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16 February 2017updated 30 Mar 2017 11:05am

The European Parliament just voted for free trade with Canada. Daniel Hannan wasn’t there

Busy man, clearly.

By Jonn Elledge

Daniel Hannan MEP is a great believer in the universal panacea of free trade. Daniel Hannan is also a great believer in the Anglosphere, the notion that the English-speaking nations (or at least, those Britain founded) have a special affinity between one another – are, in some sense, family.

So, this week, when the European Parliament voted to back a free trade deal between the European Union and Canada – our Canadian cousins! – you’d expect Dan to be right at the front of the queue, right?

You would be wrong. Here’s how British MEPs voted:

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Hannan, to be fair, didn’t vote against the deal: he just didn’t bother to vote at all. There he is at the top of the list of MEPs who didn’t even show up. Most of the others are in UKIP.

Perhaps there was something good on television that day.

I can’t speak for the great man, of course, and sadly, since he blocks me on Twitter, I can’t ask him his thinking. (Not that he’d reply even if I could, I suspect: best I can tell, he’s not replied to any of the other people asking where he was that day.) But two possible explanations present themselves.

One is that he doesn’t care about free trade between Canada and EU because it won’t affect Britain. We’ll be out of the EU in a couple of years, and almost certainly the single-market too. In other words, this is not a free trade deal between Britain and Canada at all, so what business is it of a British MEP to vote?

If that were how he felt, of course, you’d imagine that he would have resigned by now, rather than continuing to take his MEP’s salary. So the more convincing explanation, I fear, is the simpler one: Hannan simply wasn’t there that day. According to Votewatch.EU, which tracks these things, he didn’t vote in any of the 35 votes which took place on 14 February.

He did vote on the parliamentary business day which immediately preceded that (2 February; the European Parliament doesn’t sit every day). And there are of course many reasons why one might miss a day at work, from family illness to transport problems.

But this wasn’t an isolated incident: Hannan’s attendance record stinks. Of the 750 MEPs ranked by Votewatch, his attendance at votes is ranked as the 735th best.

That is perhaps to be expected: Daniel Hannan is very, very busy. We can’t expect him to write books, edit The Conservative, be the brains of Brexit, tweet almost continuously, write regular columns for Conservative Home, IB Times and the Washington Examiner, take all those long walks in the country and still find time to actually vote in the European Parliament as well. Honestly, it’s a mystery why he hasn’t resigned, isn’t it.

UPDATE, 15:15hrs: We’ve found him! On Twitter someone pointed me to this column, in which Daniel Hannan reveals his current location:

“I am typing these words in Australia, where I have been plugging post-EU trade opportunities.” 

Of course, if he’d stayed at home he could have done more than plug free trade opportunities: he could have voted for one.