House of Lords ensures parliamentary scrutiny for any EU withdrawal deal

Labour Party

Last night the House of Lords voted to give Parliament a potentially decisive voice over the final shape of Brexit. The vote offered some protection against Britain crashing out of the EU without any deal.

Yesterday’s amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill avoids a “no deal” scenario and also means David Davis and Theresa May would be expected to return to Brussels and re-open negotiations if  Parliament rejected a deal. Though some commentators are sceptical as to whether the UK will even reach this point, the Lords vote ensures Parliament has a proper role in the Brexit negotiations.

Shadow Brexit secretary Kier Starmer said it is right Parliament is given the opportunity to properly scrutinise the deal and that at no point should Theresa May “be given a blank cheque to crash the UK out of the EU without a deal.”

Meanwhile those opposed to the amendment said it undermines the Government’s authority and ability to negotiate with Brussels. I believe it’s a sensible and rational amendment which restricts Government from taking decisions which will affect the country for generations to come. It is right and just that Parliament can participate in the Brexit negotiations in a meaningful way.

It ensures that our future relationship is determined by Parliament and not by the Government.

Peers backed the amendment to the Withdrawal Bill by 335 to 244.

 

Vacancy for Women’s Rights Assistant in Brussels

Labour Party

I have a vacancy for an assistant in Brussels. Full details are elsewhere on MY website at

https://thehoneyballbuzz.com/vacancy/

Please do circulate and share with anybody you think may be interested.

Thank you in advance for your help.

 

 

Daily Mail refuses to publish my letter

Labour Party

Last week the Daily Mail published this article, which suggested that the European Parliament could ban certain children’s books which reinforced gender stereotypes from British schools. This is very misleading. I therefore wrote a letter for publication to the Daily Mail to clarify their report.

Below is my  letter to the paper, followed by the response from the letters editor and his explanation for refusing to publish it:

Mary Honeyball MEP
4G Shirland Mews
London
W9 3DY
7 November 2012

Sir,

RE: Now Brussels takes aim at the Famous Five! Books portraying ‘traditional’ families could be barred

The article by James Chapman (Mail 7/11/2012) claiming that the EU could be planning to ban books portraying stereo typical family values is misleading in the extreme. It was incorrect to suggest that such books could be barred from schools.

Brussels does not have legal powers to intervene in which books are available in UK schools; it is a matter for the UK government.

The European Parliament committee report to which your article refers does not suggest banning books- and in any case this is certainly not something which would be legally binding.

Even in areas where the report does call for EU level action and where such action would be legislatively possible, it could only be done if the European Commission makes a formal proposal. In addition, the European Parliament as a whole and also a large majority of Member States must then adopt it.

I hope this important point clarifies the inaccuracies I refer to in your report.

Yours Sincerely

Mary Honeyball MEP
Labour spokesperson in Europe on culture media and sport and gender and equality

The Daily Mail responded to my press officer, Sarah Mackinlay, with:

Dear Sarah,

I’m guessing James Chapman knows a bit more about the byzantine workings of the European Parliament and its committees than Mary Honeyball does.

Regards,

readers’ letters editor

When my office attempted to clarify whether he intended to print the letter he offered the following explanation:

I eventually decided against it on the grounds that it is by no means incorrect that such books could be barred from schools.
Brussels may not have direct legal power to intervene on which books are available in UK schools – but you would have to be very naïve not to appreciate the way in which such a thing might become a matter of no choice for the UK government.
The European Parliament committee looking at this subject definitely exists and has published a report. It may not have suggested in so many words banning books (that might make it look very unpopular) but it has criticised them – and we’re not unfamiliar with the way in which such things begin as criticism and move on towards calls for a ban. After all, to these MEPs, what else are their criticisms for?
It may, of course, be something which isn’t legally binding today – but tomorrow? And that’s all our story warns about.
We’re well aware that this discussion may be at an early stage and ‘EU level action’ would require ‘a European Commission formal proposal’ etc, etc, but we like to warn people well in advance just what those underemployed ‘representatives’ are getting up to in Brussels: forewarned is forearmed.

Regards,

I am publishing this because I was surprised and annoyed by the response I received to my letter – a response full of prejudice which demonstrates how little the Daily Mail understands the European Parliament and how the EU makes its decisions.

Cameron supports changes to the Lisbon Treaty, but where is the promised referendum?

Labour Party

It seems David Cameron is prepared to renege on his election promise to put all changes to EU treaties to a referendum in the UK.

In a speech to the House of Commons following his first meeting of the European Council,  made up of the prime ministers and presidents of the 27 EU Member States, Mr Cameron was full of bravado about not letting any agreement ‘alter member state competences’ .  However, despite quoting Margaret Thatcher,  in reality Cameron is supporting Germany’s desire to make changes to the Lisbon Treaty in the wake of the financial crisis and the problems caused by the situation in Greece.  If these treaty changes are to go forward, where, Mr Cameron, is your treasured referendum? 

David Cameron also supported the EU 2020 Strategy and Millennium Development Goals in his speech to MPs.  I found this a little strange since, as Harriet Harman rightly pointed out in her response, Conservative MEPs have either abstained or voted against these measures in the European Parliament.  Cameron didn’t even have a response, deciding instead, rather pathetically, to say that he would be keeping an eye on the Labour and Lib Dem MEPs.  I wonder what the Tories’ coalition partners made of this.

Following George Osborne’s deeply damaging budget, David Cameron’s antics in Europe add depth and context to the picture of the Coalition Government which is beginning to emerge, an image of a Conservative Party that really does not know what it is doing over some of the most important issues currently facing us.

Part of me almost feels sorry for David Cameron.  He must have been a lonely figure in Brussels last week.  Seeing the leaders of centre right parties from across Europe meeting before the European Council summit in order to discuss strategy, whilst he was left to ‘strategise’ with one far right Polish MEP.  That is price you pay for isolating yourself from the biggest political grouping in European politics (the European Peoples’ Party) and allying yourself with the far-right, eurosceptic fringe.  Sarkozy and Merkel gave an impressive press conference afterwards, detailing the decsions reached in the summit.  Not too long ago, the British Prime Minister would have been standing right beside them.  Not now.

There was a telling moment in the debate in the House of Commons where one of Cameron’s own MPs (William Cash) asked a question regarding the “30 European directives in the pipeline which will deeply affect our financial regulation and economic governance” and questioned how we might regain and retain control over economic issues.  David Cameron could only rather weakly respond that the European Parliament had made things ‘a lot more burdensome’ and that it was ‘not a satisfactory situation’.  Now I happen to think that these financial regulations are necessary, but perhaps Cameron’s political position would be a good deal more ‘satisfactory’ if they could actually engage and influence European politics.  Cameron needs to realise that euroscepticism may win him the support of the back benches, but in Europe he’ll be left standing on the sidelines with the nutters, looking lonely and confused.

BUILDING EUROPE

building, jozsef antall

Ever since the enlargement of the European Union in 2004, many of our meeting rooms in Brussels have become increasingly full. With Romania and Bulgaria joining the EU in 2007 and growing interest in our meetings from lobbyists, many rooms were simply over crowded. This extra space will allow for more interested citizens to attend our public meetings.

At the end of last week a new building opened in Brussels to provide us with more meeting rooms and more space for the public to follow what goes on here.

Today I finally found time to have a look around the new building. Here are a few photos of the building, which is named after József Antall.

You can see more of my photos on my Flickr account

http://www.flickr.com/photos/maryhoneyballmep/