Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sevgul Uludag first woman from Cyprus nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her journalistic work bringing Turkish and Greek Cypriots together.

My friend Sevgul Uludag has been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize. 
She is the first woman from Cyprus to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her journalistic work in bringing together the two main communities of the island – Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots – by showing them with her work that their pain is a common human pain and through her work producing democratic solutions to the problems of the communities in Cyprus and her peace activism.

She helped to set up TOGETHER WE CAN where relatives of “missing persons” and victims of war from the two communities have been working together for the first time in the past decade to find burial sites of “missing persons”, as well as pioneering for reconciliation and peace and for facing the history of the conflict together in order to move towards the future. She set up a “Hot Line” with her own mobile phone and mobilised readers from both parts of the divided island to call in and give information to her about this sensitive humanitarian issue and as a result of these calls, many burial sites of “missing persons” on both sides of the island were found and remains of “missing persons” were exhumed by the official Cyprus Missing Persons’ Committee and returned to the relatives for burial. Her work heals wounds of the war and conflict in Cyprus. 
Uludag born in 1958 in Cyprus is an investigative journalist writing in newspapers in both parts of the divided island Cyprus in Turkish in YENIDUZEN and in Greek in POLITIS and on her blog in English, has focused for the past two decades on stories of “missing persons”, “mass graves” and “rapes during times of conflict” has been nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. She is also a gender and peace activist and spent last four decades of her life, bringing together women from across the dividing line in Cyprus, setting up joint women NGOs, training women on peace, gender and organisational skills, pioneering in this field as a peace activist. 
She is one of the founders of HANDS ACROSS THE DIVIDE, the first bicommunal women’s NGO in Cyprus. She had also set up the Women’s Research Centre which held activities around gender and peace for many years, in coalition with women NGOs from both parts of the island. She was also one of the founders of Women’s Movement for Peace and a Federal Solution in Cyprus in the 80s… She worked voluntarily in the Women’s Platform in the 90s to train women on a big scale from rural to urban areas on issues of gender, peace and organisational skills.
She is the first woman from Cyprus to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her journalistic work in bringing together the two main communities of the island – Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots – by showing them with examplary pieces of her work that their pain is a common human pain and through her work producing democratic solutions to the problems of the communities in Cyprus and her peace activism.
She helped to set up TOGETHER WE CAN where relatives of “missing persons” and victims of war from the two communities have been working together for the first time in the past decade to find burial sites of “missing persons”, as well as pioneering for reconciliation and peace and for facing the history of the conflict together in order to move towards the future. She set up a “Hot Line” with her own mobile phone and mobilised readers from both parts of the divided island to call in and give information to her about this sensitive humanitarian issue and as a result of these calls, many burial sites of “missing persons” on both sides of the island were found and remains of “missing persons” were exhumed by the official Cyprus Missing Persons’ Committee and returned to the relatives for burial. Her work heals wounds of the war and conflict in Cyprus.
Sevgul Uludag has several international awards for her work like “Courage in Journalism” given by the International Women’s Media Foundation, “European Citizens’ Prize” given by the European Parliament, “Press Freedom Award” given by the Reporters Without Borders Austrian section. She has several books like “Strategy and Planning for Women in Politics” (in Turkish) and “Oysters with the Missing Pearls – Untold stories of missing persons, mass graves and memories from the past of Cyprus” (in Turkish, Greek and English), “Cyprus: The Untold Stories” (in English).
Throughout her life, Sevgul Uludag has been receiving death threats and she faced hate speech, psychological terror, intimidation… But she did not give up what she was doing and her work as an investigative journalist and as a peace and gender activist has been based on humanitarism and she works voluntarily as a humanitarian task, inspiring the two main communities of the island and giving hope for peace and reconciliation…
Contact details of Sevgul Uludag:
00 357 99 966518 and 00 90 542 853 8436

Photo shows Sevgul Uludag at the burial site in Kytherea,Cyprus.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Hannah Yilma - Ethiopian activist, refugee, United Nations diplomat. 1943 – 2018. A personal tribute by Lesley Abdela


Hannah Yilma - Ethiopian activist, refugee, United Nations diplomat. 1943 – 2018

A personal tribute by Lesley Abdela

Hannah Yilma was a good friend for five decades. She was brave and cheerful no matter what life was throwing at her (and it did, in quantities). She was kind and funny and warm and passionate about politics. Hannah was quietly elegant with a wicked chuckle.

