From the Archive: Farage Taken to Task for Lack of Work

Labour Party

This is a blog from November 22nd of last year.  Following a typically pompous and offensive speech by Nigel Farage in the plenary chamber in Strasbourg former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofsadt gave us a few home truths.  It’s a great bit of footage and well worth seeing again to remind ourselves of some of the very serious questions about Farage’s UKIP and how much work they actually do in the interest of the United Kingdom.

Farage Taken to Task for Lack of Work

Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgium Prime Minister and current leader of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), took Nigel Farage to task today for his lack of work in the parliament.  Mr Verhofstadt pointed out to Mr Farage that it his salary was the greatest waste of tax payers money as he has failed to attend a singe sitting of his committee (the fisheries committee) in two years.

Farage Taken to Task for Lack of Work

Labour Party

Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgium Prime Minister and current leader of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), took Nigel Farage to task today for his lack of work in the parliament.  Mr Verhofstadt pointed out to Mr Farage that it his salary was the greatest waste of tax payers money as he has failed to attend a singe sitting of his committee (the fisheries committee) in two years.

EU trade relations with Israel

Labour Party

Since I have received a volume of correspondence on the Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (CAA), specifically on the proposed upgrade to trade relations with Israel, I thought it would be helpful to set out Labour MEPs’ views on this blog.

The Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (CAA) is a proposed Protocol to the existing Euro-Mediterranean Agreement and not a separate Agreement in itself, although it has also been referred to as ACAA.

The proposed Protocol is intended to eliminate technical barriers to trade in industrial products between the European Union and the State of Israel. It largely applies to pharmaceutical products, and is intended to align certain assessment standards in order to facilitate trade. In effect this means some of the benefits of the EU internal market would be extended to Israel, and would offer Israeli pharmaceutical companies easier access to the EU market.

Negotiations on the Protocol between the European Commission and Israel began in 2008 and concluded in 2009. The European Parliament was then required in 2010 to give its consent before the Protocol could be adopted. The International Trade committee of the Parliament decided to ‘freeze’ the decision-making process, and the item was not discussed again until 2011 when the procedure was re-started after the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) – the parliamentary grouping which includes the UK Liberal Democrats – changed their position on the dossier.

Many parliamentary groupings in the European Parliament including ALDE and the European Conservatives and Reformists, which includes the UK Conservatives, consider CAA a technical upgrade. The European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP), and the Socialists and Democrat group (S&D) of which we are a member, do not believe it is a technical agreement but rather a clear upgrade of trade relations with Israel which should not be approved.

The EPLP believes all EU external policy, including trade, must be coherent with our human rights policies. Any upgrade of trade relations with Israel in the context of the Gaza blockade and the illegal settlements is unacceptable and incompatible with recent European Parliament declarations denouncing the abuse of human rights in the occupied territories. Furthermore, the EU – Israel Association Agreement requires relations between the EU and Israel to be based on the respect for human rights, and any upgrade to this Agreement would be inappropriate at this time.

The rapporteur (MEP responsible for the dossier) has proposed a two year delay on the Parliament vote in order to allow more time for compliance with international law by Israel. David Martin MEP, EPLP spokesperson for international trade, has raised our concerns over this Protocol several times during discussions in the trade committee, and supports the delay in the vote. You may be interested to see his intervention:

In July the European Parliament formally asked the European Commission for reassurances that goods from the Occupied Territories would not enter the EU under this preferential scheme. David Martin again spoke on behalf of the EPLP to reiterate that although these assurances would be welcome, he is still opposed to the entire Agreement for political reasons. You may be interested in the debate and his intervention here:

Socialist and Democrat MEPs voted in favour of the two year delay in a recent vote in the International Trade committee. However the Protocol was unfortunately adopted by a majority of the liberal and conservative groups. The CAA will now be voted on by the whole European Parliament in its upcoming plenary session in Strasbourg next week.

Labour MEPs will continue to raise our objections to this Protocol and I will, of course, vote in line with my EPLP colleagues.

British Rebate in Jeopardy thanks to David Cameron

Labour Party

Joseph Daul, leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), has just told the European Parliament that the rebate Britain receives from the EU must be put into question following David Cameron’s veto last week.

David Cameron has certainly not fought for our national interest. Not content with isolating us in Europe thereby endangering Britain’s trade within the EU single market, his actions are threatening our cherished rebate first won by his heroine Margaret Thatcher.

Since Cameron consistently tells us he wants Britain to remain in the EU, the only conclusion to be drawn from his disastrous veto on Friday morning is that, far from being good for our country, it is very much against the national interest.

