SOUTH EAST MEP CONDEMNS THE NUMBER OF EU NATIONALS LEFT IN LEGAL LIMBO

Judith Bunting, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East of England, has condemned the news, revealed by official figures, that over one hundred thousand EU nationals living in the region have not been offered permanent residency in the UK.

The Liberal Democrats have accused the government of leaving local families from the EU in “legal limbo” and throwing people’s lives into uncertainty. Of the 234,150 EU nationals across the South East who have applied for permanent residency, only 124,560 (53%) have been offered settled status, which only gives the temporary right to stay in the UK.

Another 38,600 (16%) of EU nationals living in the South East have applied for permanent residency but are still waiting for a final decision to be made. 

The status of children is also part of the uncertainty, with 26,980 of the applications for settled status in the South East for those under the age of 18.

Judith says: “Too many EU nationals in the South East are deeply anxious about their right to stay. Many of them fill vital roles in our health service and our schools. It’s disgraceful for the Conservative government to leave them in legal limbo like this.

I have spoken to constituents who, three years on, are still waiting for their status to be clarified and have young children who will be significantly affected by this lack of clarity.

“Families and children must not be made to live under a cloud of uncertainty any longer.

“The Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit, protect the rights of EU citizens and build a brighter future for our country.”

MEP Life 19: history, diplomacy and Korean travels

This past week or so I have had a chance to immerse myself in Korean culture leading a multiparty learning visit to South Korea.

Like many people I am sure, I have read the headlines and am aware of ongoing conflicts and some of the news linked to the Korean Peninsular. Last year at Newbury Talks we had a fascinating talk from Alistair Coleman of BBC monitoring about the relationship between North Korea and the USA. What I learnt in the South was not what I expected to hear.

Before we get to international politics, I was intrigued to learn that South Korea has the fastest internet in the world. They already have 5G up and running and all the areas that I visited were very well connected to high speed mobile networks. The infrastructure is not perfect, there are cables all over the place in a way that the UK would not tolerate, but they still have achieved this very quickly and ahead of Europe.

Our learning tour started at Hanshin University, hearing about the relationship between South Korea and Japan. This is becoming a huge problem. The long running quest for compensation and acknowledgement for women, many now in their 80s and 90s, who were used as sex slaves during Japanese occupation before WWII when many were just children, has become bizarrely mixed up with a high tech trade war. ‘Out of the blue’ a few years ago, Japan slowed the supply of critical chemicals to South Korea’s semi conductor industry. There was no doubt in South Korea that the move was linked to the Supreme Court judgement in favour of reparation from Japan to the so-called ‘comfort women’. This is a full-on collision between high principle and modern trade, and I was sorry to hear that many of the women involved are dying before they have received any formal acknowledgement from Japan. The issue is still live because it is only with the rising gender equality in South Korea, in recent years, that the women have felt able to speak about their experiences.

The other massive issue for South Korea is of course the nuclear North. With China to the North of them and US in the South, they really are stuck in the middle with Kim. It was President Moon who instigated the first contact between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un in an attempt to break years of no progress, and the first surprise for me was to hear Donald Trump spoken of in appreciative terms. Trump’s interventions with Chairman Kim are valued and encouraged. Kim Jong-Un, likewise, is seen as a savvy leader who understands that, as a small country caught between US and China, it is the existence of his nuclear missiles that maintains his country’s existence.

The real surprise in all this was that at the same time as having the unsettling presence of live nuclear missiles just 40 miles from Seoul and being in a fairly impossible position at the crux of this diplomatic cleft stick, we met ministers and diplomats with clear ideas about how relations with the North may yet be eased through increased cultural, diplomatic ties and, eventually, perhaps, through shared industry and trade between the North and South.

South Korea takes inspiration from the EU as a peace project. In the Union they see former enemies working together to create a positive, caring, civil society – and a successful trading block. And they want the same for their future.

Meanwhile, back in the U.K., with an extension to Article 50 in the bag and Johnson’s deal mysteriously ‘paused’, preparations finally began for the General Election on December 12th.

This election offers the opportunity for everyone in the U.K. to have a say in how they wish the country to be run, our relationship with the European Union and our role in the wider world. Do we want to be a bit player on the sidelines or acting alongside our neighbours on the main stage where our renowned experience and expertise in foreign affairs can be – and has been for the past forty years – put to tremendous and lasting good use.

