What exactly was the Brexit manifesto?

Labour Party

The European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP) has raised concerns over the future of Britain’s immediate involvement of the European Membership and our current membership following the referendum.

There are, the EPLP warns, “two unpalatable options”. These are currently being contemplated but both of options are problematic. Some believe we can exit the European Union but retain membership to the European Single Market. The issue with this is that in order to gain full access, Britain must accept the common rules, and this means it will no longer have a say over future changes. A further consideration is that one of the central points of many leave campaigners was the issue of free movement of labour.

The free movement of labour, is part of the strict criteria which members must sign up to if they are to enjoy membership to and trade in the single market. It is very likely therefore that the UK would need to accept free movement as part of the terms.

The other alternative advocated by some ‘Brexiteers’ was to leave the single market entirely. In this scenario the damage to the economy will be significant, not least because we would face tariffs on exports to the EU.

In addition, many current trade agreements we have in place globally will need to be replaced because these deals were agreed as part of our relationship with the EU. They were made centrally by the European Union. So the UK would need to rapidly re negotiate trade agreements to replace these.

Although the result of the referendum was to end our membership of the European Union, there is no explicit mandate for what happens next as my colleague Richard Corbett MEP has pointed out.

The problem with the Brexit campaign, as we now know, is that there was no clear plan offered for life post Brexit. Neither was there a clear manifesto and as a result the next steps are muddy and unclear. A full debate in the British Parliament is therefore essential.

Richard Corbett said yesterday: “The idea that the recent referendum has completely settled the issue is surely dead. Referendums are supposed to settle issues. But does the UK look settled and calm?”

The new Prime Minister has a huge task ahead of her (or him) and how s/he directs the narrative and the first stage of negotiations is crucial, but first Parliament must hold a full and in depth debate about the future of negotiations.

President Van Rompuy Proves he is a Man of Vision

Labour Party

You may be forgiven for all the misconceptions you probably have about Herman Van Rompuy, the newish President of the European Council.  He didn’t get much coverage in the UK when he was Prime Minister of Belgium, and most of that written and said about him since becoming President has been negative, sometimes even insulting. 

 President Van Rompuy spoke to the Socialist and Democrat Group this morning, and believe me he is far from lightweight.  His knowledge of economics is outstanding.  What is more, he is capable of strategic thinking and has a genuine vision for Europe, a vision much more in line with British views than you may expect.  President Van Rompuy sees the EU as a grouping of sovereign states with certain common objectives.  I’d certainly buy into that, as I’m sure would the vast majority of people in the UK, except perhaps those on the extreme margins of politics.

 The President showed a rare degree of radicalism this morning, all the more surprising as he is from the centre-right EPP family.  It was his support for the tax on financial transactions which finally convinced me that he is a man we could do business with.  When answering a question from fellow Belgian, Marc Tarabella, it became clear that President Van Rompuy not only supports the “Tobin” tax in principle, but as Belgian Prime Minister he implemented it on a national basis.  You may also be interested to know that the G20 is looking at such a tax and the IMF is preparing a report.    

 The economic issues obviouly revolved around the current downturn.  The President was unrepentant about the EU’s policy of protecting the internal market and the euro and the pursuit of inflationary measures.  He was, on the other hand, clear that we all need to return to balanced budgets in order to pursue social goals such as sustainable pensions and improved health care.  While I would not necessarily support his contention that we need balanced budgets to carry out a social programme, the President does, at least, believe in the social dimension of Europe.  He was also clear that the EU needs to ensure that the new EU 20:20 strategy is successful, unlike the previous Lisbon Strategy which did not achieve anything very much.

 Climate change was the other big topic.  Since Copenhagen has not moved anything forward, Europe needs to keep on working at this agenda.  There were several calls, including one from EPLP Leader Glenis Willmott, for green, sustainable jobs which President Van Rompuy supported wholeheartedly.     

