MEP Life 18- Strasbourg and the Commons vote on Withdrawal Act Bill (WAB)

Hello and welcome to MEP Life 18! After the joy of the People’s Vote march, I was off to Strasbourg on Monday for the monthly plenary session, where all MEPs come together to determine Parliament’s position on political issues and vote on the legislative work done in committees.

The debates and votes can be found here, but the only certainty with the current uncertain situation is, of course, further uncertainty- and this week was more of the same.

Brexit had been on the agenda for the October session in Strasbourg for weeks, but with Johnson trying to force his Withdrawal Act Bill (WAB) through the UK parliament and no agreement in Westminster, there was nothing for the European Parliament to vote on.

Instead, on Monday evening I joined a meeting of the European Parliament Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) for an update from Michel Barnier on the Brexit state of play. As the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator, Barnier was well placed to address all MEPs about how Europe is being careful, and respectful of the British government’s decision-making process. Despite the UK stalemate Barnier was clear that is was still for the UK to decide what direction it should take. The EU was not going to force an extension on us while none was required.

Our incredible MEP colleagues who support our remain cause, have been interested in hearing that the mood in the UK is changing and why this makes it critical to go back to the electorate for the People’s Vote. They are particularly sympathetic to the young people who have passed voting age since 2016, who most would agree deserve a vote on their own future.

On Tuesday evening, while Westminster was voting on Johnson’s deal and proposed timetable for putting the Bill through the House of Commons, we waited anxiously in a Renew Europe meeting.

In the first vote, Parliament passed the second reading of the WAB. This made me nervous, I will admit, but is does not mean that Westminster approves a Bill, Simply that MPs agree to send it the ‘Committee Phase’ which is where scrutiny of the document takes place.

When Parliament voted against the ludicrously short timetable for scrutiny, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. Johnson can say what he wants, but his proposal that the WAB and associated legislation-should be pushed through three readings and the Committee phase in 3 days, was nothing but the Government trying to steamroll it through without proper scrutiny and with no economic impact assessment report. The British public deserves so much better than to be treated with such contempt.

Interestingly at this point- with an opportunity for adequate examination agreed- Johnson ‘paused’ the WAB and returned to his pitch for a General Election. Could you believe it? One cannot help wonder what it is about scrutiny of the bill that scares him so much?

We are now heading for an election on December 12th. The Liberal Democrat proposal of December 9th was tied to a requirement that the EU needed to have agreed a 3 month extension before this could happen, to forestall an accidental no deal Brexit. We were also attempting to ensure that students are included in this election. Many students are registered to vote at their University digs, rather than their home address – funnily enough this doesn’t worry the Conservatives at all!

So, where are we now? Europe has formally granted the 3 month extension and we have an election on December 12th 2019.

If you care about staying in Europe please seek out your local Liberal Democrat Team- or any Remain candidate from any party- and offer to lend a hand. In any election campaign there are a multitude of tasks to be done from hammering post for signs, to delivering leaflets, to making phonecalls and fundraising. Help with all of these is always welcome!

If you want to get involved then the best advice is find the WEBSITE of your nearest Liberal Democrat office and give them a call!

Finally – ARE YOU REGISTERED TO VOTE?

In my first election as candidate, in 2015, on polling day I spoke with the manager and chief assistant in my local Carphone Warehouse. They were both intelligent and capable, but neither knew that to vote you MUST be registered before Election Day.

Is everyone that you know registered to Vote? the cut off date is; NOVEMBER 26th!

It takes 5 mins. You need your national insurance number.

This election is about their future, it is about YOUR future, please share the information and these links to everyone you think might need them.

Help us make sure that those who care about Europe are Registered to Vote! 

MEP Life 17- Parliament, Protests and the Apprentices’ visit to Brussels!

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.