Please make sure that your friends and family are registered to vote. This is the link to share, if they are not: REGISTER

If you fancy getting involved, it’s best to get in touch with your local Remain team and ask how you can help. In every campaign there are tasks for all ages, all energies and many skills, from the muscle to put out those diamonds to telephone skills for the phone canvassing that will be a huge part of this winter election, as well as the usual leaflet stuffing and delivering and all important canvassing.

And remember to tell your friends: Brexit is Not Inevitable.

I look forward to seeing you in the South East in the weeks to come to #StopBrexit

Speech from Berlin Wall 30- on 6th November 2019

Hello. It is wonderful to be back in Berlin. I have always appreciated the warmth with which I have been greeted when visiting Germany – and it has been no different today. So, thank you for inviting me to join this conference – and thank you for coming this evening.

I am a newly elected Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament. Until last April, I was like you. Interested in politics, but not elected to any role, I really am a voter who got angry – and stood up and got involved.

In the European Parliament, I sit on two Committees that cover Culture and Education and also Industry, Research and Energy. What unites these two roles, for me, is Innovation.

That is why, today, I have decided to talk with you about the culture that I have seen and enjoyed here in Berlin and why I think that art, music and technical innovation are, here, are so comfortably wrapped up together. And why this really matters for Berlin, Germany and the rest of the world.

Thirty years ago, there was an energy then about Berlin that was unmissable, and remarkably it has not faded. Of course, people were innovating here, before the wall went up, before the wall came down, but those 28 years – those 10,316 days – that Berlin spent as divided city somehow changed the way Berliners think and the way they work. It brought art and science together in your innovations many, many years before the rest of Europe – or even the rest of the world – were even thinking about it.

I have a friend, and artist – a German artist who has lived in the U.K. for more than twenty years now – who, under threat of Brexit, has been bringing his art to Berlin. He is a sculptor, whose early series, Immaterial, uses granite and metal to crate a negative space – usually a human form, sitting and in conversation, so poised for action that you wonder if they will move when you look away – but essential when you enjoy his work, you are looking at the air at a space, at something which you cannot quite lay your hands on, which is… intangible, immaterial, inspirational.

My first time in Berlin was in 1991. I was filming for a science documentary series called Tomorrow’s World. It was on prime time tv, a science magazine show, and by then I had filmed all over the UK. I had filmed inventions elsewhere in Germany and here, there was different feel high tech – but with a twist that has to be put down to your own unique history.

On that trip I was privileged to visit Potsdamer Platz station while still closed and a part of Hitler’s bunker which had been caught between the walls. These visits were unsettling. In the bunker – stark murals, poised, stylish – but knowing what they represented, repellent. From there we went directly to the underground station – Potsdamer Platz – stark, dark and empty. A strange reflection of the inhibition of the communist era where the lack of imagination, the lack of freedom, left a powerful impression.

But I was in Berlin to discover innovation – architecture, design, Potsdamer Platz, VR – and remember this was 1991. VR was completely new. Very advanced, very exciting and – very Berlin. Art and tech coming together to build a better world.

Your engineers were similar, drawing on natural and environmental ideas, the curve of a leaf, the feathers of flight. I do not remember the names, now, but people building natural lines into urban design, an idea which is fashionable now – growing in Berlin as the wall came down.

On a more practical note, I spent time with an environmental community in Kreuzberg which practised environmental, sustainable living. – words which were not common in the nineties. Now, every time I see a green wall, I think of Kreuzberg. Berlin was working out how to cut water consumption and develop sustainable ways of living, while the rest of world was asleep on the job!

Just thinking – we filmed with the children in the Kreuzberg nursery flushing the loos, turning taps on and off and on and off again – they thought we were nuts – they would have been just 3 or 4 years old – which would make them about 34, 35 years old now. If you know anyone who was there – tell them the crazy film director says hi.

FUTURE SKILLS – so why does this all matter?

As an educationalist, I attend a lot of talks, discussions and meetings about what skills we need to address the future. The only thing that is clear is that cross fertilisation between disciplines is going to be critical. Also, empathy and diversity – places like Berlin and London which bring together people and ideas from across the world – are the places expected to thrive.