Born in Ethiopia, Hannah told me about happy times spent with her Father riding through their coffee plantation on horse-back when she was 14 or 15 years old. In this year of the 100th anniversary it is worth mentioning Hannah’s  parents knew Sylvia Pankhurst who lived in Ethiopia from the 1950s. Hannah’s Father helped support the monthly journal, Ethiopia Observer, in which Sylvia reported on Ethiopian life and development. Hannah’s Mother was Elisabeth Workeneh, her Father, Yilma Deressa was  Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the United States and Minister of Finance, at the time of Emperor Haile Selassie.

I first met Hannah in the 1960s when she came to London to attend St Godric’s Secretarial College. We met through mutual friends. She lived with a British family in Surrey who knew her Father through major agricultural business in Ethiopia. I remember admiring the  long light tweed winter dress she wore. It was under-stated quietly elegant with a pink coloured bodice and plaid checked skirt in the same pink with milky coffee beige. I went out and bought an identical dress.

The fact Hannah was at Secretarial College is ironic. She was dyslexic. Much of Hannah’s  life was a kaleidoscope of contradictions.   She looked well-behaved, demure and lady-like. Beneath she was unconventional.   In the swinging sixties she shared a flat in London with a couple of other friends.  One was Maggie Wolf. Maggie married Richard Mason, author of ‘The World of Suzie Wong’ on which the film of that name was based. Maggie and Richard moved to  Rome. Hannah was a frequent visitor.


Hannah’s  life changed after the Dergue government took power in Ethiopia in 1975. Following the ousting of Emperor Haile Selassie, her Father was imprisoned with other ministers and members of the Emperor’s family. The Communist dictatorship  executed and imprisoned tens of thousands of its opponents without trial.

Hannah  became active in the opposition movement against the military regime.
She and her cousin Dereje Deressa formed the Ethiopian Democratic Union (EDU) and ran the  opposition radio station, “Voice of United Ethiopia” hostile to the military regime. She married the celebrated Ethiopian writer Sibhat Gebre-egziabher.

After threats of assassination  Hannah and her young son Iyassu were rescued secretly by a pilot in a small plane and flown  across the border to safety.  She and her husband lived apart from then on.  Hannah never talked much to me about her husband. Their  relationship, their marriage, and their publication ventures are said to be described in a fictionalised account in the book Derasiw by author Baalu Girma. Her Father died of cancer a political prisoner in an Addis Ababa prison.( Aged 71 in January 1979.)


Hannah experienced racism a number of times. At one stage when she rented author Neville Shute’s house in Seven Sisters, London she was furious with the local state school teacher who suggested 8 year son Iyassu should focus on sport rather than academic subjects. Hannah  said, “ They jumped to the assumption because he is black he should do sport. ” Hannah battled with the school to ensure her son had every academic opportunity.
 When he was a bit older the friends in Surrey enabled Iyassu to continue his education at a Boarding School in Surrey.   Iyassu graduated in Chemistry from Imperial College, University of London.

Later Hannah and her British Partner of many years, were living in flat in Elgin Avenue, Maida Vale. His company offered him promotion to a top job in the USA.  He told Hannah his employers, a major petroleum company said he would not be allowed to take Hannah with him to the United States.  He would need to choose between career promotion and living with his ‘black girl-friend’.

She  was left with the apartment, but she had no way of earning an income in the UK.
Hannah usually gave an outward positive view of life. But one day confided to me how tough things had become, ‘ Who wants to employ a 40 something, who is dyslexic, and who is black’ she said.  I was able to lend her money from winnings from a bet I put on John Major to become Leader of the Conservative Party. The odds were 50 to 1. (She paid me back the loan many years later.)

Hannah’s life continued to be under threat. One day when I was staying with her and Iyassu in their Flat in Elgin Avenue, Maida Vale. London.   She loaned me her dark red Volvo to drive somewhere. I opened the glove compartment to look for the ‘A to Z map’ and saw a gun there.  I was shaken. In the UK almost no-one carried guns. I asked Hannah about the gun ‘I keep the gun for my protection’ she said.


In 1991 she was finally offered a job where she could use her diplomatic skills. Hannah was an ace networker.   She became an Information Officer in the UN Department of Public Information. Hannah Yilma participated in two field missions; the UN Protective Force (UNPROFOR) in the former Yugoslavia, from 1994 to 1995, and the UN Observer Mission to South Africa (UNOMSA), from 1992-1994, as Civil Affairs Officer and Peace Observer. Prior to her final posting in South Africa, she served as a Political Affairs officer in the Situation Centre in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations from 1995-1998 and then held the post of Associate Spokesman in the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General from 1998 to 2000.