#StopBrexit

March for Democracy, a view from the crowd

Chris here from Judith’s team writing again. A month ago, I reported from Reading Pride, and this weekend we went a little bit westward to the site of the First and the Second Battles of Newbury. We marched from Wash Common where scenes from nearly 400 years ago played a pivotal role in what came to shape democracy as we know it today. Dave Stubbs from Newbury held a talk on the English Civil War saying;  

King Charles I, who became king in 1625, believed he had the ‘divine right’ to rule, and parliament had very limited power back then compared to now. Parliament conflicted heavily with the king on issues such as his choice of political advisors, increasing taxes for expensive foreign wars and the religious influence his French Catholic wife held over English customs. In 1629, Charles got fed up of parliament holding him to account and simply shut it down. He then went on to rule alone for eleven years. In 1640, he recalled MPs to help raise more money to fight a rebellion in Scotland, but after only three weeks, he prorogued them again. A few months later, he decided he needed them again and recalled them. However, this time, MPs demanded concessions, such as not proroguing parliament unless the MPs themselves agreed to it.  

Further war from 1642-45 ended with parliament victorious against the king. Charles I was put on trial, where the following indictment was read against him: that the king “…for the protecting of himself and his adherents … hath traitorously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament, and the people therein represented,” and that “against the public interest, common right, liberty, justice, and peace of the people of this nation.”

Fast forward to 2019, and we found ourselves in an uncomfortably familiar situation. Marching from Wash Common through the centre of Newbury, we protested the lack of democracy in the government’s decision to prorogue parliament. Local members, including Judith, spoke very passionately about the importance of having their parliamentary representatives able to sit in the House of Commons and speak on their behalf. It was good to see such non-partisan co-operation as this is definitely the way forward if we want to #StopBrexit. 

We should be in the Commons, not at Conference!

Liberal Democrat members have passed an emergency motion calling on the Conservative Government to recall Parliament immediately so that it can sit until Article 50 is extended.

The motion demands that Boris Johnson asks the Queen to revoke the prorogation order, and states that future decisions about when Parliament sits should be handed to MPs.

It also renews the Liberal Democrats’ campaign for proportional representation in elections and an elected House of Lords. 

Judith Speaking at Education Debate

Judith Bunting said: “We need a new government and a new voting system. It is time to bring in proportional representation to represent properly the views of the British people. 

We have had a great conference, this year, but it is crazy for MPs of all parties to be expending energy in Conference while Westminster sits empty, in the silence of prorogation.”

In the debate, Liberal Democrat members reaffirmed their commitment to a package of reforms that would make the Government more accountable. These include giving a House Business Committee control of the Order Paper and ensuring a new Prime Minister has to win a vote of confidence before they take office.

Speaking after the motion was passed, Liberal Democrat Stop Brexit Spokesman Tom Brake MP said:

“Boris Johnson has shut down democracy and silenced people’s voices in the middle of the biggest crisis in recent history.

“MPs should be in Parliament, holding the Tory Government to account, and stopping them from trying to force the country into a disastrous no-deal Brexit. It is absurd that it may take a Supreme Court ruling to allow MPs to do their job.

“An unelected Prime Minister, with no majority, cannot be allowed to trample over our democracy. That is why Liberal Democrats have passed this motion, calling for parliament to be immediately recalled. Liberal Democrats will continue to stand up for the people.”

#StopBrexit- the view from College Green on Wednesday

London on Wednesday; when Boris Johnson announced he was suspending Parliament, was extraordinary. Word spread on social media that people were gathering on College Green at 5:30 but we never imagined the numbers that would gather.

Arriving with my London Lib Dem colleagues, MEPs Dinesh Dhamija, Luisa Porritt and Irina von Wiese (pictured above), it was great to see flags and banners of all parties (except for Conservative) and none. The European Movement was well represented. It was great to see familiar faces from Berkshire for Europe underneath some of the flags.

At College Green, we heard from Green Remainers, Labour Remainers and I took to the stage myself to make the point that Johnson cannot be allowed to stifle the words of the people, the will of the people. He has suspended Parliament in a childish and cowardly fashion to close down debate among our MPs. But THEY represent US. WE voted for THEM. An attack on Parliament is an attack on the people. When Johnson shuts down Parliament, he shuts down the people.