Innovation that brings together unlikely disciplines, unlikely aspects of art and science and music and tech and play – the kind of innovation that we see here in Berlin is going to be the bedrock of our new society. Innovation drives employment, drives taxes and services and so drives the good of society. It’s also fun, stimulating and makes life worthwhile.

Here, it seemed as if crazy, fantastic innovation sprang from 28 years of confinement and repression, even in the West Berlin, which was called ‘free’ and of course was essentially ‘free’ but enjoyed a strange crazy half life for 28 years – clear confinement for East Berlin, but also a strange semi confinement for the West. Although West Berlin was free, we outsiders often forget that the city was surrounded on all sides by East Germany and USSR.

People could leave and have safe passage, but in the course of everyday life, not many people would leave. You live where you live. And some life for west Berliners seems to have had a semi-caged quality. And I think this was important – certainly in the 90s it was as if ideas were falling like fountains. As if the pressure of confinement and restriction gave people time to think, pushed them to lift their eyes and their hearts beyond the day to day

Add to that the fact that the city is even now too small for culture to divide itself into narrow silos. The science, it seemed when I was ere, could not escape from art, and the art that I saw at the time acknowledged and embraced the influence of science. Where else would you see – as we did here in 2012 – opera performed in the turbine hall of a former power station. {Staatsoper Unter den Linden at the Berlin Power Station, Luigi Nono’s socialist opera Al Gran Sole Carico d’Amore.}

Even today, you have 3 opera houses, the world class BPO with our own SIMON Rattle and something like 20,000 artists, in a city that is less than half the size of London.

In some magical way your city and your institutions seem to be managing to build in that inspiration – so often when the big players get involved they squeeze the life out of things, but not here.

So, we see the collaboration between the Arts university and the Technical university which brings together artistic practice with scientific research in the Berlin Open Lab. We have the Fab Lab – a fantastic hub of the Berlin maker community, with spaces that young inventors and makers can work in and kit – 3D printers, laser cutters and the very latest design software for them to use.

When the wall came down in 1989: there was no internet. The work of Kreuzberg and the German Greens, notwithstanding, we had never heard the words ‘climate change’. For goodness sake, Ed Sheehan was not even been born!!

If I may take the liberty of echoing JFK’s speech from 1963: Berlin has been and, amazingly, still is a cradle of change.

HERE IN BERLIN – You HAVE lifted your eyes beyond the dangers of the past and towards the hopes of tomorrow.

And the fantastic culture of invention that goes on here has had and will have repercussions that reach beyond this city, Berlin, and maybe even beyond Germany.

This city is still a symbol of peace and the CHANGES and inventions WROUGHT HERE carry a greater weight

Wherever the next 30 years take us in terms of culture, art, music and innovation, I have no doubt that you, that Berlin will be leading the way

 

LibDems set out plan for December 9th General Election

This week, the Liberal Democrats proposed a Bill that should break the deadlock between Johnson’s government at the EU. 

The Bill amends the Fixed Term Parliament Act to hold a General Election on Monday December 9th.

It is well know that we believe a ‘People’s Vote’ is the best way forward to stop Brexit, but currently we have not been able to get enough support in parliament, from either  left or right, to make this happen. 

Boris Johnson has failed to meet his October 31st ‘do-or-die’ deadline to get out of the EU, and cannot get his Bill through Parliament, so we have been in gridlock.

This Bill succeeds in three direction at the same time: First it forces a General Election on December 9th. It also takes no-deal off the table, and removes from Boris Johnson any control of when the next General Election takes place. 

The Liberal Democrats want to stop Brexit, and have led the campaign for a People’s Vote. 

We have put down 17 amendments arguing for a PV and voted for PV amendments seven times. In contrast, 19 Labour MPs backed Boris Johnson’s Brexit Bill and Jeremy Corbyn refused to back our People’s Vote amendment last week.

There are millions of people in the UK who believe that we are better off inside the EU, and they deserve a better choice than two Brexiteers in Johnson and Corbyn.

We are ready to take our pro-European message to the country, where our policy will be that a Liberal Democrat majority government will revoke Article 50 to Stop Brexit.

