MEP Life – week 3

European Parliament

At the start of the week I travelled back to Brussels for the start of our legislative and committee work. For me, that means a focus on education and culture, specifically life-long learning, STEAM subjects, and the Creative Europe funding scheme, which is important for all of our creative industries here in the UK.

I got to discuss the Erasmus+ extension, which is looking to include apprenticeships. I think these changes are a great idea, so watch this space!
 
As a group of MEPs, the Liberal Democrats co-signed a letter to the Japanese Ambassador to the European Union, this week, calling for a halt to commercial whaling. There is no need for commercial whaling, it is a cruel trade that provides nothing that the world really needs.


In our Renew Europe Group meeting this week we discussed human rights, EU Global strategy, and the crisis in the Persian Gulf. On Wednesday, I attended our group meeting with the Commission Presidential Candidate, Ursula von der Leyen. She confirmed to our Renew Europe group that she hopes the UK will remain in Europe. Because the allocation of the EU top jobs depends on the votes won from across Europe, Ursula is a Conservative choice for the role. She is a progressive conservative and I think we will be willing to support her. 

Later in the week it was great to meet former MEP Felix Schwalba-Holt with Yorkshire for Europe.  Back in the UK I was on the panel for ITV’s ‘Last Word’, where we discussed life as an MEP, the Liberal Democrat leadership contest, the future Prime Minister and of course Brexit. Afterwards I stopped to chat to the wonderful Steven Bray and the SODEM group outside of Westminster. Their tireless campaigning is incredible, do go and say hello if you get the chance.

As seems to now be my working pattern, I attended regional events over the weekend. First I attended Newbury College where I had the pleasure of meeting the Principal and his team, where we discussed apprenticeships and opportunities for young people. I was then honoured to join the Twinning events and ceremony between Newbury, Berkshire and Carcaixent, Spain. Twinning is a shared European project and a fantastic exchange of culture and people. Such opportunities are invaluable and they transcend politics. I love this movement that has kept doors open to our neighbours across #Europe.
If you are planning to hold street stalls to promote Europe over the summer, please let my team know by contacting us at info@judithbunting.co.uk. We would love to hear from you!

In the spirit of transparency, I am making it easy to see what I am up to as an MEP. As well as this  weekly blog: I am releasing video updates which you can find by following me on Twitter and Facebook. We are busy preparing a new newsletter which you can sign up to here. We have also launched a new podcast called MEP Life.

If you like what you see, hear or read – please let us know!

info@judithbunting.co.uk

Judith joins calls to halt Japanese commercial whaling

Judith Bunting MEP

Newly elected Liberal Democrat MEP Judith Bunting, has today signed a letter to the Japanese Ambassador to the European Union, expressing her deep disappointment and revulsion at his Government’s decision to return to commercial whaling this month. The entire LDEPP group has co-signed the letter demanding a reversal of this decision, which follows on from Japan’s departure from the International Whaling Commission at the end of June.

Speaking earlier today, Judith Bunting MEP for South East England said:

Judith Bunting MEP“I am saddened and highly disappointed by the decision of the Government of Japan to return to commercial whaling, following their departure from the International Whaling Commission. Whales are killed with exploding harpoons, some requiring a second shot, or a round of rifle fire. Some whales suffer for up to 25 minutes before they finally die. There is no need for commercial whaling, it is a cruel trade that provides nothing that the world really needs.”

Under the recently signed EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, the EU and Japan both committed themselves to conserving and sustainably managing natural resources and addressing biodiversity. In the context of this agreement, the strongly worded diplomatic letter co – signed by the entire Liberal Democrat European Parliamentary Party, calls on Japan to review its whaling policy.

Judith shares: “The horrific and haunting scenes of bloodied whales are an outrage. In a changing international order, Japan and the European Union have rightly built a close relationship, but as close friends it is time to have a frank discussion about these worrying developments. I am determined to use my new role to leverage Britain’s influence as part of the world’s largest trading bloc to fight for positive environmental action. We do not need to place any more animals on the endangered species list.”

