David Davis’ leaked letter is embarrassing

Labour Party

The leaked letter sent to Theresa May by Brexit Secretary David Davis’ in which he complained about the European Union discriminating against Britain was not only embarrassing but also damaging. It has done nothing to foster good relations or to help things at the negotiating table. Instead it shows Davis to be, as Jonathan Liss, Deputy Director of British Influence, wrote in the Guardian as petulant.

His main criticism is that the EU is not giving enough consideration to more favourable outcomes following Brexit. What on earth does he expect? While David Davis is busy burying his head in the sand, failing to carry out impact assessments, due diligence or preparing for alternative outcomes to the one he and the Government favours his opposite negotiators are preparing professionally for all possible scenarios.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament Brexit Co-ordinator responded to Davis’ claims that the EU is damaging the UK’s economic interest before it’s left the Union stating that the UK Government only had itself to blame and was responsible for damaging the UK’s economic interests. The EU is simply acting on the threats issued by Davis – the mantra we hear with ever greater frequency “no deal is better than a bad deal”. Rather than bluffing, penning petulant letters to his boss or issuing idle threats about legal action David Davis should confront the situation which is entirely of the British Government’s own making. Nobody else can possibly be blamed, surely?

David Davis must move on from this embarrassing note before he completely erodes any form of cordiality or trust which will only serve to further hamper the fragile negotiating process-a position he has created and further enhanced by the publication of this silly and infantile leaked letter.

Of course, the only sensible course of action is to remain in the EU. No deal can possibly be as good as the one we have through being a member of the European Union.

Honeyball’s Weekly Round-up

Labour Party

There is “no evidence that the EU was interfering excessively in any aspect of British life,” a cross party group of peers from the European Union Committee of the House of Lords has found.

Their report was picked up by Toby Helm and reported in the Guardian, despite a concerted attempt by the government to bury the Lords extensive examination. Helm noted: “In a hugely damaging move for the government, the committee of the House of Lords, chaired by former Tory minister Lord Boswell, comes close to saying that ministers tried to cover up the findings, which do not support David Cameron’s claims that the EU is ‘becoming a state’ and has already accrued excessive powers.”

Lord Boswell also criticised the fact that £5mn was spent producing the report but no effort was made to make the results accessible to the public who want to know the truth about the UK’s relationship with the EU.

Meanwhile, Lord Hannay, a former British ambassador to the EU, who now advises British Influence, said: “The outcome of the government’s meticulous and evidence-based Review of the Balance of Competencies of the EU is one of the best-kept secrets of recent months, largely ignored by the media and seldom mentioned by the government itself. And yet it is a crucial element in the election debate over Britain’s future in the EU.

“The single, clear message from the review is that in none of its 32 chapters is there a compelling case for the repatriation of powers from Brussels to Westminster and Whitehall. So, while the EU needs reform, our relationship with it does not warrant wholesale dismantling,” he added.

We had the first of the TV (non) debates last week. Hosting was Jeremy Paxman who has since been criticised for his interrogation of Ed Miliband, after hundreds of complaints were lodged with Ofcom as a result.

George Eaton, The New Statesman’s political editor, reviewed the debates and said: “It was Ed Miliband who had the most to gain from tonight’s TV event – and he did. He was better-prepared, more fluent and more inspiring than David Cameron.”

Eaton observed: “The evening started badly for the PM as a forensic Jeremy Paxman pressed him on food banks, zero-hours contracts and his net migration pledge. Faced with the kind of sustained scrutiny he rarely endures, Cameron was nervy and rattled. “That’s not the question,” he helplessly pleaded when asked whether he could live on a zero-hours contract, a slip that provoked guffaws in the press room. He never recovered from these missteps and rarely appeared in control.”

It was a bumper spring issue from the New Statesman this week. One article in particular struck me, Spitalfields Nippers. It was a photographic story of the lives of children living in the East End of London in Spitalfields, before the introduction of the Welfare State.

There is an authenticity to the pictures though, and the article points out the compassion of the photographer: “Although his subjects were some of the poorest people in London, Warner’s compassionate portraits stand up in sharp contrast to the stereo typical images created by other social campaigners of that era, those who portrayed children solely as the victims of their economic circumstances and sometimes degraded them further by their very act of photography.”

The photos are raw but provide an important reminder when trying to convey how vital a welfare state is rather than constantly deriding those who need it.

The New Statesman article doesn’t appear to be online so here is one of the collection of images from the Guardian from 2014.