A view from behind the Lens- feedback on the Apprentices’ trip 2019

Hello there, Felix here from Judith’s team.

As a lot of you will know, Judith recently hosted a group of 24 young apprentices from the South East of England. We assembled at King’s Cross St. Pancras International, meeting up with groups of apprentices who’d travelled from across the region, Kent, West Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Names were checked off lists, tickets were distributed and before we knew it, we were passing through the Channel Tunnel and on our way to Brussels!

On arrival we met Kate Coulson, our colleague who is a Parliamentary Assistant (APPA) working in Judith’s Brussels office. She handed over our tickets and kindly set us in the direction of the hostel, which gave us our first taste of the famed Brussels transport system! Comfortable as the trains were, the lack of signage was a little unsettling. Fortunately, our Chief of Staff, Gabrielle was on hand to save the day. Indeed, legend has it she has yet to encounter a language she cannot master, so it was in her impeccable French that we placed our trust, which ultimately got us to our accommodation in time to kick start our busy itinerary!

During the first evening we had a fantastic event in the MEP salon. Several of Judith’s fellow Liberal Democrat MEP’s took the time to discuss with our visitors, the EU and how central opportunities for young people are to it. Ben Butters, a representative from EUROCHAMBRES, highlighted just how globalised the workplace now is, and how the apprentices could best make use of that environment. Speaking personally, I couldn’t help but feel a little envious. To follow MEPs or Chief Executives online, or on TV, is one thing, but to actually have direct access to them and the opportunity to pick their brains, as our apprentices did afterwards, is absolutely brilliant! It was great to see them take up those opportunities. On an anecdotal level it was also fascinating to speak with the apprentices and hear about their experiences of apprenticeships, which were universally positive. All too often, university is simply presented as the default route, yet we know it’s not a “one size fits all” situation and these apprentices were evidence of that.

The second day started with the somewhat more relaxed option of the bus, which we took to the European Parliament Visitor’s Centre. Here we were greeted by an experienced civil servant from the European Commission, who gave us a fascinating talk on the EU. The EU as a topic has dominated the news agenda now for almost four years, but rarely, if ever, do you get the chance to hear about it and all of its institutions, conventions and processes explained with such clarity. Again, it was fantastic for us all to get such an insight. We were then given a tour of the building, including the hemicycle. Its modern and practical approach was extremely refreshing and is something our own parliament could take note from! Each seat had a set of buttons from which the sitting MEP could vote instead of having to pile out of the doors and into separate chambers, as they do in Westminster. There were also enough seats for all the members, a concept our own House of Commons has yet to grasp.

After that it was into the city centre for another Belgian delicacy: frites! an afternoon spent exploring the city by virtue of a scavengers hunt, before hopping back on the same Eurostar as a certain Liberal Democrat party grandee by the name of Vince Cable.

All in all, a terrific trip and hopefully a great opportunity for our young people to appreciate just how many wonderful opportunities are out there for them to make use of. I look forward to the next one!

Felix

 

MEP Life 16- Brussels, Swinson and a week of #StopBrexit visitors

Another busy and exciting week in Brussels. You’ll recall the week before last we had a round of Commissioner-Designate hearings, which provided us MEPs with a great opportunity to scrutinise what are essentially incoming European Ministers. I was able to attend more last week, including, Margrethe Vestager’s, whose proposed portfolio is “Europe fit for the digital age competition” and gave a good presentation. These are fantastically democratic procedures and help highlight any issues, such as financial irregularities or potential conflicts of interest. Three candidates have been rejected by the Parliament so far which means the whole commission goes back to Ursula Von Der Leyen’s drawing board. I doubt we will see a conclusion to the process now before December.

On Wednesday, my fellow MEPs and I welcomed party leader Jo Swinson to Brussels.  As the only mainstream anti-Brexit party, it’s fallen to the Lib Dems to protect the relationship that the UK has with our European allies. Amongst the back-turning, the shouting, and the insults, it is important that we treat our closest allies with the respect they deserve.

We also had an important debate on Brexit in Parliament that evening where both Junker and Barnier were in attendance. Frustratingly, though unsurprisingly, they both spoke of how the British Government’s latest proposals still do not satisfy their minimum requirements of preserving the integrity of the single market, protecting the all-Ireland economy and honouring the Good Friday Agreement. The truth is, the Brexit fantasy we were all promised means that all three of these things are impossible. That is the reality of the situation and that’s why it’s time to Stop Brexit altogether.