Letter_Voaden_Ambassador Kazuo KODAMA signatures[1]

“Newbury Talks” with your MEP

Rounding off her time as co-organiser of Newbury talks, MEP Judith Bunting reflects; “I have really enjoyed meeting so many people through Newbury Talks, both the audience and speakers. The sessions have been engaging and eclectic, covering a wide variety of subjects.” Since being elected as an MEP for the South East of England, Judith’s time is now taken up with focussing on her role in the European Parliament, which officially started on Tuesday.

Sunday’s talk featured Alom Shaha
discussing ‘How to be your child’s first
science teacher’. Teacher & author
of Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder, Alom spoke about how to introduce science to children, and how parents can help their children learn using their natural curiosity about the world and taking the step from “wow!” to “how?”.

 


Attending her last session, Judith comments; “I am pleased to say that I will be sitting on the education and culture commission, and as Alom said at ‘Newbury Talks’ – science is one of our greatest cultural achievements, humans make science.”

 

Organised with Trevor Mathers, and supported by his family, Newbury Talks was established in 2016. Trevor says; “Newbury Talks has been organising free talks to educate and entertain since March 2016. In that time, we have covered an eclectic range of subjects from genetics, telling the future using crowd sourcing, making music from data, all the way through to political corruption in the UK!”


Speaking of what the future holds for Newbury Talks, Trevor explains “We are currently putting together the next programme of talks, there are some exciting things in the pipeline, watch this space.”


To keep updated with upcoming ‘Newbury Talks’ events, you can contact the team here: info@newburytalks.org.uk

 

New faces, new places

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks from being at the count at the end of May through to this week, when Parliament opens.

The first day in Brussels I seemed to be continually lost, but everybody from the ushers to the civil servants took time to help. Everyone has been so friendly. Almost every official  has quietly said something along the lines of, “I probably shouldn’t say this, but we are all very pleased to see the Liberal Democrats back in Europe.” No one here wants Brexit to happen – and for all the right reasons.

This week has been dominated by final preparations and organisation before the European Parliament sits, when, alongside my fifteen colleagues from across the UK, I officially take my seat. We have received our committee allocations, and I am delighted to announce that I have been selected to sit on the European Parliament’s Committee for Education and Culture.

 

I have attended a number of Renew Europe group meetings looking at policy and discussing a framework document. I also took the opportunity to attend a briefing session on Tuesday looking at the latest research in energy storage to promote the use of renewable energy for the grid and for vehicles, and also how better energy storage can help us meet the EU energy and climate goals. 

This is a critical subject for future research. Whilst worldwide energy use overall is predicted to decrease, electricity use is predicted to double! The EU has set an ambitious, binding target of 32% for renewable energy sources in the EU’s energy mix by 2030, it is now up to member states to implement this.

Looking at education and culture, we learned on Thursday that new MEPs have an opportunity to propose pilot projects to the commission, but the deadline is tight. Me and my team are planning to propose a scheme to promote and retain girls’ interest in science and engineering. This is just one of the ways in which those you elected can help to guide the work of the commission.

Renew Europe, as a group, met to discuss our position document to lay out our ideas and intentions to the European Council and the Commission. It is a real honour to be sitting with, working and voting with so many well-intentioned, like-minded people.

This first parliamentary session in Strasbourg begins next week. People tell me that the Parliament building is similar to the Galactic Senate Chamber in Star Wars, I will let you know!

Rounding off my week, back in the UK, I had the privilege of being shown around the breath-taking grounds at Brookwood Military Cemetery to mark Armed Forces Day, and in West Berkshire attending a session discussing how to be your child’s first science teacher.

 

Armed Forces Day remembered at Brookwood Military Cemetery

This weekend I had the privilege of attending the open day of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) at Brookwood Military Cemetery, near Woking.

