Tag Archives: Michel Barnier

David Davis’ Vienna Speech was bland and lacking in detail

Brexit Secretary, David Davis, today delivered his Vienna speech outlining that the UK is in the best possible shape to make Brexit work. So confident was he that he promised that the UK won’t plunge into a dystopian Mad Max style world. Any such claims are unfounded, he said.

He went on to dismiss such suggestions stating it was based on nothing: “not our history or our shared interest.” But overall his message appeared to be the UK Government wants (and expects to get) its cake and eat it. Davis also asked for the UK to be trusted, but that trust is not in great supply at the moment – and as we all know trust is an important currency.

Davis’ speech continued by rejecting the idea that leaving the EU will mean a race to the bottom, in terms of workers’ rights and environmental protections.

However, while Davis delivered his speech, the Dutch Government announced it was activating plans for a ‘hard Brexit’ due to the lack of clarity from the UK which, it said, is “impeding negotiations”.

The Dutch Government is right, there is both a lack of vision and planning for the task ahead. This is an accusation the UK is unable to deny, and is the reason Theresa May is convening her Cabinet to discuss the future direction.

The Dutch Government is, unlike the UK, prepared. It understands what is required to ensure the impact of Brexit is kept to a minimum. For example, in readiness for the new rules on trade the Dutch Government is preparing its infrastructure by employing 1000 extra customs officers, so it can cope with the additional burden that will result from the border checks. In other words, they have a clear understanding and recognise precisely what it means to leave the European Union.

In contrast the Home Office has been very clear that it’s not anywhere near ready to put in the border checks or the additional immigration checks which are going to be required. In a word, it’s just chaotic.

Davis says we will work with other EU countries to drive standards, but this is muddy at best. The UK is not only unclear about what it wants, but much of what it wants is impossible to achieve.

Let’s not forget the words of EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier who said last year: “The UK wants to take back control, it wants to adopt its own standards and regulations. But it also wants to have these standards recognised automatically in the EU. That is what UK papers ask for. This is simply impossible. You cannot be outside the single market and shape its legal order.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Labour Party

People didn’t vote for chaos and uncertainty

No doubt seeking to emphasise how little time is left, Michel Barnier has issued a warning to the UK Government stating there is not a moment to lose. The next round of negotiations are set to begin but there is open disarray in the Government as to the precise detail of its own negotiations.

Downing Street finally confirmed that it will not remain in the customs union- or any form of it. This came after a series of interviews over the weekend where ministers contradicted themselves over whether the UK would seek to be part of a customs union or not. The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd said that the UK would be seeking membership of something akin to a Customs Union while in an almost simultaneous interview the housing minister, Dominic Raab told Sky news  that Britain would not stay in any form of the Union.

Confusion over the customs union isn’t the only sticking point. The list is endless: how long will the transitional period last? Citizens rights? Ireland? These are big and serious issues which the UK Government just doesn’t seem equipped to deal with, at least not convincingly.

Regardless of how people voted in the referendum they certainly didn’t vote for lack of clarity, uncertainty, hesitant and contradictory (at best) negotiations which lack detail. The public trusted our politicians to get it right but the Government is failing to deliver, which is why a second vote on what the final ‘package’ will look like is not only fair but essential.

Leave a comment

Filed under Labour Party

European Parliament calls for a humanitarian conference on the Syrian refugee crisis

The EU should convene a humanitarian conference aimed at helping Syria’s neighbouring countries to cope with the still-growing influx of refugees. The European Parliament passed a resolution yesterday urging the EU to continue providing humanitarian aid and support to refugees and to guarantee them safe entry and access to fair asylum procedures in the EU.

The humanitarian conference on the Syrian refugee crisis should explore ways to help refugee host countries in the region (in particular Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq) to cope with still-growing refugee populations and to keep their borders open to all Syrian refugees. Thousands of Syrians flee to neighbouring countries every day and the UN forecasts that 3.5 million refugees will have left Syria by the end of 2013. Besides humanitarian aid, the conference should also focus on strengthening the EU’s role and involvement in diplomatic efforts to help end the conflict in Syria.

Speaking for the European Commission in the debate, Commissioner Barnier agreed to the organisation of such a conference. With the European Parliament and the European Commission in agreement, the proposed action should become a reality. 

The European Parliament called on the EU, as the largest humanitarian aid donor in the Syrian crisis, to “continue its generous funding” to meet the needs of the Syrian people, including safe entry for refugees and solidarity with EU countries under pressure. Member states should explore all existing EU laws and procedures to provide a safe entry into the EU to temporarily admit Syrians fleeing their country. MEPs welcomed the general consensus among EU member states that Syrian nationals should not be returned.

The Parliament maintained that refugees should have “access to fair and efficient asylum procedures” in the EU, and reiterated the need for more solidarity among member states with those facing particular pressure to receive refugees.

Parliament, however, pointed out that “member states are required to come to the assistance of migrants at sea”, and called on those which have failed to abide by their international obligations to stop turning back boats with migrants on board.

EU countries are encouraged to make full use of money to be made available from the Asylum and Migration Fund and the Preparatory Action to “Enable the resettlement of refugees during emergency situations”.