She retired as the Director of the UN Information Centre Pretoria in 2005 and stayed on living in Pretoria.   I stayed with Hannah overnight in 2005 on my way to catch my flight home to UK from Johannesburg after a month I spent working on a project assessing the situation on women’s rights in Swaziland. Life had finally worked out for her. She was living in a large gated community in a nice house with a garden beside a lake.    In retirement she  remained actively involved in in non-governmental work, as well as in the diplomatic corps in South Africa.


Several of us from London of the 1960s remained lifelong friends with Hannah. In  2016 She  organised a small reunion dinner in a Greek taverna in Bayswater for Advertising Photographer Sanders Nicolson  from Scotland, Maggie Wolf from Rome and her brother Adrian. Five decades earlier we had all been together just across the road at Queensway Ice skating rink when we heard the news US President John Kennedy had been shot .

Hannah and I last spoke on the phone in early June this year She told me she had ovarian cancer and it had been treated with a hysterectomy and chemo. She thought she was on the road to recovery. . She sounded optimistic and busy. It was a tremendous shock when her son Iyassu called.
She died in S.Africa where she lived for the past 20 years.

Here is a pic I took of Hannah in 2012. We had lunch together at the Royal Geographical Society in South Kensington and made a ‘pilgrimage’ to her son Iyassu’s alma mater Imperial College, nearby.

Hannah was rightly immensely proud of Iyassu. He is a leader in  preclinical drug discovery, early clinical development programs and therapeutic areas spanning cardiometabolic (diabetes, obesity, hypertension) and neuroscience (cognition). He was Director of Chemistry at Merck Pharmaceuticals in the USA and is now Head of Chemistry and Senior Director at Kallyope, New Jersey, USA.

As well as her son Iyassu Sebhat, Hannah Yilma  leaves two sisters Salome and Sophia.
(31 May 1943 – 14 August 2018)

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

#Vote100 Salute to Millicent Fawcett women's suffrage campaign Leader

Salute to Dame Millicent Fawcett DBE  
President of the -The National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) 1897 until 1919.

Millicent Fawcett campaigned within the law which is why she is less well known today than the Pankhursts' suffragette movement. As a campaigner myself for women's rights I can truly say that the scale of Millicent Fawcett's achievement, her tenacity  and determination is absolutely awesome. Millicent Fawcett was President of The National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) 1897 until 1919.
The NUWSS was fifty times bigger than the militant suffrage movement - the Women's Suffrage and Political Union (WSPU)with only some 2,000 members. Millicent Fawcett's suffrage union had 500 local branches and over 100,000 members. They held over 300 public meetings per week and massive peaceful marches, organised petitions, wrote letters.  Millicent Fawcett Millicent Fawcett was an exceptionally capable organiser, mobiliser and fund-raiser for 'the cause'. She used constitutional methods. Her approach was to use reason an/d patience, based on persistent lobbying and public education.
Millicent Fawcett was one of the vintage generation of women activists who brought about reforms for women's  lives that impact on us today.    One of the scenes in history that I would most like to have witnessed is a scene in 1860 at the Garrett family home - Alde House, Aldeburgh. In front of the bedroom fire, three girls were brushing their hair. They were two sisters : Elizabeth and Millicent Garrett, and their friend, the famous feminist Emily Davies. Emily was 29,  Elizabeth 23 and Millicent 13. As they brushed their hair they chatted: "Women can get nowhere", said Emily, "'unless they are as well educated as men. I shall open the universities." She did it. In her life Emily Davies succeeded in opening up access to women for university   - including founding Girton College College.

"Yes," agreed her friend Elizabeth Garrett . 'We need education but we need an income too and we can't earn that without training and a profession. I shall start women in medicine."  She did it. Elizabeth Garrett became the first qualified British woman Doctor. Elizabeth Garrett Browning Hospital is named after her.

Elizabeth looked at her younger sister and said, "But what shall we do with Milly?"  They agreed that Millie should get the parliamentary vote for women. Millicent too succeeded in her allotted life- task.
Millicent  (Garrett) Fawcett  campaigned for over 60 years from 1857 until 1928 -  for women to have the right to vote and to stand for parliament and to have full  rights as equal citizens with men.  She was author a number of publications. Her: 'Political Economy for Beginners' became a bestseller with ten editions in twenty-five years.