Showing me around the site historian Lynelle Howson told me first-hand about the work of the CWGC and their determination to treat every deceased soldier as an equal. Headstones are of equal size and shape, no matter rank or regiment.

Only when you get close can you make out personal details such as religion, regiment, names, and ages. Some headstones include quotations, chosen by the soldier’s family. Walking along a row of headstones for young men who died together, aged 19, 20 and 21 years … well, what can I say?

The CWGC cares for 1.7 million casualties of the first and second world war, from Britain and the Commonwealth, in over 150 countries and territories across 23,000 locations.

The largest CWGC cemetery in the UK, Brookwood contains the graves of over 1,600 servicemen of the British Empire in the First World War and over 3,470 from the Second World War.

It is a fascinating, stunning reminder of the sacrifices made for us in the first and second world wars. The men and women resting here are well looked after.


HE WILL NOT AGE
HIS SONG IS SUNG
AND HE REMAINS
FOREVER YOUNG.

(From the grave of J.V.Eliis,
Canadian navigator, age 26)

 

Photo credit to Megan Maltby

Three years on – now is the time to Stop Brexit

Marking the third anniversary of the 2016 EU referendum, Brexit has made no progress. For three years we have been fighting to give the people the final say on the deal with the option to stay in the EU.

Judith Bunting, MEP for South East England, attended a number of rallies and events across the region to mark the anniversary. Speaking at Reading and Wycombe, she called on people to unite and work together to #StopBrexit:

“After three years the whole process is dying on its feet, with even Brexit supporters no longer able to point to any potential benefits. Left and right are coming onside to support a People’s Vote. We must work together to save Britain, and everyone can help”.

Judith continued, “We all know someone who voted leave. We should talk with them. Explain why we want to save the future of the UK, and bring them onside so that we can work together to stop Brexit.”

Enough is enough, Brexit must be stopped.

It’s not too late to Stop Brexit

Judith Bunting - Stop Brexit rally Brussels Pro Europa

Addressing the Pro Europa Stop Brexit rally in Brussels, Judith Bunting MEP has called on people to work together to #StopBrexit and save the future of the UK. 

How can the UK survive Brexit? ‘One of my most fundamental worries is the survival of the UK. My country, our country. I am so angry to think of how our country could be ripped apart. The Irish backstop issue is a mess. Scotland is likely to hold a second referendum and will break away from the UK.’

The real damage here is that we are seeing private interest taking down a nation. When you look at the involvement of Cambridge Analytica, and listen to the TED talk by Carole Cadwalladr, where she discusses Facebook’s role in Brexit and the threat to democracy, the threat is very real.

Judith Bunting - Stop Brexit rally Brussels Pro EuropaMy focus to stay in Europe has developed from my personal focus of environmental protection to the protection of small businesses.’ Small and medium sized businesses accounted for 99.9% of all private sector businesses in the UK, and 60% of all private sector employment. 

While that figure ignores public sector employees, it does tell you that small businesses are critical to us all and they are being seriously damaged by Brexit.

If we want to #StopBrexit, we need to work together. Our power is our networks. Mainstream media are not going to help us in this. We must continue talking with family and friends who voted leave to build on the growing number of people who have already changed their minds. 

Support for a people’s vote is growing with every political event. A people’s vote, a final say is the only answer. We must work together to Stop Brexit.

Stop Brexit rally in Brussels

 

Judith Bunting MEP joins group in call for urgent intervention over electoral chaos – #deniedmyvote

Newly elected MEP, Judith Bunting, has added her name to the cross-party group of MEPS who have written to the Venice Commission, (the European Commission for Democracy through Law), asking for an urgent intervention into declining democratic standards in the UK. 

Swathes of people who live and work in the United Kingdom were denied their right to have their say in the recent European Elections, and this denial of democracy cannot go unnoticed. 