We are witnessing the most significant decline in British influence in Europe for a generation

Labour Party

Today, our Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, will tell the Parti Socialiste, our sister party in France, that over the period of this Conservative-Liberal Democrat government, we have witnessed “the most significant decline in British influence in Europe for a generation”.

He stressed that “no country that seeks to play a leading part in the modern world could contemplate walking away from the world’s largest single market, or to cut itself off from some of its closest allies”. He will also say that “our place at Europe’s top table has made the UK stronger, more secure, and more prosperous”, and that “Labour believes that the UK will stand taller in Washington, Beijing, Moscow and Delhi – when we stand firmly at the heart of the EU”.

This is exactly the kind of engagement the UK really needs in Brussels, not the kind of intransigence that has caused grumblings of discontent from our European partners. Continued opt-outs from cross-border criminal prosecutions and investigations, opposing capping banker’s bonuses, failing to condemn rape in marriage, have made even the normally stoic Angela Merkel despair of David Cameron. We need instead a government with a policy to be an integral part of the European Union, to represent the UK’s best interests not by simply throwing the toys out of the pram when a proposal is made and refusing to play, but constructively negotiating to find a better solution for everyone.

The Labour Party has a clear plan to review, repair and reset our relations with our neighbours. We must take our advice from those in the field; the ambassadors, experts and civil servants, and not be held hostage by the irrational ideologies of a Eurosceptic fringe in the Conservative Party and UKIP.


Concerns for British Influence in Europe

Labour Party

The Polish foreign minister remarked at the weekend that British influence in Europe is dwindling as a result of the Tories withdrawing from the European Peoples party (EPP) five years ago.

I warned of the detrimental impact of Cameron’s antics would have, and continue to have, on our relationship with Europe. I have written this article for British Influence in which i explore how Cameron is continuing to weaken our position in the Councils and the European Parliament. For example, he has allowed some ultra-right groups in to the ECR, including the Danish Peoples Party (DPP) and the Finns (formerly the True Finns) who they had previously refused admission due to their extreme rightwing views. The former party of leader of the DPP, Morten Messerschmitt, was convicted in 2002 for publishing material that suggested a link between a multicultural society, and higher levels of rape, violence, and forced marriages. From the latter group an MEP was convicted in 2012 after posting a blog which claimed that “Islam revered paedophilia”. As a British Labour MEP, I am of course concerned about the direction that Cameron is taking us and the effect that his poor negotiations are having on British interests.

You can read more about this in the article I penned for British influence by following the link here.

MEPs take action to end the gender pay gap

Labour Party

You may have already read this post on the British Influence website. However, I am posting it on this blog just in case you missed it.

Last week saw MEPs set the goal of removing the pay disparity between men and women by 2020. The Resolution on Equal Pay – which went through decisively at thr European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg on Thursday – saw the 28 Member States make a collective promise to create a fairer pay deal. The resolution is particularly good news for women in the UK, which currently has the 6th worst gender pay gap of any EU economy.

The battle for gender equality has stalled in Britain since the recession hit in 2007, with many other European countries pulling ahead. British women are currently paid 20% less than men – a figure which rises to a terrifying 33% for jobs in The City of London. The problem is particularly bad for older women and those working in the private sector, where the pay gap is 24% (compared to 17% in the public sector).

Britain’s 1970 Equal Pay Act made it illegal for women to be paid less than men doing the same job, but it did not tackle the systemic reasons that mean women continue to earn less. Working women in the UK are twice as likely as men to be in low paid employment, and three times as liable to work part-time. They also continue to be penalised for motherhood.

The Resolution on Equal Pay urges the British Government – and others across Europe – to overcome these underlying issues. It puts an imperative on domestic politicians, asking that they reduce their countries’ respective gender pay gaps at a rate of 5% a year. For me the Resolution is a vindication of Britain’s involvement in Europe. It is a classic example of the EU leading from the front; collectively signing up to a positive goal, and working to help individual countries achieve it.

To be clear, this Resolution is only the first step in a long process towards gender equality. It symbolises a joint commitment by EU countries to eliminate the gap, but as yet it has not been enshrined in law. But I and others in the European Parliament are determined to making the 2020 vision for gender equality a reality, and will be pursuing the Resolution through to the next stage.

The most important thing in doing this is that we build a strong consensus on the subject. UKIP’s MEPs – all of whom are male – and other right-of-centre groups did their best to block the Resolution by abstaining or voting against last week. As the prospect of gender equality draws closer it is likely that they will step up their opposition – something which we must work together to contest.

The ideal set out in last week’s resolution – a 2020 Europe where women earn the same as men – may seem hard to imagine, but it is entirely achievable. All that is required is that progressive forces from across the political parties work together to make it happen.