So much seems to have happened in the last week! I will do my best to do it justice!
On Monday I was appalled to watch the racist taunts in the football stadium at the game between England and Bulgaria. I have supported football as a football-Mum and local activist for community sports and there is NO place for racism on the pitch. I was glad to be joined by my fellow MEPs in a letter which I sent to the President of UEFA denouncing the behaviour of those fans and calling on him to do better to create a zero tolerance environment for this behaviour. Copy of letter to UEFA president 161019
On Tuesday, I spoke at a rare diseases conference in London, invited by the Genetic Alliance. The theme was “connecting communities” and I was glad to offer advice about how charities and activists can connect and communicate with the media, through documentaries as well as news. It was interesting to sit on a cooperative panel with Fiona Fox, Head of the Science Media Centre.
It was swiftly off to Brussels, thereafter, for the big event of the week!
This was the week when a big group of Apprentices from the South and East of England came to visit the European Parliament to get a sense of how it works and find out more about Apprentice opportunities in Europe.
The trip opened with a reception which became a brilliant evening when the 40 or so Apprentices arrived. I was joined by the Chair of the Liberal Democrats in Europe; George Cunningham, Luisa Nethsinga MEP and Ben Butters Deputy President of EUROCHAMBRES, who works with many employers in Europe who take apprentices under their winding.
My thanks to all speakers, to my team for organising, to all employers who supported their apprentices to come on this trip and to the young people for visiting. It was really great to meet you all and hear about what you are doing . I wish you all the very best of luck for the future.
Day 2 of the trip took the apprentices behind the scenes to find it a little about how the Parliament works and how the EP connects with the Commission and the Council or Leaders, as well as learning more about what an MEP does in their #MEPLife – the sort of thing I write about in these blogs, here, to share what goes on in Brussels and de-mystify the EU. The lack of information about what goes on over the years is part of what has led to so many misconceptions about the EU. In the past we have had to rely on mainstream media which, before Brexit, was not interested – mainly because what goes on is calm, reasonable and extraordinarily democratic. Each step of the EU model is subject to intense and sometimes frustratingly slow scrutiny by those elected – none of which makes for a good headline!
News around Brexit changed from day to day through the week – would Johnson present a viable deal, would the Eu accept it, what was in it the new deal and is it good for the UK – and all our MEPs were being called on by the media. For me that meant Radio Kent, a discussion on EuroNews with Claire Fox (sister of the (if only) more famous Fiona) and two appearances on Sky – where I think I got my message out pretty clearly 😉
The bottom line is that although Johnson has done something clever with the Northern Ireland border, the proposed deal opens the door for a total No Deal Br it for the rest of the country. Most people agree that this deal is worse for the UK than May’s deal. We have to encourage our friends and MPs at home not to just seize it ‘to get the thing done’. We cannot allow exasperation to take our attention away from the future of the UK. This is a lousy deal for Britain. At the very least we need a referendum, a people’s vote, on the Johnson Deal to find out what the country thinks now that we have actual information in front of us.
We also need to think about the young people who would have to live with any Brexit for a lot longer than me and my friends. Like most of the apprentices who came to visit, this week, since 2016 more than 1.6m youngsters have come to voting age. They deserve a vote on their future.
On Saturday supporters of a People’s Vote marched in London. The turn out was extraordinary, much bigger than previous marches, but once again, a very varied crowd. I was marching with the Lib Dems, of course, but huge numbers of people who think Brexit is bad for Britain are non-aligned. Some campaign through the cross-party and no-party Grassroots groups who are pro Europe such as Peoples Vote and affiliated pro European groups from across the Country. Often with home-made signs; Humorous and creative. They don’t care about party politics, they just know that Brexit will hurt our children and our children’s children.
When the Letwin amendment passed and so-called Super Saturday was thwarted the shout that went up in Parliament Square could be heard in the Houses of Parliament itself. Judith Letwin Amendment response
I do not pretend to know what will happen over the next few days, but it was clear that the estimated million – yes a million- protestors made their views very clear on Saturday.
So my message to you is stay strong and stay calm. We cannot let Johnson bounce the country into Brexit. He has his deal on the table.
Now we need a chance to vote on it for ourselves.