This is not a Britain that I recognise.

The crowd, however, was fantastic. Varied in age, style and political persuasion, but everyone of one mind that we must defend British democracy.

This was a spontaneous Remain Alliance of thousands, marching together from College Green to Parliament Square then Downing Street. Then someone – inspired – called “Take it to the bridge” and the evening with finished with a final surge past the Whitehall War Memorial and on to Westminster Bridge.

The British people cannot let rich rogues like Johnson trash the UK for the sake of ego and American investments.

Stick with us, we can and will #StopBrexit.

Judith Bunting MEP slams Johnson’s move to stifle the voice of the people as ‘childish and cowardly’.

South East reels as Boris Johnson suspends Parliament.

Responding to the reports that the Government is expected to ask the Queen to suspend Parliament from mid-September, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East, Judith Bunting said:

“Shutting down Parliament is a childish act of cowardice on the part of Boris Johnson.

“He knows the people would not choose a No Deal and that their elected representatives will not allow him to wreak such damage on the country. He is trying to stifle their voices.

“By suspending Parliament to force through a No Deal, Johnson, Cummings and the Government remove the voice of the people at the most important time. It is a dangerous and unacceptable course of action which all Liberal Democrats strongly oppose.

“MPs from all parties united earlier this week to avert a No Deal Brexit and to prevent an anti-democratic shut down of Parliament.

No one voted for a No Deal Brexit The dive toward No Deal is being driven by foreign interests and selfish egos who put their own investments and interests ahead of the country they are supposed to represent. Leave voters who I meet are starting to feel very uncomfortable with the way things are going. No Deal would be a catastrophe for our country and lead to recession and levels of unemployment not see in modern times.

The Government itself has admitted that it would cause shortages in medicines and food.

“The Liberal Democrats continue to work cross-party to prevent No Deal, and to fight to #StopBrexit altogether.”

 



Reading Festival

Love music? Brexit will be a lose-lose for British bands, artists & festivals. Musicians need free movement rights & full Single Market access
especially on tour.

Don’t Let Brexit Steal Your Future.

This weekend, was enormous fun at Reading festival talking with festival goers with their whole life ahead of them to find out what they think about Europe and Brexit.

What a complete pleasure. We met lively, positive kids who are completely clear: They want to Stop Brexit.

Everyone we spoke with who was over 18 was already registered to vote. Those I met who are 16 or 17 are looking forward to the opportunity to do so. One young woman, indeed, asked if we would kindly hold off any general election until after September 9th so that she can take part.
Jo, Jeremy, Johnson … if you wouldn’t mind? 

It was terrific to meet Femi from Our Future Our Choice. If you haven’t seen his videos about Europe yet, try this – one of my favourites.

This is cross-party campaigning, organised by  #OpenBritain and #BerkshireforEurope, and it is going on all weekend – Great work, guys! Saturday, I was with Rachel Eden from Reading’s Labour Council and Adrian Betteridge, one of the campaign organisers, who until recently was a convinced Conservative. I am pleased to report that Adrian has seen the light and is now a signed up Liberal Democrat. Welcome, Adrian. It is great to have you on board.

If you would like to join us – sign up here. 

Finally, thank you to EVERYONE who stopped to talk to us and tell us what you think. And to everyone who took a sticker or signed the petition to help spread the message:

#StopBrexit

Don’t Let Brexit Steal Your Future!    

New Liberal Democrat Leader Announced

Jo Swinson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Today we announced Jo Swinson as the first female leader of the Liberal Democrats. Her acceptance speech was both powerful and motivating, reminding us that Liberalism is alive and thriving and the UK’s future lies in the European Union.  