The resolution encouraged EU countries “to address acute needs through resettlement”, in addition to existing national quotas and through humanitarian admission.

MEPs also made it clear that the possible influx of refugees into EU member states required “responsible measures“, say MEPs and called on the EU Commission together with member states to work on contingency planning, including the possibility of applying the Temporary Protection Directive, “if and when conditions demand it”. Under this 2001 directive, which so far has never been triggered, refugees would be granted a residence permit for the entire duration of the protection period, as well as access to employment and accommodation.

Comments Off on European Parliament calls for a humanitarian conference on the Syrian refugee crisis

Filed under Labour Party

At last we have a European Commission

José Manuel Barroso

Cathy Ashton

Viviane Reding

Joaquín Almunia

Siim Kallas

Neelie Kroes

So we now have a European Commission, a mere eight months after the European elections at the beginning of June last year.  It’s been an interminably long process for no particular reason that is immediately obvious.

Yes, we did have the problems with Mrs Jeleva, Bulgaria’s original nominee for Commissioner who proved to be not up to the job at her European Parliament Committee Hearing and has now been replaced by Kristalina Georgieva.  While this necessitated another hearing, that’s hardly a good reason for the whole business taking eight months.

The fact that the EU moves slowly is hardly news.  More interesting is the decision taken by the ECR (the political group founded and largely made up of British Tories) to abstain when the European Parliament voted to agree the new European Commission yesterday. 

Antonio Tajani

Janez Potočnik

Olli Rehn

Andris Piebalgs

Michel Barnier

Androulla Vassiliou

Abstention seems a cowardly approach, neither one thing or the other.  If you don’t like the new arrangements, have the courage of your convictions and vote against. 

Jan Zahradil who spoke on behalf of the ECR during the debate in the European Parliament didn’t manage to shed much light on their pusillanimous behaviour, saying to Mr Barroso, Commission President,  “In 2005, you came up with the idea of cutting red tape by simplifying legislation. Why not revive this idea now?” He added “If you demonstrate that you’re a reformer, we shall back you, but if you follow well-trodden paths, we shall stand up and resist you”.  If the ECR doesn’t like Barroso, they should, of course, put their money where their mouth is and not hide behind abstaining.

Inevitably there have been criticisms of the way Barroso put together his team of Commissioners and allocated portfolios.  I have to say I am not at all happy with the way portfolios do not correspond to the work of European Parliament Committees.  For instance, on the Culture and Education Committee we have Mrs. Vassiliou as our main Commissioner covering education, culture, multilingualism and youth.  However we also have to deal with Neelie Kroes on the digital agenda and Vivian Reding for some of the wider communication brief including media pluralism.  This lack of alignment of portfolios to Committee responsibilities will, I believe, have the effect of weakening European Parliament Committees in their dealings with Commissioners, i.e. Barroso will stand a better chance of getting his agenda through.

President Barroso’s leadership style has, in fact, caused much consternation.  The Green Group put forward a motion, which was subsequently rejected, to the plenary session on the European Parliament yesterday.  I did, however, agree with some of it, notably its statement that Mr Barroso has weakened the position of individual Commissioners-designate by implementing a policy of divide and rule i.e. by defining and allocating portfolios without proper consideration for their abilities and affinities, and has even moved Commissioners away from portfolios in which, to date, they have demonstrated their competence.  This policy has arguably led, inter alia, to the resignation of one of the nominees.

The resolution went on to note that Mr Barroso has reshuffled portfolios within the Commission in a such a way that there is no clear division of responsibility in some key areas, thus confirming the trend towards a presidential model for the Commission, with the risk that the role of individual Commissioners may be reduced to that of advisors to the President, a state of affairs at odds with the spirit of the Treaties.  You may at this point be forgiven for thinking that Mr Barroso is seeking to become the real President rather than one of equal status to the EU’s other four presidents.

Meanwhile, here is the new European Commission as approved by the European Parliament yesterday.

Maroš Šefčovič

Dacian Cioloş

Kristalina Georgieva

Cecilia Malmström

Johannes Hahn

László Andor

Stefan Füle

Connie Hedegaard

Günther Oettinger

Maria Damanaki

Janusz Lewandowski

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

John Dalli

Karel De Gucht

Algirdas Semeta

3 Comments

Filed under Labour Party

Godfrey Bloom is at it again

Now that the Commissioner-Designate Hearings are over, we can look back on the choicest moments.  Not that there are very many as MEPs, on the whole, take their duties at these Hearings very seriously.

None more so perhaps than the appalling Godfrey Bloom (UKIP Yorkshire and Humberside).

While attending the hearing of Michel Barnier, French EPP Commissioner-Designate for the Internal Market, Mr Bloom claimed that he represented the City of London.  As London MEP  I take great exception to Mr Bloom’s claim.  I’m sure the same goes for the rest of my London colleagues, including presumably UKIP’s very own Gerard Batten.

However, good triumphed in the end.

Mr Barnier, an experienced politician who doesn’t miss a trick, replied to Mr Bloom with the immortal words: “I (Barnier) thought you represented your constituents.”

 Michel Barnier maximum points, Godfrey Bloom absolutely none and a well deserved kick in the teeth.

Comments Off on Godfrey Bloom is at it again

Filed under Labour Party