This week Parliament Street’s Charlotte Kude met David Campbell Bannerman, Conservative member of the European Parliament for the East of England. A great supporter of the Commonwealth, he was born in India but has lived in the UK since childhood. After graduating from Edinburgh University with an MA (Honours) degree, he first worked for advertising agencies and public relations companies. He went to become the Communications Director for a leading transport organisation (ATOC) and then led the website division of a leading PLC.
In the current parliamentary mandate, David serves as the Deputy Co-ordinator for the ECR Group on the International Trade Committee and as President of the Delegation for relations with Iraq. He regards the EU as being dangerous to our shared freedoms and destructive of our historic British identity. He sat as a UKIP MEP from 2006 after defecting in 2004 and also became Deputy Leader. He came back to the Conservatives in 2011 and recently released a book entitled “Time to Jump”, exploring the benefits for Britain to leave the European Union.
CK: Is leaving UKIP what inspired you to write “Time to Jump”?
DCB: “Not really. I have been working personally on what I call a ‘Positive Vision’ for life outside the EU for many years, and did 2 pamphlets before the book. UKIP wasn’t really interested – I think UKIP thinks the benefits are so self evident you just need a vote. I think those who advocate withdrawal from the EU regardless of party really need to explain and persuade of the case for a better life outside the EU – this is centred around what I call an ‘EEA Lite’ option. For, as Mr Salmond found out to his cost, if you don’t have a properly worked out and realistic alternative model you will not achieve independence.
I still believe in achieving withdrawal from the EU but I am afraid UKIP does not have a Plan for life outside, and the best option for Brexit in my opinion is to back a Conservative Referendum and then argue the case for Out.”
CK: So what you’re offering is a more positive alternative to the EU?
DCB: “Absolutely. I personally believe that the UK will be far better off economically and democratically outside the EU. We all agree we need a new relationship with the EU and we are being left behind anyway but the rush of Eurozone nations to greater integration. What we need in the Referendum the Prime Minister has had the courage to offer is a factual, considered and informed debate between two visions of the future: either the UK staying within a reformed EU in vital respects for an In vote or a positive alternative that retains trade links and full access to the EU Single Market and friendly relations but which hands back many powers of self-government to the UK and achieves substantial cost savings such as the £60 million a day we contribute in membership funds and the billions we pay in excessive EU red tape. The Out alternative can be delivered by EEA Lite.”
CK: In the book you explain that the treaty of Lisbon provides any country who wants to leave with the right to a negotiated out. Why does no one seem to remember this? Is it because other EU countries don’t like to be reminded that it is perfectly realistic for the UK to leave?
DCB: “I suspect the EU was thinking of the UK when it came up with a formal means of leaving the EU under Article 50 of Lisbon – which is a valuable clause: for it requires and compels the EU constitutionally (Lisbon is the EU Constitution they just changed its description) to negotiate and conclude a ‘withdrawal agreement’ with a departing member state. As Jacques Delors recently said (in EUactive) the EU should not be a prison. It is not remembered because it is an inconvenient truth that any nation – and it could be France, or Denmark even! – has the means to leave the EU. It does not accord with the project – which is ever closer Union, ever greater integration, ever moving forwards into one single EU Superstate.”
CK: What makes you so passionate about the issue?
DCB: “What is more important than saving your country? I am a patriot not a nationalist – my concerns are driven by a love of country not being anti others – I love Europe but I want the right association with the EU. I believe that the UK is sleepwalking into an undemocratic, economically flawed, dangerous EU Superstate. The UK is being slowly boiled alive in this Brussels pot – like a drowsy lobster – and it’s time we came to our senses and jumped – hence my book ‘Time To Jump’. We just need a new relationship with the EU based on trade and not as part of political union. I am delighted that the Prime Minister is seeking meaningful reform including saying no to the default position of ‘Ever Closer Union’.”
CK: Aside from politics your main interest seems to be on the arts side, in films not just writing. You worked in advertising before becoming an MEP, do you have any projects to go back and even further into the film industry?
DCB: “It is hard to find time for creative writing with the pressures of the MEP job. But I have reviewed and updated two screenplays, an action thriller based around Russia and a Mars mission political drama, that are currently being considered by major US studios. But film is a very long term game – I take inspiration though from Lord (Julian) Fellowes of Downtown Abbey fame who told me he wrote 18 scripts and had no joy until he got ‘Gosford Park’ and then an Oscar! What is extraordinary is that fact and fiction are such natural bedfellows – I was speaking to an East European Ambassador one day having written a scene featuring an Ambassador from another country the day before. Drawing from realism makes for better, sharper drama and I think the insight I have as a hands on politician can educate and deepen my politically themed dramas. I would like to find an opportunity to write political plays that bring into sharp focus thought provoking issues of our time.”