Herman Van Rompuy is an engaging speaker, though like many Europeans he lacks some of the rhetorical flourish so beloved by the British. He gave his presentation in English, he then answered questions in French and understood German as well as his native Dutch.  I wonder how many of us are fluent in at least four languages.  He also listens and made a promise that he would take seriously all the points raised at the Group meeting.

 It’s a real tragedy for us that both President Van Rompuy and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, our own Baroness Ashton, get such a bad press in Britain.  They are both excellent at their jobs.  One socialist MEP said today that Herman Van Rompuy is the right person in the right place.  The same is true of Cathy Ashton, and we would do well to take a leaf out of the books of many other countries in the European Union and support our national appointees.  

 And finally… it was good to see former Labour MEP Richard Corbett sitting at the top table with President Van Rompuy.  Richard is now head of the President’s Cabinet.  Congratulatons Richard.  You deserve your success and we all know you will do exceptional work  for Herman Van Rompuy and, by extension, for all of us involved in the EU.

Live blog from Labour Movement for Europe Fringe meeting

Labour Party

lme 001Climate change is the defining issue of the 21st century along with the battle against global poverty.  So it was with a mix of interest in the subject and sadness about the results of the European Elections last June that I went to the Labour Movement for Europe (LME) fringe meeting at the Royal Albion Hotel in Brighton this lunchtime.

Chaired by former MEP Richard Corbett, one of the select band who have kept the LME going over the years, we discussed the Copenhagen targets on climate change, including the contribution made by Gordon Brown. Glenys Kinnock spoke first, and was as passionate and lucid as ever; she is an excellent Minister for Europe respected by all of us.

It is regrettable that President Obama has shown very little commitment to climate change and  no firm commitment on levels of finance.  On the other hand the European Union has promised a  20 per cent cut in greenhouse emmisiions by 2020, and the  EU will up this if the Copenhagen discussions come up with higher targets.  The money for this must be new money – Gordon Brown in very clear on this.  Europe must also act together.

Glenis lme2 001Willmott was the second speaker with Richard Howitt with his purple tie taking the fouth slot.  Where else would you fiind a platform of two Richards and two Gleni(y)ses?  Is this a metaphor for Europe hedging its bets or maybe an example of European consensus?

Glenis told us how Labour has taken the lead on climate change  and has worked to persuade the other parties to come on board.  The Heads of EU Governents eventually agreed their targets, including 20 per cent of EU energy coming from renewable sources.  This was no thanks to the Tories who would almost certainly not have pursued the climate change agenda.  The Tories have, as we all know, left the mainstream EPP to join a bizarre group of right-wing misfits, including climate change deniers from the Czech Republic.  Tory MEPs do not support measures to deal with climate change when voting in the European Parliament.

And finally, Richard Howitt.  All of us were with Richard when he siad just how much he misses Richard Corbett in the European Parliament.  Along with Glenis Willmott, Richard paid tribute to Linda MacAvan who led for the Socialist Group on the climate change negotiations, making a real impact on our behalf in working to introduce the EU targets.  As the Labour MEP for the East of England, Richard explained how European money had hepled Lowestoft with its water shortage problems, showing how Europe has a concrete effect at local level.

As EPLP Spokesperson on Foreilme2 003gn Affairs, Richard explained how Foreign Affairs is becoming more and more about climate change.  Conflict now is as much about water as oil or security issues.  The European Global Climate Change Alliance working with developing countries shows the way things are moving.   The EU has come into its own over climate change.  Global problems require international solutions.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARY LABOUR PARTY AGM

Labour Party

The European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP), the Labour MEPs, held our AGM today. Unsurprsingly it was a subdued affair, with all of us feeling the loss of respected colleagues. All credit to Richard Corbett, Glyn Ford and Neena Gill who all came to the AGM, as they are entitled to do. I know I speak for all the EPLP when I wish them the very best and hope they are given useful and gainful employment.

We did, of course, have one newcomer, Derek Vaughan from Wales. Welcome to Derek – hope you enjoy your time in the European Parliament.

