It’s been a long time since I’ve been asked as many searching questions as I had from a group of Lewisham women taking part in an advocacy training programme for older people sponsored by the Capital Community Foundation. Organised by Pauline Morrison, an old friend from my time in Lewisham, the group met in the European Parliament office in London at 2 Queen Anne’s Gate. My thanks especially to Pauline for facilitating the event as well as everyone else who took part. You all certainly kept me on my toes.
I was asked nine questions in total, as follows:
- What is the value of the UK of belonging to the EU?
- What does it cost us?
- Would you describe your job as an MEP?
- What is the criteria for countries to join the EU?
- What is the EU policy on asylum?
- How do you keep up to date with information on older people and their circumstances and needs
- What help do we as older people get from the EU?
- Is an understanding of the EU part of the school national curriculum?
- What will the EU be doing in 20 years time?
These excellent questions covered a wide range, demonstrating just how well informed this group of women were on EU matters. I talked about the European single market and how one of the main jobs of EU legislators is to improve the working of the single market and make the playing field as level as possible. We obviously also covered health and education, particularly in relation to older people, both of which are carried out by the member states, not the European Union, although the EU may have a general overview. Asylum also remains a British matter as the UK is not presently participating totally in the EU arrangements. As far as the question about the EU in 20 years is concerned, I think the EU will continue to exist in its curresnt form as group of sovereign states who choose to come together on subjects of common concern which cross national boundaries. Although I think the EU will probably have more member states in 20 years time, I do not think it will be a substantially different organisation in terms of its powers and competencies.