Judith Bunting MEP says: “The problems faced by EU citizens in the recent Euro Elections, along with declining democratic standards that we’ve seen recently in the UK, is concerning. I am glad to join with this cross-party group of UK MEPs to deliver this letter to asking the Venice Commission urgently to investigate.”

 

 

The five key points for inquiry are:

  • Breach of spending rules and data-protection laws during the EU referendum in June 2016.
  • Exclusion of non-UK EU citizens residing in the UK from the franchise for the EU referendum.
  • The UK government’s approach to the recent European Elections, involving delayed planning resulting in increased pressure on electoral services departments of local authorities.
  • The disenfranchisement of UK citizens resident in other EU countries whose postal votes did not arrive in time.
  • The disenfranchisement of non-UK EU citizens due to the newly introduced two-step registration process. 

The group of MEPs, is not convinced that our existing government has either the will or the capacity to address these issues. This cross party action, led by Molly Scott Cato MEP and Catherine Bearder MEP, highlights that electoral integrity must come before any party politics.

World Environment Day – Lib Dems tackle air pollution crisis

Today, Liberal Democrats in Westminster are tabling a bill to give local authorities more powers to issue fines to idling vehicles. 

The Bill will increase penalties for stationary vehicle idling offences, as well as increasing fines for those who repeatedly offend.

In 2002 councils in England were given powers to serve fixed penalty notices of £20 to drivers who refuse to turn off their engines when asked by a traffic warden.

This Conservative Government, however, has failed to take air pollution seriously. They have lost numerous court cases over their inability to tackle the toxic fumes that Britain breathes every day. Liberal Democrats demand better.

Air pollution continues to be the number one environmental cause of early death in the EU, with estimates of over 400 000 premature deaths per year. Public awareness of air pollution is high and citizens expect the authorities to act. 

The legislation tabled today by the Lib Dems Climate Change spokesperson, Wera Hobhouse MP, is a crucial step in tackling our air pollution crisis. It will allow local authorities to clamp down on idling without the need to apply to the Government first, and it will enable them to increase fines on repeat offenders.

We must do more to tackle both the climate emergency and the air pollution crisis. Tories in Westminster must stop wilfully ignoring the problem and back the Bill.

Thank You for your support.

Thank you, thank you to everyone who voted for the Liberal Democrats in the European elections 2019. You are amazing.

HUGE THANKS
Huge thanks go in particular to the campaigners across the South East of England who bundled, delivered, tweeted, facebooked and put up those fabulous stake boards and posters. With little media coverage, this is what we rely on to get our message out.

RESULTS
The Liberal Democrat vote in the South East of England more than tripled. We elected three MEPs. Please seek us out on social media. You can read about us, here:

ACROSS THE UK
In a fantastic result spread across the UK, Liberal Democrats elected 16 MEPs. Our biggest team ever. This is a clear indication that people want to STOP BREXIT.

REMAIN WON
The papers are parading a Brexit Party victory, but the total vote for all the Remain-leaning parties clearly outweighs UKIP and the Brexit Party.

  • Lib Dems, Greens, SNP, Plaid and Change UK – all backers of a second referendum polled 39.1%.
  • No-dealers, Ukip and the Brexit Party collectively achieved just 33.7%.

It’s not often that I post links to the Daily Telegraph, but it is particularly sweet to read their report on the result: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/05/27/won-uks-european-elections-leave-remain/

Here, in the South East of England, Nigel Farage’s home territory, we held the Brexit Party to four seats only – the same number of seats that UKIP won in 2014. This time, UKIP won no seats. There was no improvement in representation for Leave.

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT MEPs
You can find out more about the full Liberal Democrat team across the UK, here: https://www.libdems.org.uk/meps

THIS IS NOT THE END
I will write more in the next day or so, but this is just the beginning. Our campaign to Stop Brexit goes on and will continue until we win a People’s Vote.

JOIN US
If you would like to join the team – please sign up here:
https://www.libdems.org.uk/joining-us