Shameful behaviour of Gladstone, Churchill and Asquith
 In giving her entire adult life to the great cause, fighting every day for votes for women, she and her suffragist supporters  were endlessly mocked, derided and treated with contempt by these pillars of the British Establishment The great political 'A' List celebrity beasts who are so revered today, Gladstone, Winston Churchill, Asquith and their colleagues have a shameful record of duplicity and arrogance. These men in no way behaved as democrats.
For daring to ask for democracy - the right for half the population to have a say in who governs Britain  Millicent Garrett Fawcett and her fellow suffrage campaigners were the butt of ribald humour, adverse press comment, and duplicity.  The very mention of the word 'women' in the House of Commons produced laughter and derision. In a debate in the House of Commons, Liberal MP Labouchere said - "it would be as useful to extend the vote to rabbits as to women!"
 Despite being tricked and trivialised by Gladstone, Asquith  Winston Churchill and their colleagues,  year after year Millicent sat patiently in the lobby of the House of Commons waiting for appointments with Ministers and Members of Parliament. I think it would be a fitting and ironic tribute for a bronze statue of Millicent Fawcett sitting on one of the benches in Central Lobby……….similar to the bronze figures of Churchill and Roosevelt who sit on a bench in Bond Street.

Having a blind husband turned out to be a great asset in learning about politics
Three other men played a pivotal role in Millicent Fawcett's life - the first was her Father -  the second was  Radical MP and philosopher John Stuart Mill
and the third was her husband Henry Fawcett, an economics professor at Cambridge who was also a Liberal MP. He had been blinded in a shooting accident when he was aged 22.
The result of her having worked alongside her blind husband in his political activities  meant that after his early death in 1884,  Millicent Fawcett was the only woman in the early suffrage movement  who understood how to wheel and deal with politicians - how to choose the right people to lobby and how to approach them. At this time in Victorian England it was not considered proper for a woman to speak on a platform at a public meeting. The partnership with her blind husband gave Millicent  the chance to learn the trade of politics. Because of Henry's condition, Millicent Garrett Fawcett served as his amanuensis, secretary, and companion as well as his wife. The husband and wife team of Henry Fawcett and Millicent Garrett Fawcett  was similar to that  of their mentor  John Stuart Mill and his platonic love, (and later wife) Harriet Taylor. Besides being among the leading feminists of their time, the two women provided both intellectual stimulation and feminine perception of the highest degree to their partners.

World War 1 and Lloyd George
Millicent Garrett Fawcett  supported the British war effort in World War I, believing that if women supported the war effort, suffrage would naturally be granted at the end of the war. In the  London Suffrage Society's case this was  mainly through the setting up of the Women's Service Bureau, to place women both as volunteers and into essential paid war work -which included ambulance drivers, medics, the setting up of training schemes for women welders and munitions workers.  This war work contributed to their main purpose - with increased activity in Parliament in 1917 around the Representation of the People Bill.
 In March 1917 Millicent Fawcett led a deputation that included representative of 24 women's suffrage societies to see new Prime Minster, Lloyd George and in February

Victory in 1918. Parliament passed the Representation of the People Act.
The Representation of the People Act allowed the vote, to women with property over the age of 30.
After a struggle of  52 years Millicent returned home to Gower Street from the House of Lords, triumphant from witnessing the victory of Women's suffrage. The press flocked to her home. A journalist knowing of her fifty years association with the movement, asked her to describe briefly its 'ups' and 'downs'. She replied that  it had been all 'ups' and no 'downs.'  He looked perplexed and incredulous. Millicent Fawcett continued with words that I feel best sums up the progress since the 1950s….
She said : "The history of the women's movement  for the last fifty years is the gradual removal of intolerable grievances. Sometimes the pace was fairly rapid; sometimes it was very slow ; but it was always constant , and always in one direction. I have sometimes compared it, in its slowness  to the movement of a glacier; but like a glacier it  was ceaseless and irresistible.  You could not see it move, but if you compared it with a stationary object and looked again after an interval of months or years, you had proof positive it had moved. It always moved in the direction of the removal of the statutory and social disabilities of women. It established their individual liberty and freedom; they were in fact passing from subjection to independence . That is why I said the history of the movement has been all 'ups' and no 'downs. "      

Millicent Garrett Fawcett turned over the NUWSS presidency to Eleanor Rathbone, as the organization transformed itself into the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship (NUSEC) and worked for lowering the voting age for women to 21, the same as for men.
In 1924, Millicent Garrett Fawcett was given the Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire, and became Dame Millicent Fawcett.