From a personal perspective, the debate was memorable for a whole different reason. Those of you who follow me on social media will know what I’m talking about!

We also had a fantastic meeting with our colleagues in Renew Europe. For those of you who aren’t aware, Renew Europe is the European Parliament group that Liberal Democrat MEPs sit in. There’s 108 of us all together and we’re united in our belief in the provision of sound social values within a live and let live society. These friends are indispensable allies for us at the moment in our campaign to bring an end to this Brexit nightmare.

On Thursday, Catherine Bearder and I were  delighted to welcome Niamh O’Connell to Brussels. Niamh lives in Reading where we met at Reading Pride. She also gave a fantastic speech last month at conference, despite being just 13 years-old! Niamh is passionate about making sure that, amongst all the Brexit noise, the voices of young people are still heard. After all, it’s their future we’re messing around with. It makes me truly happy to see more and more young people like Niamh engaged with politics and, better yet, not afraid to show it.

My team and I have also been busy putting in the final preparations on our apprentices’ trip to Brussels next week! We’ve got over 20 young and enthusiastic apprentices from all over the South East joining us for two days. More information to come!

 

MEP hits back after fiery exchange in European Parliament

On Thursday, during a debate about Brexit in the European Parliament, Nigel Farage got up and dusted off a routine with which we’ve all become painfully familiar.

“You’re not looking for solutions”, shouted the man who knows nothing but the politics of protest. “We are not dealing with people acting in good faith”, said perhaps the biggest con man of them all. To top it all off, just one day after Leave.EU’s xenophobic tweet in which Angela Merkel was called a “kraut”, Farage exclaimed, proudly, that, “we will never accept a German chancellor attempting to annex part of our nation.”

Familiar as we are with this sort of rhetoric, I could not sit back and watch him spew lie after lie, slogan after slogan, insulting our closest allies while doing so. So, in my own speech that immediately followed his, requested simply that he account for the lies, the inaccuracies and the empty promises that were made during the 2016 referendum. To explain to the public that he had misled them, and that the Brexit fantasy that he had promised simply does not exist. His response? As predictable as ever.

I was a “patronising, stuck up snob”, and how dare I claim that the people were misled? I’ll be honest, I initially took it as a compliment. Anytime you elicit such a strong reaction from someone like him – and this was a incredibly, some might say disproportionally, strong reaction, you must be doing something right. But the comment reveals a level of hypocrisy that has sadly become commonplace amongst the likes of Farage, and one that has distorted public debate.

Sunday School at Church of Christ Carpenter, Dogsthorpe, Peterborough (with my teddy)

My background is very ordinary. I grew up in Dogsthorpe, Peterborough. It would be wrong to say it was a deprived area, it was great, but Dogsthorpe is far from posh. For school, after attending Newark Hill Primary, I went to Peterborough County School for Girls, a state grammar which closed soon after I left in 1979. In its place there is now sheltered housing.

After school, I make no secret about the fact that I attended Cambridge University. In fact, I was one of the first students from our school for 25 years to go to Cambridge, and it happened because Fitzwilliam college was, that year, one of the first all-male Cambridge colleges to admit female undergraduates. The college has a fantastic tradition of championing children from areas of society often underrepresented at the university, and it was this tradition, along with my own hard work and my school’s support, that enabled me to go there. I now campaign to extend opportunities in education because I want others to enjoy the choices that good schooling in Peterborough gave me.

Since those days, I have been a science journalist and produced television documentaries, aiming to use TV as a way to make the sciences more accessible for people of all ages. IN a bit of a twist, my most recent show is Magic Hands, a children’s programme that animates songs and poetry and presents it in British Sign Language (BSL). Our third series, my last before becoming an MEP, aired this year and I couldn’t be more proud of the steps we’ve taken to engage the deaf community and spread awareness of BSL among the hearing community.

By contrast with all this, Farage attended Dulwich College, a prestigious independent boarding school in London that charges as much as £14,782 per pupil, per term. He would then, as we know, bypass university, and head straight for the City where he became a commodities trader. I don’t hold any of this against him, it’s a free country, but it’s not exactly Che Guevara, is it, Nigel?

