Eleventh-hour Parliamentary voters flocked to meet British Italian Conservatives’ just minutes before the crunch decider for Mrs May’s revised Brexit deal last night.
As TV cameras rolled BIC event organisers were forced to re-jig running orders to accommodate high-profile MPs and Ministers taking advantage of some last-minute UK-Europe perspective on their way to vote.
The last-minute influx was a sign of the growing stature of the group, which was set up to encourage a closer relationship between Italy and Britain and support the endeavours of Italians working in Britain.
The evenings’ supporters included EU citizens’ rights champion MP Alberto Costa who last month walked away from his post as Private Parliamentary Secretary. He resigned after his amendment proposal to protect the interests of Britons working in Europe — as part of the Brexit deal — was met with government resistance that was later overturned.
Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and BIC’s primary patron, Greg Clark MP also addressed the group as did fellow MPs, Zac Goldsmith and Mark Field.
BIC Chair Dr Maurizio Bragagni opened with thanks for Prime Minister Theresa May pointing to her ‘great encouragement and recognition for the British Italian Conservatives.’ He went on to offer his and the group’s support for its president Alberto Costa and his efforts to fight for the rights of all Europeans working and living in other countries within the community.
Dr Bragagni in turn was thanked by the BIC president as Mr Costa began his own address.
Mr Costa spoke of his place at the gathering on one of the most historic nights in British parliamentary history and laid aside the recent storm around his own Brexit amendment to once again pledge his support for the PM’s deal — a deal which went on to record another defeat.
Greg Clark MP commented on the group’s ‘formidable’ hard work and highlighted Britain’s strong Italian community and was open about seeking counsel through the British Italian Conservatives.
He predicted for a strong future relationship with the EU in what he described as one of the most exciting times in history for business, commerce and industry and acknowledged valuable collaboration between the finest British and Italian universities.
Zac Goldsmith MP focused his address on the value of BIC, describing it as ‘a magical organisation’ which had grown from nothing into the closest friend of the Conservative Party. He also had a word for his colleague Alberto Costa, saying ‘it’s not many Government ministers who resign on principle, and he resigned on a really important principle.
Mark Field MP shared a bleak outlook for a post-Brexit Britain but saw some chinks of opportunity between the Brexit storm clouds. He said that there were other organisations within the EU — the World Bank and the IMF for example — places where there was potential, he thought, for Britain’s voice to be louder.
Shaun Bailey, London’s next Conservative Mayor candidate, spoke of wanting the city’s valued Italian community to stay. ‘We want the talent in London, you’re welcome here.’
The Rt Hon Baroness Anne Jenkin spoke of her love of Britain and Italy. She said of the Italians “You have more art and more flair in your little fingers than we have in our whole bodies.”
The group’s deputy chair, Simon Blagdon, talked about the best of both nations, about political, business and cultural bonds.
Minister Alessandro Motta from the Italian Embassy in London added that he would be closely following events as Britain steps away from Europe. He said of the group: “We’re very close and we’ll try to support you as much as possible. You play a very important role actually also in helping us in strengthening the relations between our countries.
He acknowledged the ground-breaking move in setting up the group, and the work it had delivered. He commented that other countries that didn’t have the structure and the organization of their community abroad and BIC had demonstrated that it was capable of mobilizing people, lobbying and arriving at Parliament with a voice.
In the aftermath of yesterday’s deal defeat, MPs, including those with fresh Italian-insights, will tonight vote on ‘no deal’.
- The event was also attended by Minister Alessandro Motta Deputy Head of Mission- Italian Embassy in London, President Dott Leonardo Simonelli The Italian Chamber of Commerce, The Honorary Marco Boldini Consulate General for Italy in Liverpool and The Rt Hon Lord Nicholas True, newly appointed Patron for the British Italian Conservatives