The EPLP Officers are:

Leader Glenis Willmott

Deputy Leader Claude Moraes

Chair Richard Howitt

Whip Brian Simpson

Good luck to all of them. We have not as yet made any decisions about Committee membership or posts in the European Parliament. This will happen when we go back to Brussels towards the end of June.

The meeting was addressed by the new Minister for Europe, Baroness Glenys Kinnock, a former colleague, and the first Europe Minister for a very long time who understands Europe and is qualified to do the Ministerial job.

Harriet Harman followed Glenys and received universal acclamation for her role in the European election campaign and the way she handled the sorry saga of MPs expenses in the media.

We, as Labour MEPs, now have to do the very best job we can in Europe and work hard to take the European message out to the country at large. This is where we start out fight to bring home the relevance and the benefits of Europe to the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. There is no doubt that the European cause has been put back some long way by the results announced on Sunday. But this is no time to give up, and I know all my EPLP colleagues will do their level best for Britain and for the Europe.

EUROPEAN ELECTION RESULTS

Labour Party

Since elections are the very stuff of democracy it ill behoves politicians to complain about them. However, I am angry that the fascist BNP have gained two seats in the European Parliament ousting my hard working, intellectual heavyweight colleague Richard Corbett in Yorks and Humber and preventing the election of the excellent Theresa Griffin in the North West. It is indeed a sad day for this country when racists gain elected office, and something on which we should all reflect.

In particular we need a considered analysis as to why the BNP have gained this foothold, and the steps we should take in future to regain the seats lost to them for the democratic political mainstream. Since I don’t believe the British people are basically racist and that the overwhelming majority of the voters are decent and fairminded, ousting the BNP by democratic means is definitely achievable. We should define our strategy sooner rather than later to prevent the racists and fascists gaining further momentum.

As well as Richard Corbett, sad farewells to Glyn Ford and Neena Gill. Both were good colleagues and will be sadly missed. It is unfortunate that elections are lost as well as won, and although all of us who put ourselves forward for elected office know that things will go down as well as up, it doesn’t make losing any easier. My sincere wishes for the future to Richard, Glyn and Neena. I’m sure all of us Labour MEPs fortunate enough to be returned to the European Parliament are thinking of you.

Just a final word about London. The Labour result in the capital was significantly better than most other parts of the country. My thanks to everyone who voted Labour, to Ken Clark, the London Labour Party Regional Director, all the staff at the London Labour Regional Office and to those many Labour Party members who worked so hard campaigning to return Labour MEPs. It may not have been a great result, but we can be proud in London that we bucked the national trend and maintained our share of the vote at virtually the same level as at the last European elections in 2004.

ASHLEY MOTE – CORRUPT AND BEYOND SALVATION

Labour Party

 

Ashley Mote at one of his many court appearances

Ashley Mote at one of his many court appearances

An elected UK Independence Party MEP, who is a proven liar, has been up to his old tricks again this week. Thankfully the honest majority of MEPs were not going to let him get away with it.

In an e-mail circulated to all MEPs Ashley Mote declared that: “the EU is irredeemably corrupt and beyond salvation.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Mote it seems he is the corrupt one, having been convicted of £65,000 worth of benefit fraud. Even his own defence barrister said: “The shame is complete”. This was quickly pointed out to him in an open email response to him from a parliament worker.

But the dishonest Mr. Mote, not shamed by stealing from hardworking taxpayers, showed his incredible arrogance by attacking this as: “An attempt to get me silenced which has utterly failed. Now the subject of an appeal. No surprise that you forgot to mention it”.

It was left to Labour MEP Richard Corbett to finish Mr. Mote’s career by reminding the whole parliament of THIS BBC story saying he has lost his final appeal and has been ordered to repay the stolen money. Perhaps Ashley could let us know how much money he has repaid so far?

I will be pleased to see Ashley Mote lose his seat in the coming elections. Even UKIP with all their “colourful” men (no women at the top of their lists) have kicked him out. We should change the law so that any MP, MEP or other elected official going to prison for offences like these automatically loses their seat.