Until her death Millicent continued to campaign for votes for women on the same basis as men including - in her 80s -  taking part in the famous Mud March in Hyde Park.

She died in London just months after women got the right to vote on an equal basis with men in 1929.

Millicent Fawcett  earned the words on the memorial she shares with her husband in Westminster Abbey. The words say : "A wise, constant and courageous Englishwoman who won citizenship for women."
(Dame Millicent Fawcett DBE - June 11, 1847 - August 5 1929)

Monday, November 13, 2017

BREXIT Repeal Bill. Women's rights may be dumped in the wheelie bin.

Please feel free to circulate my article. I would appreciate if you attribute quotes by name to Lesley Abdela. Thanks!

The last time Britain's laws were up for modification on such an immense scale it was under the Normans. It took  800 years before women got back rights they lost in the process. Unless amended the Government ‘Repeal Bill’ may ultimately result in women’s rights being dumped in the wheelie bin of history. 

Women in the UK have mostly relied on EU law and the European Court of Justice to make sure our rights get meaningful protection.  Ministers will import thousands of EU rules and regulations on to our statute books as part of the Repeal Bill. All existing EU legislation will be copied across into domestic UK law. Under the Government’s proposed fast-speed ‘Henry V111’ procedures unless there is oversight and scrutiny it will be all too easy for business interests to persuade Government  to get rid of what they perceive as ‘red – tape’. Warning Signals for UK  women to beware of losing their employment rights in the BREXIT transition process are coming thick and fast.

The Sunday Express announced, ‘Equal pay diktat is just more red tape for business. [1]

A Telegraph article titled ‘Cut the EU red tape choking Britain after Brexit to set the country free’ stated, ‘Britain must sweep aside thousands of needless EU regulations after Brexit to free the country from the shackles of Brussels, a coalition of senior MPs and business leaders has demanded.’[[2]

MEP Martin Callanan said in a speech, ‘One of the best ways to speed up growth is to … scrap the Pregnant Workers Directive and all of the other barriers to actually employing people if we really want to create jobs.[3]

The EU has been at the forefront of driving greater gender equality for women including: equal treatment for part-time workers (the majority of whom are women); anti-discrimination legislation on employment, training and working conditions; the pregnant workers directive which gives women the right to take time off work to attend medical appointments; sex discrimination rules which place the burden of proof on the defendant. And it was the European Court of Justice that obliged the British government to amend the legislation to provide equal pay for work of equal value and to ensure women had equal pension rights with men. EU directives provide a minimum standard for Member States. It is possible to go beyond these standards, but Member States cannot go beneath the floor.

I have worked on women’s rights in over 50 countries and seen how in the turmoil of a society in transition whenever an opportunity arises to roll back women’s civil,  social, economic and political gains, they will be rolled back. It can happen with frightening speed.  I saw first-hand how women's rights gained in the Soviet era - often considerable,  due to industrial development, were scrubbed, out as financially costly and unnecessary in the new free market world in the opinions of men from the corporate world.

More recently we witnessed a dramatic example of rapid reverse during and after the uprisings in the Arab World. At the height of the revolutions men welcomed women as partners in the struggle for democracy as, for example,  in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.  But after the uprising women’s rights were deliberately damned and reversed as a hangover from the ancienne regimes.

Here at home in the UK the loss of EU protection after Brexit would mean the British government can do whatever it feels appropriate, unimpeded by international floors. The  EU, safety net status for women’s rights  will be removed. Brexit  secretary David Davis  has told Parliament any substantive policy issues would be dealt with by new laws scrutinised by parliament with a topping up by  a fast-track process now dubbed the ‘Henry Vlll’ process after the Statute of Proclamations 1539 which gave him the power to legislate by proclamation. This will not involve the usual Parliamentary scrutiny process, opposition parties (and some Conservatives)  have protested at Ministers being handed "sweeping powers" to make hasty, ill thought-out legislation.

When Britain's laws were last up for modification on such an immense scale. It started a few miles from where I live in East Sussex, at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The evidence which has survived from Anglo-Saxon England is that women were more nearly the equal companions of their husbands and brothers than at any other period before the modern era. In the Anglo-Saxon legal system women Anglo-Saxon women were their own creatures and not merely appendages to their husbands. In the higher ranges of society this rough and ready partnership was ended by the Norman Conquest which introduced into England a military society relegating women to a position honourable but essentially unimportant.  It took over 800 years after the Norman conquest before Britain's women gained the right not to be viewed as a husband's property, with the Married Woman’s Property Act of 1882!