Judith was at the announcement in London today and comments that “Jo Swinson gave a terrific speech. She will make a fantastic leader and is clearly ready to lead the party to a strong and successful future. Not only is Jo now the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, but she is ready to lead our country as a future Prime Minster of a fine and liberal Britain.”

Our first priority must be, of course, stopping Brexit, and as our new leader, Jo has vowed that this is at the top of her agenda. Brexit in any form is a disaster for our country and we’ll do everything in our power to stop it. Our country needs a strong, liberal movement more than ever, and that is what we are need to build together. 

Judith Bunting continued, “We have a lot to thank Vince Cable for. His ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ leadership steered the Liberal Democrats to many excellent council victories across the country and won 16 MEP seats in Europe. Under Jo, we will take forward the Stop Brexit movement until we win a People’s Vote.”

Sentiment, stunts and a serious point made in Strasbourg

The European Parliament in Strasbourg re-opened today. It was a truly emotional and historic occasion. The European elections were not supposed to happen, and we now have 16 Liberal Democrat MEPS taking their seats.

At the opening session, all 16 of us took the opportunity to make our political point, wearing bright ‘Stop Brexit’ t-shirts as we walked into the huge, impressive Plenary Chamber. This is serious. Now we have your attention –  we have got to #StopBrexit. We should not plough on with a bad idea simply to try and save the Conservative party. Brexit is not good for Britain, not good for jobs, not good for our children, and not good for our future.

In the Chamber, we stood for the EU’s anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, which was accompanied by a saxophone quartet. This was a wonderful moment, and it is worth considering the lyrics of this piece:

Your magic binds again
What convention strictly divides. 
All people become brothers,
Where your gentle wing abides.

Britain belongs in a cooperative union with our nearest neighbours. For the sake of peace, security, trade, jobs and a positive future for our children. If you agree, however you have voted in the past, you are welcome to join our campaign to keep Britain in Europe.

Local traders say Brexit is bad for business. Survey Results.

Version 2

  • “After the referendum result we spent six months absorbing cost increases. Since January we have had no choice but to pass these increases on to our customers”.Jon Gage, Rivar Sand and Gravel (see photo).

Two thirds of local traders and service providers who took part in West Berks Business Brexit Survey survey think their business is going to be hurt when we leave the EU and the single market.

The consultation was part of a national exercise for small businesses. Newbury and West Berks Liberal Democrats wanted to make sure that the views of our local traders and employers were properly represented in the national results. The consultation ran online from 19th October to 14th December 2016.

  • “If tariffs are introduced for British businesses trading with the EU,
    the effect on my business will be catastrophic!”

The news is that two thirds of local traders and service providers who took part in the survey think their business is going to be hurt when we leave the EU and the single market. Many report that their costs have gone up already and that they have no choice to but to pass these onto their customers through increased prices.

  • EU funding supports nearly 45% of the post 16 funding.
    There is
    nothing in the plans to show how this loss will be addressed.”  

The Liberal Democrats continue to believe that Britain is better off in Europe, but our immediate priority is to make sure small local businesses do not pay the price of a rushed withdrawal.

The results of the survey are being used to draw up a list of negotiating requirements, which the Liberal Democrats will call on the Government to achieve.

This report was first published in 2017. See the report from the Newbury Weekly News, here:
https://www.newburytoday.co.uk/news/home/20695/west-berkshire-business-bosses-reveal-fears-for-the-future-in-brexit-survey.html

RESULTS

Q: Do you expect Brexit to have a positive or negative impact on your business?

q1-numbers

q1-graph
66% of people who responded expect Brexit to have negative impact on their business

Q: Do you export to the EU?

q3-numbers

q3-graph
27.08% say they export to the EU

Q: Do you import products or materials from the EU?

q4-numbers

q4-graph
47.92% import products or materials from the EU

Q: Do you have suppliers or business partners who do business with EU countries?

q5-numbers

q5-graph
81.25% of respondents have suppliers or business partners who do business with EU countries

More comments from the survey responses will follow
in separate posts, published in the next few days.