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

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.

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!

 

MEP Life 13- Debates, Dogs and Demonstrations

Last week, it was back to Strasbourg last week for the big debate on the resolution on the state of play of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU

Debate was led by Juncker and Barnier, with Guy Verhofstadt taking a leading role as the Chair of the Brexit Steering Group. That said, this was a tough vote for me, because the resolution outlines how the EU would like to move ahead with the Withdrawal Bill, something that I am at pains to resist. However, I still voted to support the bill, because of clause 25, the most important and encouraging part of the resolution, which commits the European Parliament to agree to any request for an extension to Article 50 for the purpose of a People’s Vote, to revoke Article 50, or for a general election.

During the debate I spoke about why this extension could be so important. You can watch my speech here. The three years between 2016 and today may mean little to people in their middle years but, since 2016, 1.4 million young people have come of age and, as a matter of principal, I believe that we must allow the young voices of 2019 to be heard in a vote. The fact that 74% of these youngsters are expected to support us remaining as part of the EU, makes the way that we are plunging towards a no deal Brexit more fundamentally unfair than ever, and also possibly explains why those who support Leaving the EU are so reluctant to support a People’s Vote.

Later in the week, I had the privilege to speak in the plenary debate on the Fight Against Cancer alongside a number of colleagues from Renew Europe. Plenary debates seek to clarify the points of focus for the incoming EU President and the focus of my speech was on resourcing research in bioinformatics, biomedicine and AI so that our fight against cancer has the best chance of success.

Those who are eagle eyed among you may have noticed that on Friday I was interviewed by the James Whale on by Talk Radio, a somewhat digressive interview where he asked about Johnson, Bollocks and, errr, dogs … rather than more serious points like of the lack of any specific proposals from the British Government to solve the Irish border conundrum. Hey, ho. At least, I managed to sneak in the fact that Farage did not win a 5th Brexit MEP in the South East of England, his own back yard. I would also like to reiterate that I really do like dogs.

The weekend saw action with Berkshire for Europe in Newbury in the form of a cross party march from Wash Common through town to Victoria Park. It was a show of unity with speakers from many backgrounds, time to coincide with the 376th anniversary of the first Battle of Newbury! I was happy to be there, with my Stop Brexit T-shirt, loud and proud.

I went on to join the Wokingham team after a brilliant day of action. If, when, there is a general election, we really do have a chance to finally unseat John Redwood. If you want to help out locally then please give them a call!

MEP Life 11- Parliament, Police and Proroguing

BRUSSELS

Hello to you all, as you may have noticed, MEPs were back at work in Brussels, last week. The first week of the month is committee week, and I spent my formal working time considering plans and worries around 5G, budget provision for Erasmus and Creative Europe, and plans for Energy Transition with it the EU. How can I deny, though, that my heart was in Westminster …

BREXIT

One of our first actions on return was to meet up with other UK MEPs who are supportive of a People’s Vote and to sign a cross party Brussels Declaration which indicates we were not happy with the UK Government attempting to force through a no deal Brexit on 31st October. It was great to be acting with so many people from Labour, the Greens, Independent MEPs and Naomi Long from the Northern Ireland Alliance party. Despite our differences, we are all shocked and disgusted by the approach that PM Johnson and his cabinet have taken to the role of Parliament and the prospect of a no deal Brexit. I am hugely proud of the Remain Alliance and Jo Swinson for taking control of Westminster Business and finding a legal way to stop a No Deal Brexit.

MEP Life

With Westminster in mind, Caroline Voaden and I recorded an extra podcast this week, a special edition catching up on all the remarkable moves in Westminster, last week, to control business and forestall Johnsons’s foolish actions. You can listen to it here and catch up with the usual weekly podcast, here.

Euronews was also wrapped up in Brexit, and I also took part in a phone-in for Raw Politics where we discussed the potential for national embarrassment in the face of Brexit. I made the point that the only real embarrassment we face is that, when the referendum was initially put to the country, there was no explanation of WHAT Brexit was meant to entail.