What is worrying is some if Farage’s financial activities. It was only this summer that EU Integrity Watch revealed that he received £450,000 in the year following the referendum from Arron Banks. This money allegedly helped Farage rent a Chelsea home, to the tune of £13,000 per month, as well pay for a Land Rover Discovery and a personal driver.

So, when it comes to being called stuck up and labelled a snob by a man whose life has been characterised by privilege and affluence, I’m afraid I cannot hold back. What is unfolding before is not a Brexit for the people, rather one for the elite, engineered by the elite. It’s not the family struggling to pay its electricity bills, or the disabled OAP at the mercy of NHS waiting times, who will benefit. It is people like Farage, Rees-Mogg and their cronies, with investments safely stashed away in the tax havens of the Cayman Islands, or even in the USA, that will reap the rewards of a plunging pound and a No-Deal Brexit Britain in which regulations, protections and public services are all slashed.

Yesterday I spoke with unapologetic honesty. Yes, we were lied to, and yes, that means that we didn’t know what we were voting for. These are the facts. There will be no £350m per week for the NHS, we will not sign the “easiest trade deal in human history” with the EU and we are not facing an unprecedented era of economic prosperity. That the public was led to believe these lies is a tragedy. That Farage continues to peddle them is a disgrace.

The future we face, if Farage, Johnson and his gang of would-be Brexit martyrs have their way, is we now know without a doubt to be stark: medicine shortages, a plummeting pound, likely civil unrest and the break-up of the United Kingdom. I don’t remember seeing any of these things on the side of a bus. Do you?

No doubt Farage feels he has the right to stand up and label me patronising and stuck up because I dare to hold and voice my opinions, despite my ordinary background. He may even feel justified in doing so. But on the accusation of snobbery, Farage – Old Alleynian, former City trader and friend of billionaire presidents – has no right, no grounds and frankly no shame.

How dare I, Mr Farage? How dare you.

Liberal Democrat South East MEP condemns Leave.EU’s xenophobic tweet

Judith Bunting MEP has responded to the Pro-Brexit group’s controversial tweet, in which German Chancellor Merkel was labelled a ‘kraut’. Aaron Banks, the organisation’s co-founder, has today apologised, following widespread backlash.

Judith says: “Like many others, I was shocked, saddened and slightly sickened when I saw Leave.EU’s xenophobic tweet including a photo of Germany’s Chancellor Merkel. Our country is divided, that’s for sure, but for a political organisation to post such nationalistic propaganda shames us all.

“This is not a version of the UK that I recognise, nor is it the one that we should strive to be. Whatever happens on October 31st, and I certainly hope we Remain, we will need our closest allies more than ever. Now is the time to be building bridges and strengthening ties, not reverting to slogans and insults.

“Leave.EU’s apology is welcome, but as a country we urgently need to bring an end to the toxic political rhetoric that’s taken over. That is why we need a People’s Vote to give the 46 million+ voters a chance to decide between Johnson’s deal and remaining in the EU.”

MEP Life 15- Interviews, Interrogations and a week of #Education

Last week the Committees met to interview the incoming Commissioner Designates (effectively European Ministers), senior politicians with one put forward by each member state, to lead work in a particular policy area. The people being interviewed will only get the job IF they pass the scrutiny of the Parliament. This is a process designed to shed light on any issues that might cause someone to not be right for a role; whether that is probity, confidence or competence. What a refreshing approach to representation. . Wouldn’t it be great for parliament to have this degree of say-so when Ministers are chosen for the UK cabinet?  
 
The most notable hearing was that of the new Commissioner position, the Commissioner Designate for the “European way of life”.   

I attended this with my colleagues from the Culture and Education Committee, and also members from the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, and had the opportunity to ask a question. I had planned to raise the questions of education with him, as his role carries responsibility for life long learning, but with many others of the room I wanted to express my disquiet at the title of this new role. To me, there isn’t one “European Way of Life” and I was pleased to receive reassurance that cultural diversity will be protected – the Italian way of life, the Greek way of life, the French and German ways of life, and, of course, the British way of life all will be protected and promoted by Schinas, in this role. The motto of the EU is ‘United in Diversity’ and this is where the strength of the Union lies

Away from my committee work, as one of the delegates for The Korean peninsula, I met KIM Hyoung-zhin, the Ambassador for the Republic of Korea to the European Union. I look forward to continuing our conversation next week during the Delegation meetings. 
 