What can you do?
Please ask MPs and Peers to propose an amendment demanding  the public sector equality duty (section 149 Equality Act 2010) be used to protect women's rights during the BREXIT Repeal Bill process.
The Equality Act  imposes a duty on all public authorities and bodies performing public functions to give ‘due regard’ in the performance of functions to the need -
a) to eliminate discrimination; b) to advance equality of opportunity;
c) to foster good (gender) relations. The need to give 'due regard' to the advance equality of opportunity means identifying the barriers to equal opportunity in any particular context and considering what steps could. 
This duty is often honoured more in the breach, or in an entirely 'tick-box' way, but the UK Supreme Court says it must be conducted "in substance, with rigour and an open mind" (Hotak v London Borough of Southwark, 2013).

MPs and Peers should be Government Ministers the following questions  :
Will the repatriation processes be monitored in compliance with Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010?  If so, by whom at each stage? What powers will they have? For example, will there be opportunities for outsiders with particular interest and expertise to scrutinise areas considered important from the women’s rights perspective to ensure that in all political, employment, economic and societal spheres women and girls do not lose rights they had gained.  

In addition to my suggestion you can support ‘Face Her Future’. A call to action by over 20 women's and equalities organisations


Saturday, November 11, 2017

EU Article 50. Full text of Lord John Kerr's speech - there's nothing in Article 50 to stop the British people changing their minds on BREXIT.