As EPP Leader Joseph Daul carries a lot of clout. The EPP is the largest political group in the European Parliament. The Tories ignominiously left it to set up shop with what Nick Clegg described at the time as “a bunch of nutters” and in so doing threw away whatever influence in the European Parliament they may have had.

After Mr. Daul had spoken, Guy Verhofstadt, Leader of the EuroParl Liberal Group said in English: “Mr. Cameron, if you do not sit at the table you find yourself on the menu.”

Martin Schulz, Leader of the European Parliament’s socialists, said that it was bankers in the City of London who had caused the crisis.

Britain is now a laughing stock. It is an open secret Cameron failed to properly use the British foreign office during pre-summit negotiations. They are the Rolls Royce of foreign diplomats, they are ours and yet our Prime Minister failed to put their expertise at the disposal of the British Government.

As Glenis Willmott, Leader of the Labour MEPs in the European Parliament said, “Cameron might think he is Churchill. In fact, never in the history of negotiations with our European partners was so much sacrificed for so few by so many.”

Thanks to David Cameron and the feral Eurosceptic Tories on whom he relies to stay in office, if not in power, when British financial interests are discussed by our EU partners, we will not be at the table to defend our national interest.

Sports For All!

Labour Party

Along with four other MEPs; Joanna Senyszyn from the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Sean Kelly from the European People’s Party (EPP), Ivo Belet, also from the EPP, and Hannu Takkula from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), I am the co-signatory on a written declaration to support sports at grassroots level.  The declaration itself:

1.   Calls on the Commission and Member States to promote sport for all, strengthening its educational and integrating role, with special attention paid to under-represented groups such as women, seniors, and disabled people;

2.   Calls on Member States to ensure that grassroots sport does not suffer from major budget cuts in times of crisis;

3.   Calls on the Commission to pay the necessary attention to grassroots sports in the upcoming Communication on sport and to ensure sufficient funding for the EU Sport Programme from 2012 onwards;

4.   Calls on the Commission to take due account of the results of the study on the financing of grassroots sports with regard to a possible EU initiative on gambling issues;

5.   Instructs its President to forward this declaration, together with the names of the signatories, to the Commission and the Parliaments of the Member States.

The declaration closes for signing at the beginning of December, but given the cross party support and the importance of the topic, I am fairly convinced it will get enough signatures and will become European Parliament policy. 

Show your support for grassroots sport and get your local MEPs to sign Written Declaration No. 0062/2010!

It’s a Coalition World (or is it?)

Labour Party

As we come to the end of the May Strasbourg plenary session of the European Parliament, I ask myself, “What difference has the change in government UK made?” and more specifically, “Looking at the European Parliament, would you know the Tories and Lib-Dems are in a coalition at home?”

Although we may live in interesting times in Britain, here in the EU so far it’s business as usual.  The Tory ECR Group, those Nick Clegg described as a bunch of nutters, maintain their vigorously anti-EU stance.  It always amazes me that the Tories stick so rigorously to their bonkers policy of voting against or abstaining on all reports in front of the European Parliament.  As a result they vote, for example, against making rape in marriage an offence.  Whatever you may think about the EU and the European Parliament, surely this is a ludicrous way to behave – I don’t like you so I’m going to go against everything, yes every single thing, you do.

The political group to which the Lib-Dems belong, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), couldn’t be more different.  As their name suggests, they’re pro-Europe for a start.  They are also staggeringly undisciplined.  Most of the political groups, including the Socialists and Democrats, expect their members to follow the Group whip when voting in the plenary session and in parliamentary committees.  As I understand it the ALDE has a much looser arrangement and members more or less do their own thing.

It really is a question of never the twain shall meet.  I don’t see how it’s possible to have Con-Dems in Europe, and neither, from what we have seen this week, do the two protagonists.

And yes, all of this does matter.  During my10 years as an MEP from the government party, I and my Labour colleagues were expected to follow the government line.  If you think about it, this makes sense.  The British government, whatever its colour, whether it’s one or two, doesn’t want to clash with the EU more often than necessary and wants European legislation as close to its own point of view as possible.  Obvious, if you ask me, a no-brainer, to use the current parlance.

How then will the Con-Dem coalition cope with Europe?  Not only do the two parties have diametrically opposed views on the EU, they haven’t so far made any attempt to come together in any sort of joint arrangement on European legislation.

If I were feeling uncharitable, I would say Europe, both theoretically and practically, will Con-Dem Cam/Clegg to disaster.  It’s just a question of when.