Continuing on the same theme, on Friday, I was asked for an interview by SKY News and was delighted to have a chance to raise the specific hypocrisy of Johnson giving a speech in front of Police Cadets, while proposing a no deal Brexit which would trash more than 40 different cross border legal measures, like Europol and the European Arrest Warrant, on which UK forces of law and order, depend. We already have seen horrible cuts in Police budgets. What more will disappear if Brexit goes ahead is anyone’s guess. I hear from criminologists that we will have to fall back on legal agreements drawn up in the nineteen fifties.

The background to the interview was that I was expecting a gentle, pre-recorded interview. But no. I meet the Sky team, have an ear piece put in my ear and hear ‘Live in 5 minutes.’ Now, I know we are going to be talking about Westminster and Brexit so … I asked what the questions were going to be and was put through to the gallery to hear, ‘Live in 3 minutes’. Then ‘It’s Boris Johnsons’s week, OK? Live in 2 minutes.’ And so we tumbled into the interview.

It was pretty relaxed in the end, although (since this is MEP life) it would have been nice to see a screen to know when I was on camera, but in the context of Brexit, being given an opportunity to raise Boris Johnson’s hypocrisy is everything!

(All credit to Sky, they had no notice that I was going to raise the police cadet’s speech and they still managed to slip in a cut away.)

APPRENTICES

On a more positive note, in the Newsletter last week, I launched an Apprentice’s trip to Brussels in October. Whatever happens next, Europe will be our nearest neighbour and the subsidised trip is for apprentices 18-25 to come and visit Brussels, take a look at the Parliament, and speak to people who are shaping opportunities for apprentices, trainees and businesses across Europe. If you are an apprentice or are supporting apprentices or have an apprentice in your family, there is still time to apply for a place on the apprentices visit. The application form can be found, here. Deadline is 20.09.2019 at 6pm.

If you would like to sign up for next months newsletter, please click here.

By the time I write, next week, Parliament will be prorogued. Hold on to your Democracy, we are in for a bumpy ride!

Cross Party Declaration

A Cross Party Group of UK Members of the European Parliament has signed a Declaration committing themselves to work together in the face of brexit, and have called upon continental colleagues to support their efforts.

Meeting in Brussels, representatives of the Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Alliance, Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party were able to sign “the Brussels Declaration” stating:

We, the undersigned UK Members of the European Parliament, representing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, declare as follows:

The proroguing, or shutting down the UK Parliament in order to limit scrutiny of the implications of a potential no deal Brexit is completely unacceptable. Limiting the opportunity for MPs to debate, vote and crucially, to legislate, cannot be the response to a referendum in which Leave campaigned for the UK Parliament to “take back control”.

In the continuation of the spirit that UK MEPs have worked in since the 2016 Referendum we commit ourselves to continue to work across party lines and declare that it is vital that MPs do likewise.

We were all elected just four months ago with clear mandates. We are working together. We call upon our European friends and colleagues to assist domestic efforts in keeping the door open to us.

Judith Bunting said on signing the agreement; “Our MPs were elected to represent us. We voted for them, they are our voice in Westminster. To silence Parliament is to silence the voice of the people.

“I salute the Conservative MPs who last night put Country before Party, and I call on all Remainers to hold fast. Any form of Brexit would plunge the UK into another long recession which would hurt Leavers and Remainers alike. We will, we must work together to Stop Brexit.”


The Declaration was signed by:
Liberal Democrat Party
Catherine Bearder MEP
Caroline Voaden MEP
Chris Davies MEP
Phil Bennion MEP
Jane Brophy MEP
Judith Bunting MEP
Dinesh Dhamija MEP
Barbara Ann Gibson MEP
Anthony Hook MEP
Martin Horwood MEP
Shaffaq Mohammed MEP
Lucy Nethsingha MEP
Bill Newton Dunn MEP
Luisa Porritt MEP
Sheila Ritchie MEP
Irina Von Wiese MEP

Green Party
Molly Scott Cato MEP
Alexandra Phillips MEP
Magid Magid MEP
Scott Ainslie MEP
Ellie Chowns MEP
Gina Dowding MEP
Catherine Rowett MEP