Thursday was National Poetry day, always a pleasure, and I was pleased to be asked to do a #StopBrexit film to tie in with this. It’s important, sometimes, to take a pause in the frenetic pressure cooker world to recognise how important Culture is in terms of providing an outlet for people to let out their feelings, consider different points of view and enjoy what we share in common. 
 
Back in the UK, on Friday night I was pleased to join Lib Dem Councillors and members at an event in Kidlington, and had a chance to publicly welcome the news that the British Prime Minister plans to abide by the law – one of the strangest sentences I have ever had to say or write! Nonetheless, I do welcome the news that if no agreement has been made between the UK and the EU about Brexit, and if it has not passed in Westminster, that Boris Johnson has committed to requesting an extension to the Article 50 deadline. In September, of course, the European Parliament voted in favour of granting that extension should it be requested. You can hear my speech about the vote here; 
 
This week ahead, my team is preparing for the visit of the group of more than twenty apprentices to visit the Parliament in Brussels along with visitors from across the #StopBrexit. More news about that next week.  

Stay safe, Judith 

MEP Life 14: Committees, Supreme Decisions and a Presidency

This week we were based in Brussels! On Monday I attended two exhibitions seeking to raise awareness of illegal wildlife trading. The EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking has been in place since 2016 and has significantly helped strengthen the EU’s role in the global fight against illegal trading. During the last EU Parliament the campaign in the EU has been led by Catherine Bearder, also an MEP for the South East. 

On Tuesday I was with the Culture and Education (CULT) committee, where we were briefed about the levels of language competence across EU member states. Sadly, the UK is at the bottom of a table listing competency levels for first foreign languages, with just 2% of Brits reaching an ‘intermediate’ level of any foreign language. Learning a foreign language when young is a fantastic way to stretch the brain and it is vital that our schools do more to encourage more children to pursue language lessons.

Like many of you, I watched eagerly as the Supreme Court announced its ruling. In such unnerving times, it was encouraging to see the right of our elected MPs and British Law be reinstated. Praise should also be given to those have been working tirelessly, and thanklessly, to ensure the case was given a proper hearing. Even if they are not your preferred party, never forget that WE elect UK MPs.

The events of the following day were less than encouraging. The behaviour of Prime Minister Johnson was reprehensible. This country is in dire need of unifying and healing, yet his harmful and dangerous rhetoric only deepens divisions. He has, time and time again, showed his disdain for the people of the UK and our democratic principles. It’s therefore vital that opposition parties including the Liberal Democrats do all they can to stop the government from crashing this country out with a disastrous No-Deal.   

On Wednesday I was working with the Industry, Research and Energy committee (ITRE) discussing the significant progress that the EU has made in renewable energy, with the share of renewables in the generation of electricity in the EU doubling between 2005 and 2017. Later on, we celebrated last years’ Creative Copyright Directive, #yes2copyright, one of the great triumphs of the last European Parliament. The directive will help ensure that creative professionals across the EU in a variety of industries are paid fairly for their work. It reminded me of the #SelfieLeave campaign that I spoke about at conference. I hope the shared parental leave will enjoy the same outcome as the copyright directive.  Except, of course, the Creative protection will be lost if we ever leave the EU. 

The week ended with a Reunion as I returned to my old Cambridge college, Fitzwilliam. I was one of the first women ever admitted to the college when it went co-educational in 1979. This milestone has been marked by a number of interviews with female alumni on the college website to mark 40 years of women at Fitz! It was wonderful to catch up with some familiar faces, and of course some new ones. 

I am delighted to announce that this weekend I was also appointed President of the Fitzwilliam Society. Fitz has had a strong tradition of championing students from disadvantaged backgrounds, right since its beginnings in 1869, and that’s exactly the kind of work I hope to encourage in my new capacity as spokesperson for education in Europe. 

Next week I will be back in Brussels Interviewing the new round of commissioners, if you would like to pass on your questions and opinions please do!