The Brexit process is reversible and the British people have the right to change their minds should they want to, Lord John Kerr, who played a central role in drafting Article 50, said in a speech in central London 10 November 2017 hosted by the Open Britain campaign. 
Lord Kerr says that the Article 50 letter that Theresa May sent in March this year can be unilaterally withdrawn. “We are not required to withdraw just because Mrs May sent her letter”, he says. “We can change our minds at any stage during the process.”
He says that “Mrs. May's letter was only a notification of the UK's "intention" to withdraw. Intentions can change. We still have all the rights of a member-state, including the right to change our minds.” He points to statements from European legal experts and leaders including Emmanuel Macron, Donald Tusk and Antonio Tajani to prove that the door is open for the UK to change its mind on Brexit, despite the fact that “Putin and Trump would be disappointed” if that happened.
He says: “As new facts emerge, people are entitled to take a different view. And there's nothing in Article 50 to stop them. I think the British people have the right to know this – they should not be misled.” 
John Kerr served as Britain’s Permanent Representative to the EU from 1990-1995, as UK Ambassador to the United States from 1995-1997, and as Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Office from 1997-2002. In 2002-2003 he acted as Secretary-General of the European Constitutional Convention, which drafted Article 50. 
The full text of Lord Kerr’s speech is below: 
“Article 50 emerged 15 years ago, in a Convention of 200 Parliamentarians from all the countries who then were members of, or were then negotiating to join, the EU. I was their Secretary-General.
“One of their concerns was to demonstrate that the Union was a voluntary partnership of sovereign nation-states, based on treaties between states, not the incipient super-state of Eurosceptic nightmares. Including an Article setting out a procedure for orderly divorce was one of several ways of underlining the voluntary nature of the Union. Though we called our product a Constitutional treaty I can't recall anyone suggesting adding any “We, the People…" claim to a legitimacy going over the heads of elected national governments. 
“Nor do I remember any serious opposition to the idea, enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty in what became Article 50, that nation-states were entitled to change their minds, and leave if they so choose. Equally I'm certain no-one dreamed that in 2017 a member state would trigger the procedure, as Mrs. May did on 29 March.
“Now that we're in the procedure, it's important to understand it; and I am concerned that some aspects of the Article seem to me rather inadequately reflected, or indeed misinterpreted, in our current public debate. 
“I want to highlight 4 points.
“First, while we're in, we're in. While the divorce talks proceed, the parties are still married. Reconciliation is still possible. The Article requires the parties to negotiate the "arrangements" for our withdrawal; but we are not required to withdraw just because Mrs. May sent her letter. We can change our minds at any stage during the process. 
“Second, however, there is a time-limit. To reassure a member-state wishing to leave that it could not be trapped in endless fruitless negotiation, the Article is clear that after 2 years, one is out. But the time-limit can be extended if all parties consent: this could become important. 
“Third, Article 50 is only about divorce. Any Agreement about future relationships, e.g. on trade, between us and the 27 would be negotiated under other Articles, with different voting rules; and could only be concluded after we had left; and, unlike an Art 50 Agreement, would probably require ratification in every member-state, which in some countries would require referendums.
“Fourth, once we're out, we're out. The Article is clear that there can be no keeping a back-door key. If, once we'd left, we were to change our mind, and want to go back in, we would have to go through the full Accession procedure, like any other candidate-country. That would entail paying a price.
“Taking these in turn… 
“First, and crucially, as required by the Treaty, Mrs. May's letter was only a notification of the UK's "intention" to withdraw. Intentions can change. We still have all the rights of a member-state, including the right to change our minds and our votes, as member-states frequently do, for example after elections. The Article is about voluntary withdrawal, not about expulsion: we don't have to go if at any stage, within the two years, we decide we don't want to.
“The clause that says that "once we're out, we're out" says just that, and only that. If we had wanted declaring an intention to go to be the Rubicon moment, if we had wanted a notification letter to be irrevocable, we would have drafted the clause to say so. But we didn’t, and the clause doesn’t. So, the die is not cast irretrievably. The letter can be taken back.
“That has subsequently been confirmed by formidable legal experts. Let me cite just two. Jean-Claude Piris, Legal Counsel to the Council in my Convention days, is clear that “even after triggering Article 50, and notifying the EU of its intention to leave, there is no legal obstacle to the UK changing its mind." Sir David Edward, UK Judge in the ECJ when the Article was drafted, says the same.   
“The Government give the impression that the Rubicon has been crossed, but they currently refuse to publish their Law Officers' Opinion: I think we know why. They have been careful not to say that we could not take back Mrs. May's letter. During the Miller case, and at the Despatch Box in both Houses, Government spokesmen have consistently said only that "as a matter of firm policy ", we won't take it back. That formula in itself confirms that we could take it back. 
“The fact is that a political decision has been made, in this country, to maintain that there can be no going back. Actually, the country still has a free choice about whether to proceed. As new facts emerge, people are entitled to take a different view. And there's nothing in Article 50 to stop them. I think the British people have the right to know this – they should not be misled. 
“Supposing we were to exercise our right to withdraw Mrs. May's letter, how would leaders across the Channel react? We know from what they have said: they would applaud. Let me cite a couple of Presidents… 
“If the UK wanted to stay, everybody would be in favour. I would be very happy.” 
That's Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament.
“It is in fact up to London how this will end: with a good deal, no deal, or no Brexit.”
That's Donald Tusk, President of the European Council.
“Or take the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar … “The door remains open for the UK to stay in the EU." Yes. It does. 
And President Macron has said the same.
“Most EU leaders think Brexit would be a disaster, worst for us, but bad for all. Most believe that, in a world of Trump and Putin, of Daesh and Islamic State, of Asian competition, of climate change and migration misery, Europe should stick together and work together. They of course recognise that we have every right to take a different view, but they hope that in the end we won't. They value our contribution to the Union's vitality, remembering with respect how Mrs. Thatcher fought to create the Single Market, and John Major and Tony Blair insisted, when the Wall came down, that we must bring in the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe. 