Labour Party
Richard Corbett MEP
Seb Dance MEP
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP
Neena Gill MEP
John Howarth MEP
Theresa Griffin MEP
Jackie Jones MEP
Julie Ward MEP
Rory Palmer MEP
Claude Moraes MEP

Alliance Party
Naomi Long MEP

Plaid Cymru
Jill Evans MEP

Scottish National Party
Alyn Smith MEP
Aileen Mcleod MEP
Christian Allard MEP

MEP Life- starter for 10

This week has been extraordinary from a political climate perspective and also in terms of the galvanising of thousands of people to step out of their usual lives and stand up to be counted to stop the current Government removing their say.

We need a People’s Parliament; a way for everyone to get their voices heard again. If Parliament is silenced, the people are silenced. We voted for them. They represent us. To suspend Parliament is a blow to the very democracy that Number 10 purports to protect. It was a cowardly act at the very time people need to see their MPs acting on their behalf. However chequered each constituency is in terms of voices, each deserves to have their opinions brought to parliament.

I was at College Green on Wednesday evening and was heartened by the show of support from (almost) every party and all walks of life. There was hope at this point that a legal petition could stop a suspension of parliament and our MEPs supported this move. So far, the work goes on… This week will bring profound changes to the UK. If you haven’t yet signed the petition against Proroguing Parliament do sign here. Still angry? Join us to #StopBrexit

This positive feeling continued throughout the week. Across the whole country people are clearly angry and determined to #StopBrexit and halt the imminent suspension of democracy.

 

My LibDem MEP and MP colleagues have been out speaking to their constituents throughout the past week. I caught up with @ReadingLibDems at the glorious Reading Pride on Saturday where, once again, hundreds of people took #StopBrexit stickers as well as filling out the Brexitometer. 

 

My different roles within the European Parliament mean that I sit on a number of committees and have a role on the EU Delegations to India and Korea. In such a role at the end of the week I met the Indian Foreign Minister, Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and had a chance to speak to him about the current situation in Kashmir and Jammu. I challenged him to hold formal investigations into reports of beatings and torture and called on the Foreign Minister to respect and protect the human rights of all Indian citizens in this situation. I hope to meet with representatives from Kashmir next week.

This, as well as the work in the UK, shows me regularly the changes that can happen with collaboration, If we work towards a common purpose. I was elected to #StopBrexit and find common solutions that might be achieved with our closest neighbours. We work better when we work together, when we speak with the voice of many.

This coming week I will be back to work in Brussels on your behalf. Please continue to send me your questions and concerns, I love to hear from you, whatever your views.

Best wishes, Judith

 

 

MEP Judith Bunting calls on India to respect human rights of all citizens

Judith Bunting MEP responds to Kashmir worries, condemns human rights violations and use of excessive force in meeting with the Minister of External Affairs of India, Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

At a meeting in Brussels today with the Minister of External Affairs of India, Judith Bunting MEP for the South East of England condemned the use of violence and called on Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to respect the human rights of all Indian citizens.

Ms Bunting vowed to consult with both India and Kashmir after the Modi government sent thousands of additional troops into the disputed region. She underlined the importance of constructive dialogue instead of the use of violence.

The Indian government has passed measures to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and split the state into two Union territories firmly under the control of the central government in New Delhi. 

During the meeting with the foreign minister, today, Judith Bunting underlined the importance of avoiding an escalation of tensions in Kashmir and in the region. She encouraged the minister to maintain diplomatic dialogue with Pakistan and engage with international observers and to be open about the situation in the region.

Ms Bunting called on the Indian Foreign Minister for restraint on the part of the Indian government.

Concerned by recent media reports of beating and torture, Ms Bunting requested a formal investigation into the perpetrators and for those responsible to be brought to justice.

After the meeting, Judith Bunting said: “We have strong Indian and Pakistani communities across the South East of England. Many people have been in touch, extremely worried about friends and family in the area.

I call on India to protect the human rights of all Indian citizens. The government must maintain respect for human dignity, freedom and the rule of law.”

Judith Bunting has a meeting with the Kashmiri representatives in the coming week.