better from my personal point of view. Even if the referendum result is not what I personally want I think it will be good to have the issue settled. But, and it is a big but, IF remain win, in view of the claims being made by the remain camp about the UK having a special status I predict that people who vote to remain on the back of those claims will soon become very disenchanted when they realise there is no special status. Again, I will blog in much more detail about this but it is clear that the rhetoric and the easy headlines and campaign slogans which Remain are already using have no basis in fact when one studies the detail of the ‘agreement’.
From my personal point of view I attended my first ever Greek Orthodox christening ceremony yesterday. The main point to note is that these services are longer, about three or four times as long as our baptism services in the Church of England. Anyway, it was a super occasion and I am glad I made the effort to come over and attend.
Today, I am packing and after an early lunch going back to the airport to fly back to London. The House of Commons returns to business tomorrow.
Defining events in Brussels last night with the PM confirming he has finalised a deal over what is alleged to be a change in our terms of membership of the European Union. I hope that when people study what has actually been agreed they will realise very little will change in practical terms. Obviously, I will be returning to this matter in the weeks and months ahead before the referendum.
Today, I am off to the christening Sue and I came over to Cyprus to attend. Weather is set fair so hopefully it will be a good day.
Finally, arrived in Cyprus last night and we are now two hours ahead of UK instead of seven hours behind. Although it is winter here and many venues are closed the weather is warm and sunny which is a big contrast to Salt Lake City even though it was (we were informed) unseasonably warm on the last couple of days of our trip there.
I have spent a few hours going through the hundreds of emails which have been arriving so if anyone is waiting for a reply there is a good chance I will have replied today.
Just a note to all those who are sending me a standard email asking me to campaign to stay in the EU you are wasting your time (and mine). Given my long-standing position on the EU there really is not much point in emailing me on it!
Yesterday, got up, packed, went to airport. Waited. Caught flight. Arrived in Philadelphia. Waited. Caught flight. Arrived at London Heathrow. Added on seven hours and Wednesday night gone. Now waiting for next flight. Only 3 hours to go.
Yesterday, I was at the University of Utah. In the morning they kindly arranged for me to tour their State legislature building which is an impressive building which they have recently renovated and improved to earthquake proof it. I met with Utah state Senators and representatives and was introduced on the floor of the Senate.
In the afternoon I delivered a lecture to political science students at the Hinckley Institute on the present state of UK politics and what the future may hold.
I then had a tour round the University campus. It is a large modern campus with some 30,000 students and I was struck by the amount of space there was.
My thanks to all those at the University for organising the day
We are flying to Cyprus today via Heathrow to attend a christening on Saturday so a long day of flying is ahead.
Yesterday, Sue and I went to a local heritage park in the morning and discovered the history of how Salt Lake City was settled. We then went downtown to a shopping mall for Sue’s retail therapy.
After lunch, our friends took us up to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake to see some of the resident wildlife. We were fortunate enough to spy some giant owls well they seemed giant to me! We also saw a coyote, deer and wild bison. Not bad I thought. The weather was quite mild, up in the low 50 degree Fahrenheit. They do not seem to have a great deal of wind in this part of the World and you realise what an impact the wind chill factor has on our temperatures when it is not there.