“They often find us difficult partners, annoyingly pragmatic and practical. But they now find us puzzlingly dogmatic and doctrinaire on Brexit. If we were to change our minds, Putin and Trump would be disappointed, but our near neighbours, and our true friends across the Atlantic and in the Commonwealth, would cheer. I think the country should know that.
“My second concern is less fundamental, but I am uneasy that the country isn't being told much about the possibility of taking more time. 
“I don't know why Mrs. May was in such a rush to send her letter in March, before her Cabinet had an agreed plan. It was odd to start the clock and not start negotiating, instead calling an Election. And I don't know why both Government and Opposition now seem to discount the possibility of our seeking an extension. Predicting how the 27 would react to such a request is harder than predicting how they would react to our withdrawing the letter, and if anyone refused there would be no extension. I believe much would depend on our perceived motive. If we were seen as simply wanting to take a deadlocked financial negotiation into Extra Time, I doubt if we could be sure of the necessary unanimous consent. 
“But if, for example, we were to need time for Parliament to consider a final deal, an Election, and/or to pass the legislation needed for a referendum giving the people the final say on this process, to check that the country, having seen the facts emerge during the negotiation process, still wanted to Leave, I do not see any of 27 democracies denying us the chance to consult the people. They would think we had every right to check that the country, by then aware of the facts, still wanted to Leave.  How the people should be consulted at the end of this negotiation process is an issue for the politicians not me, but the country is entitled to know that different options are open to it. 
“My third concern is over confusion about "transitions", "implementation periods", "standstills", and cliff-edges. 
“I believe it was unwise of the 27 to insist on "sufficient progress" on money before turning to the future relationship. I think they were wrong to be misled by suggestions here that they could "go whistle", and that we might refuse to honour our commitments: I'm sure we never would. And it would of course be self-defeating: lengthy arbitration or court proceedings about unpaid bills would severely complicate full WTO accession. I believe that there should now be parallel tracks, one looking back, on settling debts, one looking forward, on future partnership plans, everything on the understanding that nothing can be finally agreed on either until all is agreed on both. I hope that will now happen.
“But I am puzzled by UK suggestions that a fully comprehensive agreement about the future can be completed and initialed by this time next year. EU trade agreements with third countries come under Article 218, not Article 50. They take time, and Association agreements take longer. And getting widely-drawn agreements ratified can be tricky: the Canadian negotiations have taken 7 years, and I hope that a UK/EU agreement would go wider, extending beyond Goods into Services. And ratifying widely-drawn agreements can be problematic: the Canadian deal got stuck in the Wallonian parliament. 
“But we, the Article 50 drafters, had thought of the timing problem: hence the stipulation in the Article that the divorce settlement must be drawn up "taking account of the framework for the future relationship with the Union." When will we at last put forward a draft framework, a "Heads of Agreement " text, the basis for an agreed outline, or set of principles, which would guide the subsequent detailed sectoral negotiations? And why do we insist that the ball is in the EU court? Having service is usually seen as conferring an advantage. The best time to submit our ideas for the framework might have been before starting the 2-year clock. But better late than never.
“And do we really envisage that by next October we shall have not only initialed a permanent agreement, but will have also, subsequently, reached agreement on a transitional regime to get us from here to there, so avoiding the cliff-edge in 2019? This seems no less puzzling. Since we won't have a clear picture of the detail of future permanent arrangements, I don't see how we could build a bridge to them. Without some framework, we risk having nothing to "transition" to, nothing to "implement".
“In her Florence speech Mrs. May seemed to acknowledge this, and floated instead the idea of a standstill, for some two years, during which we would, after Leaving, continue to apply all EU rules and regulations. The 27 have in fact offered that from the start: their April Guidelines say that " should a time-limited prolongation of Union acquis be considered, this would require all existing Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary, and enforcement instruments and structures to apply." In Florence, it sounded as if Mrs. May might buy all that, for two or three years. But subsequent statements by Mr. Johnson, Dr. Fox and Mr. Gove suggest that they don't.
“But the key point about such a standstill is that it doesn't avoid the cliff-edge; It merely postpones it for a couple of years. That wouldn't provide the certainty business so badly needs. And whether it’s called Transition, Implementation or Standstill, it would follow our Leaving. Once we're out, say in March 2019, we're out, with no votes, no judge, no commissioner, no MEPs, and no way back, other than an Accession negotiation, starting from scratch. Again, I think the country needs to know that. 
“My last point can be briefly put.  I think the country should also be aware of one big difference between, on the one hand, negotiating for accession, and, on the other, drawing back from secession: in the former, there's a price to pay; in the latter, there isn't. 
“If we were eventually to apply to re-join the EU, it might be rather difficult to persuade 27, or by then maybe more, member-states, many of them less wealthy, in per capita terms, than us, that we should have a budget rebate. Mrs. Thatcher secured it from inside, after quite a fight, and it isn't universally popular. To sell the idea again, from outside, would not be possible. 
“Conversely, while we're in, we're in; and there would be no price to pay if we were to decide to stay in.  The rebate is part of a legal text known as the Own Resources Decision, which can be amended only if all member-states agree. While we remain a member-state, we would not agree to drop the Rebate. and since we are entitled to remain a member-state, we could not be forced to do so. 
“My conclusions are simple.
“The national debate about Brexit should take account of the facts that: 
i.                     our Article 50 letter could be withdrawn without cost or difficulty, legal or political;
ii.                   a standstill agreement is no panacea;
iii.                 once out, there is no easy way back in, and there would be a price to pay; but
iv.                 while still in, the option of stopping the clock, in order to consult the people again, is available.
“All four facts will still be relevant when Parliament next autumn gets the chance, as it must, to assess the outcome of the negotiations.”