Crispin Blunt: Don’t be taken for a mug – voting for Brexit won’t put LGBT rights at risk

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Writing for PinkNews, out Tory MP Crispin Blunt hits back at claims that leaving the EU would endanger LGBT rights.

As we enter the final frenzied period of campaigning before the EU referendum, expect more over the top rhetoric and claim and counter claim. PinkNews are trying to their bit towards this excitement by inviting me to talk about Brexit and the implications for LGBTI rights.

Let me start with a bit of context. I’m an out gay man that chairs the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.

In the two years before that, I founded and chaired the Parliamentary Friends of the Kaleidoscope Trust, which has now morphed into the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT rights. Suffice to say I hope I can fairly claim to be decently sensitised to these issues.

The Foreign Affairs Committee was split down the middle on the EU Remain or Leave question. On April 26 we published our report on the implications for the UK’s role in the world, stay or leave. It was passed by the Committee 11-0, and if you want an unbiased account of the implications of the referendum you need look no further.

As a balanced and sensible analysis, with inevitably quite a lot of on the one hand and on the other, it inevitably disappeared into a media void. I recommend it if you are looking for balance.

However I have to tell you, despite LGBTI members being overrepresented on the Committee, not to mention chairing it, it doesn’t mention LGBTI issues once. The truth is any effect on LGBTI rights either way would be absolutely at the margins of all the other issues we need to balance in making our choice. But let’s explore this a bit further.

Today we find ourselves locked in much deeper integration with Europe than was presented to the British people when they endorsed our membership in the 1975 referendum.

European judges can overwrite British law and direct our legal regulations. Those many aspects of the acquis subject to QMV leave our own government and Parliament frequently and controversially overridden by the competing interests of our partners and even more frequently our government’s position quietly compromised to achieve unanimity.

So in theory, the EU could impose some regulations – probably restricted to the workplace – that might advance or threaten LGBTI rights that have been achieved by the UK on her own through laws passed in our own Parliament, most recently on same-sex marriage, or through the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), such as gays in the military.

However Britain is, finally and proudly, absolutely at the forefront of delivering LGBTI equality.

It is impossible to conceive of equality legislation and regulation that would not be carried by a massive majority in the British Parliament.

Indeed it’s a bit of an effort now to actually find any equality areas to legislate on, as to all intents and purposes we’ve got legal equality in the UK. Bit of mopping up to do in Northern Ireland, but it will happen.

Now, there may be some who seek to confuse by muddling up the EU and ECHR, and try to say that by leaving one we might leave the other, and Brexit would mean the end of the ECHR protections for the UK. They claim further the position on equality might change in the UK, and we would then need the ECHR protections.

If this argument, is pedalled you are being treated as a mug and you should ask some hard questions about why it would suit its proponents to treat you as too dim to work out the difference when presented with the facts and painting preposterously unlikely scenarios.

The EU and the ECHR are completely different treaties, and there is no question of us leaving the ECHR, as even if some people find it frustrating, there is a substantial Parliamentary majority for keeping it and it is not the subject of this or any other referendum.

LGBTI rights are now hardwired into the British political establishment. Some in Labour don’t like that very much as they can no longer out-gay the Conservatives. Indeed, we now out-gay them if the number of out gay MPs is anything to go by.

But Britain isn’t going soft on these rights hard won over 60 years, in or out of the EU, or the ECHR, for that matter.

The importance of the ECHR is actually not for us but for our ability to protect LGBTI rights in places like Russia. It’s one of the reasons I remain an enthusiastic supporter of it. Britain is going to continue to be one of the world’s leading proponents of LGBTI rights, in or out of the EU.

So the fact is supporters of LGBTI rights, here and abroad, can make their EU decision knowing there are other issues at stake which are properly significant and they should weigh in the balance. I’ve weighed these and in summary this is why I think we should Leave.

The geo-politics of our island and its history means the British position on Europe is hopelessly compromised. The integration required to make this great idealistic project work is disguised from the British people, because they don’t really get it.

Other than Denmark, all our partners are either Euro or pre-Euro countries. They must move towards some kind of United States of Europe or the Euro area will collapse. An accountable body will have to vote the common tax and benefits across Europe to support the common currency area.

Unsurprisingly many of our partners also want a common defence capability, which makes complete sense if your interests are so closely aligned that it’s bizarre that you should not defend them together.

Our lack of commitment to the institutions is being paid by our partners and us on security. Outside the EU we can and would continue to cooperate on security issues much as we do now.

Inside the EU we actively prevent our partners achieving the kind of integration required to make the EU a really effective security and defence player in the world. It is absolutely in our interest with the EU sharing our values, becomes a more effective partner.

And it’s us, the UK that actively seeks to prevent this. It’s toxic to promote this in the British body politic because most of us Britons are simply not checked in for the European ideal and are not prepared to make the sovereignty sacrifices involved. It’s why this kind of narrative has been completely missing from the Remain campaign.

We have the luxury of the option of a perfectly sustainable global role outside the EU. This role is more attuned to our people, economic strengths, history and culture. We should take it and help our partners resolve their need for further political and security integration rather than obstruct them.

Crispin Blunt is the MP for Reigate and Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.


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